Following the news that a 28 Months Later film may finally be coming, we take a look at Britain’s best horror films in the zombie sub-genre. After the rapid succession of 28 Days Later in 2002, followed barely two years later by Shaun of the Dead, Britain has become the best place for the zombie apocalypse on the big screen.
Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead coined the term “zom-com” and apparently the horror-comedy genre was back in vogue for its cheapness and lightness with the like-minded British film industry. Copiers came and went, now stuck in the direct-to-DVD specials bins in your local ASDA, but the zombie movement of the 2000s in England and the UK will not be forgotten for its effect on the industry. Here are some of the best.
9/9 Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012)
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A hilarious who’s who of British actors must fight for their lives in East London in Cockneys vs Zombies. A bank robbery goes awry (it always does!) when the robbery is interrupted by the undead. Occasionally very funny – with a baby zombie being kicked and a sight gag of a fake mustache – Cockneys Vs Zombies is an example of a great idea executed perfectly. However, author James Moran’s Severance from 2006 is better.
8/9 The Zombie Plague (1966)
It was apparently the only foray into the zombie genre from major studio Hammer Films – and even then it’s incredibly short. An unknown plague has a village in Cornwall, England under its spell, with residents dying at a rapid rate. The local doctor sends for help and brings a stranger to the village. Now rather dated and at a slow snail’s pace, it feels a bit like Coronation Street has zombies in it, with its Cornish decor and Scooby-Doo-like design. The film’s big zombie intro is a cracker, though, and like all of Hammer’s horrors, it looks pretty good.
7/9 Kennel (2009)
In this now possibly outdated concept, the small village of Moodley in the middle of nowhere is suffering from a zombie plague that has only infected the female part of the population. When they leave for a guys’ weekend, several boys are killed one after the other by the opposite sex. With some truly brilliant and wicked kills, Doghouse is great fun with a brilliant cast in English in Stephen Graham (Boiling Point, Peaky Blinders) and Danny Dyer (Human Traffic). Solid low-budget British film turns up in this tacky zom-com.
6/9 Outpost (2008)
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While it’s hard to pinpoint whether these undead Nazis are actually zombies, ghosts, ghouls, or something else, Outpost is a blast nonetheless. Stuck in a foxhole, a group of British soldiers must survive the night against all sorts of evils from the Second World War. Serious and brutal, think Dog Soldiers but with zombies and you’re on your way. Need more? Experience dead snow in Sweden.
5/9 The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Although this one suffers from the worst use of zombie slang (they’re called “hungry” and it’s terrible every time it’s said), The Girl with All the Gifts is truly one of the safest movies on this list. A collective of children are studied to see why the zombie virus only affects them in human faces. After a slow start, The Girl with All the Gifts really kicks things off with hundreds of zombie supporting cast storming a military base in what looks like an English remake of the ultra-dark Day of the Dead (1985) by Romero. This is another example of having a great cast that doesn’t feel like the material is beneath them at all. Glenn Close is (obviously) superb as a mad scientist. While it’s arguably the best-looking film on this list, be prepared for a very pessimistic viewing right away.
4/9 28 Weeks Later (2007)
British Film Council
In the sequel to Danny Boyle’s now modern classic, 28 Weeks Later manages to up the ante in every way. Triples the original’s paltry £5m budget to £15m (still relatively small, but well spent), with truly impressive tension throughout this independent follow-up to a family torn apart by chaos. If the original movie was Alien, this is the action-packed follow-up in Aliens. Idris Elba and Jeremy Renner both star in this underrated sequel, and it’s a much-deserved third film.
3/9 Dead Set (2008)
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Dead Set was released over several nights on Channel 4 in 2008, but the DVD has compiled the episodes into one big feature, and it’s so good we’re counting it here. Before Black Mirror, writer Charlie Brooker created this satirical look at a group of survivors trapped in Big Brother’s house during the apocalypse. Of course, the exposed egos are grotesque and the satire itself is pretty heavy, but the premise is so funny and the violence so gory. As also done via Channel 4, the attention to detail of being able to use the real Big Brother set from the same channel really makes this scary.
This cast is also filled with Riz Ahmed (The Sound of Metal, Venom) and Jackie Winstone, and Andy Nyman shows why he is one of the best working actors in the UK right now. Get ready for a gory, fun, yet surprisingly dark viewing experience.
2/9 28 Days Later (2002)
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Now a seminal example of what British cinema can and should be, 28 Days Later (sorry, ‘infected’) said zombies can run now, adding a huge sense of danger to watching its sleepy opener and lonesome. Between Cillian Murphy (star), Danny Boyle (director) and Alex Garland (writer), all three would become big names and move on to bigger, more expensive projects, but this was their first real hit between them. Marvel at the film’s low-budget simplicity and mastery of suspense, cinematography and score. His big and brash suite is a perfect double bill.
1/9 Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Not just a parody or a love letter to Romero, Shaun of the Dead is a truly hysterical horror comedy in its own right that would change the face of British cinema in the future. A gold standard for horror and comedy, Shaun (a perfect Simon Pegg) has just broken up with his partner, and to win her back he must prove himself in a last-ditch survival effort on the frontline of the zombie apocalypse. The first chapter in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, and perhaps the best, Shaun of the Dead is still as delightful today as it was nearly 20 years ago. Featuring one of Shaun and Ed’s (Nick Frost) greatest bromances on screen, this film is so well put together that repeat viewings only reward the viewer with uncovering more details.