We all know zombies are frightening. We all know a zombie film can be incredibly scary. In fact, zombie movies can soul-shaking, bone-chillingly terrifying in the right hands. While there have been some lackluster undead films throughout history, there have also been classics made by incredibly talented and diverse directors. But who else should take their shot at making a zombie feature?
Hot on the heels of the rumor possibly attaching David Fincher to World War Z 2, I decided to compile a list of directors who should try to make a zombie classic. Hollywood is full of masterful filmmakers and these are some of the few we want to bring the undead to life.
Keep in mind: most of these are long shots. But, hey, we can dream can’t we?
Paul Thomas Anderson
Watching the first fifteen minutes of There Will Be Blood, I thought to myself “Man, America’s nerves are lucky P.T. Anderson hasn’t made a horror film.” That might be just too intense, too frightening for our poor psyches to handle.
Anderson’s films are so confident, so stiff (in the best way) and deliberate. Imagine his static shots, long takes and intense characters paired with roving bands of the undead. This wouldn’t be a movie full of jump scares and cheap thrills. This would be a very quiet, slow-moving and measured affair. It would be scary, of course, but a type of scary we often don’t get in American theaters. An arthouse zombie movie directed by one of the greatest film makers of all time? This one is a no brainier.
On the other end of the spectrum is Gore Verbinski. Verbinski is a pro at making big blockbusters. And when I say big, I mean huge. I mean Pirates of the Caribbean huge. Now, his movies don’t always work (looking at you, Lone Ranger) but you can’t deny Verbinski knows how to craft populist cinema with all the bells and whistles mass audiences want.
One thing people forget is that Verbinski is a talented horror director too. His adaption of The Ring is a stone cold classic and delivers scares in spades. So this is a man who can do large and explosive but also horrific too. As well, he could balance special effects and A-list actors, combining all these elements into a frightening, enjoyable and hopefully truly scary affair.
Imagine a globe-trotting, realistic depiction of a zombie epidemic. The characters, stuck behind bureaucratic red tape, fight against an oncoming plague and the powers that be. The action is jarring, the direction shaky and raw. It all would feel so real and shockingly believable. That’s the type of zombie movie Kathryn Bigelow would give us. She has recently made a name for herself as a director who gives us well-researched, brutal dramas about events involving modern warfare and politics. She can take that critical worldview and apply it to the undead too.
A Bigelow zombie feature would be unsettling because she makes everything feel so authentic. Granted, she’s been working with non-fiction for awhile. But if she decided to return to horror (do yourself a favor and rewatch Near Dark) the zombie genre would be lucky to have her.
Guillermo del Toro
We would get reality with Kathryn Bigelow but we would get fantasy with Guillermo del Toro. That’s needed too. Zombies are make believe, just as unbelievable as vampires and fairies and other creatures del Toro likes to play around with. So if del Toro were to try zombies, he would do wonderfully.
Make no mistake, a del Toro zombie project would be plenty scary because the man knows horror inside and out. He lives and breathes the stuff. Yet, it would also carry an air of childhood awe. Even his scariest movies still feel magical. It’s just very creepy magic he deals in.
Guillermo del Toro has come close to making an out-and-out zombie film several times. It’s time he dives in feet first and gives us a zombie movie with heart…and lots of guts.
This one is kind of cheating because Peter Jackson has made a zombie film before (Dead Alive is a brilliant and bloody classic). However, it was young and unknown Peter Jackson not Lord of the Rings, Oscar-winning Peter Jackson. With an unlimited budget and prestige that the Academy Awards give you, Jackson can make something big and silly in a way only he is capable of.
Jackson’s early work is whacky stuff. He loved the gore (lots of it) and the slapstick. He’s moved away from that lately because Middle-earth isn’t the place for eye gouging and gross-out gags. But Jackson is a guy who never forgets his roots so he would be right at home returning to the world of the undead. Now he can deliver something just as wild as his old work with all the benefits he gets from being a top tier director. Something gross, something bloody, something that’ll inspire a brand new generation of horror hounds. Return to your roots, Peter!