Horror films frequently come in waves. Over the course of the twentieth century we saw the emergence of the classics, the creature features, atomic horror, haunted houses and ghost stories, alien invasions, werewolves, vampires (reemerging in several waves), slasher flicks, torture porn and body horror, etc. For the last decade or so, zombies have been one of the biggest things in horror films, possibly the most prevalent kind of horror in 2000s. I’m not sure if they will maintain their staying power – I noticed the prevalence of zombie films starting to dwindle in this year’s horror film festival circuit – but their influence and near omnipresence is undeniable.
This is actually Dendle’s second zombie film encyclopedia. The first volume covers the zombie film genre from its infancy in the 1930s through 1999. That a second volume was needed to cover just the first decade of the twenty-first century is a testament to the veritable explosion of zombie-related films in the new millennium. The encyclopedia obviously contains all the major zombie films of the decade: LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD by Romero; 28 DAYS LATER and 28 WEEKS LATER; SHAUN OF THE DEAD; ZOMBIELAND, etc., as well as a host of smaller, low-budget, and direct-to-video films, along with a bunch I suspect most of us would be hard pressed to ever locate. This is a truly comprehensive guide. I cannot claim that it literally contains EVERY zombie film made anywhere in the world during the 2000s, and neither does Dendle. I will say this though: I couldn’t think of a single zombie film Dendle overlooked and I’m a big fan of the genre who sees quite a lot of indie films at film festivals and the like. If this collection is actually missing any relevant films, I didn’t notice the omission. There’s even a meaty appendix that provides brief descriptions and analysis of all the zombie shorts (i.e., non-feature films) for the period.
As with any good movie encyclopedia, I was inspired to seek out a number of films I had not yet run across, including both PONTYPOOL, a Canadian film with an odd name about survivors of a zombie apocalypse trapped in a radio station, and [REC], a Spanish film about a group of apartment dwellers trapped inside an apartment building with a bunch of zombies as filmed by one of those trapped. Dendle actually profiled a large number of films I plan to check out, so the encyclopedia was certainly useful from that perspective.
There were a couple points in the text where I thought I could have done with fewer political interjections and criticisms, but I suppose given that the period covered was the first decade of the twenty-first century, I should have expected as much. I did come to enjoy Dendle’s analysis of the films as well as his wry cynicism. At times though, it’s clear that Dendle is almost weary of his subject. I suspect the poor man has simply seen far too many crappy zombie flicks in too rapid a succession.
If you are a fan of recent zombie films – and there are still good ones being made, despite the saturation of the market with all things zombie – then this will serve as an excellent guide. Production values are very high with this volume, and it’s both attractively laid out and very sturdy. For a reference guide like this one, a hardcover format is almost required, as I have far too many similar reference works in flimsy paperback format. More movie stills would have been nice – and color ones especially so – but I understand that their inclusion would have exploded the cost of the book. Dendle’s second volume does exactly what it says it will do: it examines all the zombie films (in detail) from the last decade. If you’re looking for a reference work that does that, you can’t go wrong here.
Review copyright © 2013 J. Andrew Byers
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