Jim Jarmusch isn’t exactly known for his gut-busting hilarity or fast-paced action. The celebrated auteur is more of a cerebral kind of guy. His humor is mellow and meta, his characters of the absurdist variety, and his films move at a languid pace unique to themselves. For all of those reasons, he’s arguably the last director you’d think of when you hear the words “zombie movie.” The Dead Don’t Die is unlike any zombie film you’ve ever seen, a melancholy fable about a Midwestern town called Centerville afflicted by a zombie invasion.
But Jarmusch is hardly the first filmmaker to have some fun with the zombie genre. There are the much-loved comedies Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead that turn the scary creatures into comedic action set pieces. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a well of strange, silly, and totally singular zombie films. Here are six of our favorite unconventional zombie movies, to celebrate the release of The Dead Don’t Die this week.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
This 2017 Scottish film isn’t just a zombie film; it’s also a Christmas musical. The story centers on the titular Anna, a teen whose town of Little Haven is threatened by a zombie epidemic. Equal parts touching high school film and zombie comedy, Anna and the Apocalypse is unlike any other zombie movie out there, and one that finds a heartwarming humanity in the face of annihilation.
Maggie focuses on the father (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) of young girl infected with a zombie virus. After Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is bitten, she has only a week before the effects of the virus will turn her cannibalistic. Unwilling to accept her diagnosis, her father pulls out all the stops to try to save his daughter. Maggie may not be a great movie, but it offers a unique spin on the genre,
Warm Bodies (2013)
What if we saw the rise of a zombie pandemic through the eyes of one of the infected? That’s the premise of Warm Bodies, about a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) who falls for an uninfected human girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer). What follows is an unconventional love story that uses the zombie disease as a metaphor for the hurdles regular couples face when they enter a new relationship.
This 2006 Canadian film is set in an alternate reality 1950s, where zombies have been domesticated and turned into pets for non-infected humans. This is accomplished with the help of special collars, which prevent the zombies from giving into their cannibalistic ways. But when one pet man’s collar malfunctions, he unleashes his instinctual predatory behavior on an idyllic neighborhood, to hilarious results.
Life After Beth (2014)
Like Warm Bodies, this 2014 comedy is a romance about a boy and girl whose relationship is marred by the whole “one of us is a zombie thing.” In this instance, the gender roles are reversed. Dane DeHaan plays Zach, whose girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) returns from the dead. At first, Zach is thrilled that his loved one is back, but Beth slowly undergoes a change that makes her most intolerable to be around. Again, this one serves as a metaphor for modern relationships, but it’s told with hilarity and great performances from its leads.
In Pontypool, named for the town where the events take place, the zombie virus is spread through the English language. How can you survive without speaking your native tongue? That’s the scenario a radio DJ named Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) finds himself in in this funny, genius zombie feature.
Images: Focus Features, Orion Pictures, Summit Entertainment, A24