Julien Neaves, Editor
Yes, you read the byline right. It is I, Editor Jules doing this horror list and not our Goddess of Gore, Mistress of the Macabre, Sultana of Slashers aka Horror Head Writer Sommerleigh Pollonais. But I spoke with her and she said it’s okay for me to borrow her post for today, so it’s all good in the Red Mango Reviews ‘hood. Now on to the article!
Zombies. Some are fast, some are slow. Some look deathly sick while others look like death itself. Some like brains, some will eat anything they can get their grimy mouths on. These ghouls have been a staple of film since George A. Romero’s iconic 1968 film Night of the Living Dead (and yes, Actually Guy, it was not the first zombie film but it was the one that brought them into the mainstream).
But despite spawning its own horror subgenre and spreading through cinema for decades it was only after The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 and became a mega success that zombies began plaguing TV screens as well, and even so it is something of a rarity. For this article today I will be reviewing five of the best. Let’s bite in!
#5 Santa Clarita Diet
I am still upset this Netflix horror comedy got cancelled after three seasons. This is one of the funniest dark comedies I have ever watched and the cast, including Drew Barrymore as sweet but flesh-craving real estate agent Sheila and Timothy Olyphant as her hapless but eternally loyal husband Joel, are all fantastic.
It was gory, twisted and simply hilarious. And there was some decent zombie lore that was being built up as well. Come on Netflix. We need to try the Santa Clarita Diet again.
#4 The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead, based on the comic of the same name by Robert Kirkman, may be the most popular zombie TV series ever but it is also one of the most inconsistent in terms of quality. The show built up well in its early seasons and featured a memorable cast of characters, gut-wrenching twists and some truly stellar zombie (oh sorry, “walker”) effects and action.
But then the show got a bit repetitive, the Powers That Be started pulling stunts, and certain survivors became untouchable, removing a lot of the drama and making things quite predictable. I actually gave up on the show for years but recently went back and got caught up. And while the last two seasons had a lot going for it the show still felt like a shadow of its former self.
With an upcoming 11th and final season let’s hope The Walking Dead ends well and doesn’t stumble at the finish line. And don’t get me started on the spin-off Fear the Walking Dead. That show pulled a soft reboot and hoped the audience wouldn’t notice. We noticed. Not cool people. Not cool.
#3 Z Nation
We go from the super serious world of The Walking Dead to the ultra camp of Z Nation. This show is insane! Yes you have zombies and zombie kills and the usual scares, but you also have a wacky and lovable cast of survivors. Keith Allan’s hedonistic part-zombie Murphy is alone worth the price of admission, but you also have Kellita Smith as the forthright leader Lt Roberta Warren, DJ Qualls as quirky former hacker Citizen Z, skilled zombie slayer 10K (Nat Zang), and Russel Hodgkinson as hippie Steven “Doc” Beck (who is not a real doctor).
The show is a great blend of action, horror and dark comedy, and while the practical effects are not on the same level of a show like TWD it was still a blast in its five-season run.
#2 Black Summer
Premiering in 2019 Netflix’s Black Summer is one of the newer series on the zombie post-apocalyptic block. And if you’re not interested in humour or camp in your undead show then this series has got you covered. Black Summer is bleak. Like, really bleak.
It is also one of the most grounded zombie-related media I have ever watched, whether TV or film. And it is easily the most intense. These zombies are not your slow, dragging Romero-esque zombies. No, these are your sprinting, Dawn of the Dead-remake zombies. And these bastards are so quick they would probably give Usain Bolt a run for his money. They also let out this mixture of a roar and a howl that is absolutely bone-chilling. Add that to some tight, inventive and almost documentary-style camera work and you have a recipe for pure adrenaline. I hope you like sitting on the edge of your seat because you are going to be spending a lot of time there.
And unlike other shows there is no cast of untouchable characters, so you never know if the next zombie encounter will be their last. The characters themselves are not all that likeable and sometimes you wonder if you should be rooting for them at all. But the show still manages to suck the viewer in and have their eyes riveted to the screen. The non-linear and mini-chapter storytelling may seem a bit confusing and jarring but it just means the viewer needs to pay attention. With a recent second season improving upon the first, Black Summer is definitely a must-see for fans of zombie TV.
Honourable Mention: iZombie
CW series iZombie is a Rom-Com-Zom-Dram. Translation? It’s a romantic comedy zombie drama, and by that description you know you’re in for quite a unique experience. Inspired by a comic series of the same name, iZombie follows zombie/medical examiner Liv Moore (Rose McIver) who eats the brains of murder victims and gains flashes of their memories (and hilariously their personalities) in an effort to solve crimes. The show eventually expands from a procedural into a zombies-versus-humans drama.
Now I am a big fan of this show but I can only give it an honourable mention on this list because there isn’t much gore or actual zombie stuff compared to the police procedural aspect. Still a fun show though and an interesting take on the subgenre.
I know what you’re thinking—what the hell is Kingdom and how could it be the best zombie TV series if I have never heard of it? Well, before you bite off my head (Get it? Zombie list? Bite? You get it) let me explain. You likely may never have heard about Kingdom because it is a South Korean show (and Netflix’s first original Korean series) and I don’t think it has been marketed that heavily in the West. The show, adapted from the webcomic The Kingdom of the Gods, has run for two seasons and despite positive reviews it still remains something of a hidden gem.
Kingdom is a political period horror thriller and follows Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) who investigates a political conspiracy and a mysterious plague that is spreading across the kingdom and turning people into flesh-craving zombies. Everything in the show works. The cast and performances are A-grade. The costuming and production design is top notch. The cinematography is dazzling and music beautiful. The zombie effects are fantastic, the horror aspects are thrilling, and the action and set pieces are gorgeously choreographed. Even the political stuff is interesting as well. While the concept is strange and may be off-putting, trust me, this show is excellence personified.
The Koreans seem to have a knack for zombie content as Train to Busan is one of the best zombie films ever and recent film #Alive was pretty dang good as well. And this trend definitely continues with Kingdom, which is the best zombie show on television.
So that’s my list. What’s your favourite zombie TV series? And you can check out more great zombie content below:
Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’ is Stylish, Gore-Filled Entertainment, But It’s No ‘Dawn’: Quick Bite Review
Award-winning Venezuelan Zombie Horror ‘Infection’ is One Ferocious and Terrifying Indie Flick
Top 5 Zombie Comedies if you love Zombieland
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.