Book Review: The Zombie Film

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The Zombie Film: From White Zombie to World War Z
By Alain Silver & James Ursini

Published by Applause Theatre & Cinema, 2014. 384 Pages

For a couple of guys that have been writing about vampire films for almost 4 decades, it would seem strange for Silver and Ursini to switch over to the zombie sub-genre. And even first paging through the book, seeing photos from movies that most would not consider even being a zombie film, such as Jennifer’s Body (2009), it might give one a little caution before purchasing it. But I can tell you that this book is well worth your money and a great addition to any horror reference collection.

First of all, they explain why the inclusion of such films like Jennifer’s Body and what they are putting under the term “undead”, which clears up a lot of the head-scratching. They also make a very valid point on the strong connection between the vampire and the zombie and how something that bordered both sub-genres really started the zombie path on its own shambling path. They do the genre high honors here by going back to the beginning of the sub-genre and where its roots come from, from the reports from William Seabrook and his tales from Haiti. Then they move through the decades covering different films that fit into their definition of the undead. Again, this a loose term, since a film like Boris Karloff’s 1933 film The Ghoul is mentioned.

More time is spent when they get to Romero’s ground-breaking movie, as well as Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend, which has a lot of vampire/zombie similarities, as well as Romero’s work being very influential for this book. There is a quite a bit of coverage about the Godfather of the zombie sub-genre and his film. But the book doesn’t just cover the basics, but gives quite a bit of time on movies like Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead films to the huge influence of the Italian market, with people like Lucio Fulci leading the way. They also cover some of the more obscure titles that some might not know about, and giving quite a bit of time on some of the more popular titles.

While die-hard zombie fans might not learn too much from this book, I still think it is essential for any horror reference collection. It is laid out with tons of great photos of the genre, with a 60+ filmography listing in the back, and it a pretty decent size book for the money you’re paying. This makes a great companion piece for Jamie Russsell’s Book of the Dead, which goes into a lot more depth and detail on the sub-genre.

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