2. Zombi 2 (1979;  dir. Lucio Fulci) – At this point on the list, entries two and three are pretty much inter-changeable and their placement was more to break up the Romero entries than anything. Both Zombi 2 and Dawn of the Dead, thought wildly different, hold such a cherished place in my esteem it’s hard to say which one I like better. What’s misleading about this is that Zombi 2, despite being made by a different filmmaker and not carrying on with the plot of Dawn, carries that 2 after its title because Dawn of the Dead was released to great success in Italy as Zombi and the studio wished to capitalize on its success by following up with a film carrying the same title, fooling their audience into thinking it was a sequel. Oh, those sneaky producers! Lucky for us, Zombi 2 wasn’t tossed off by some hack, but crafted by one of the great masters of Italian horror, Lucio Fulci. And guess what? Fulci had me at zombie vs. shark.

That’s right, my friends. In Zombi 2, a woman goes scuba diving, gets attacked by a tiger shark trolling around underwater, and then that shark gets attacked by a zombie. And the shark isn’t some animatronic fake-looking cheap trick. It’s a real effin’ shark! Out of all ten movies I’ve listed here, this is perhaps the coolest scene, if only for its “wow, that’s amazing, how the hell did they pull that one off?” quality. It’s only one scene, and yet if the film were only this one scene, I’d probably have purchased it regardless. Luckily the movie, in terms of scares and amazing scenes, has more than this to offer (replete with charmingly bad overdubbing). There’s also that woman’s eyeball being impaled on a large splinter as a zombie pulls her head slowly through the broken wooden door. Say your not squeamish? Well, it’s filmed in extreme close-up and doesn’t cut away as it enters her cornea, so good luck.

It’s easy sometimes to forget that the zombie movie goes a long way back. I’m not sure if White Zombie (1932) was the first, but these days people tend to think of it as beginning with Night of the Living Dead in ’68. For a long time, tales of the walking dead have strayed away from their roots in Caribbean voodoo lore, tending to lean toward Romero’s modern interpretation with variations elicited by Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (a film I considered putting on the list until I realized it falls a slight bit outside my top 10). But Lucio Fulci, if not taking us back completely here, at least acknowledges his debt by setting it in the islands, and even if the cause of the outbreak isn’t a high priest controlling the undead but goes unexplained, the islands’ luscious settings and bright color palate are a treat for the eye, adding an element missing from so many other movies of its kind: daylight.

I suppose I’d  say that Zombi 2 is the antithesis of Dawn of the Dead in some ways, since it shows how a horror film can be great (with great effects, fight scenes, locations, etc.) without including sympathetic characters, though it’s not that the writing here is bad. The plot is solid and well conceived, a palpable sense of danger is developed with an increasing number of undead swarming in a late-film attack against the good guy’s church house stronghold, and even if the characters aren’t entirely sympathetic, they go out in such ghastly and gruesome ways, we can’t help but feel sorry for them while simultaneously admiring the remarkable ingenuity of the make-up and effects artists working on the picture.