Writer/director George A. Romero and co-writer John Russo's landmark 1968 zombie horror movie set the template (with ample nods to Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend") for the contemporary ghoul film. And because of that, of course, there is ample cannibal carnage. And in 1968...no one had seen such things. The sequence where the zombies dine on the fried survivors is still hideous and horrifying and it shocked the world.
Jorge Grau's haunting and surreal Spanish/Italian zombie classic is a class act that occasionally aims for cheap shocks and stomach flipping gore. The scene towards the end, when the ghouls lay waste to the hospital, features the first known bit of zombie tit-removal, a sickening scene where a nurse gets her breast torn off and then has the rest of her torso torn apart.
George A. Romero chased the legend of his breakthrough Night of the Living Dead with this epic, full-color sequel, a brilliant, emotional action-horror-allegory that once more re-defined the ways in which we watch zombie cinema. Tom Savini's riotous gore effects fill the screen but the real jaw-dropper comes near the climactic biker-siege, with the poor thug getting his body torn to tasty shreds. Stunning stuff.
Italian director Lucio Fulci's unnoficial prequel to and ripoff of Dawn of the Dead set the standard for the strong European gore horrors of the early 1980s. Zombie (aka Zombi 2 as Dawn was released in Italy as Zombi) boasts the shocking scene where a woman (Olga Karlatos) has her eyeball slowly impaled on a splinter of wood by a sadistic ghoul. Ouch!
Yet another post-Dawn of the Dead/Zombie Italian ghoul exploitation romp, Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground is a crusty, lurid and unsavory thing. This is the film that features little person actor Peter Bark playing a 12 year old who, when he comes back from the dead, eats his mom's bloody breast, fulfilling an incestuous wish he had in life. Disgusting!
More Fulci mayhem came in the form of this metaphysical zombie classic, with a hotel built over the 7th gate of hell vomiting up all manner of shambling demonic stiff. The scene where a little girl zom gets her head blown apart, revealing daylight behind the cranial hole, is legendary and tasteless.
Dan O'Bannon's mutant punk rock horror masterpiece has been copied many times but nothing quite equals its bizarre balance of sickening horror and bleak, black laughs. This is the first "brain-eating" zombie film and when we see Tarman first bite down on Suicide's scalp its a queasy shock.
Stuart Gordon's Lovecraft-fueled Grand Guignol masterpiece is a mad scientist movie first, with liberal doses of living dead damage popping up in revolting ways. The revived dead in Re-Animator don't eat people (though David Gale tries to eat Barbara Crampton at one point) but they sure are insane. The nastiest scene sees Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) wrestle a sturdy zombie and impale him with a bone saw. Disgusting and awesome.
Tom Savini evolved the art of zombie make-up (with the help of a young Greg Nicotero!) in this third George A. Romero ghoul opera. Day of the Dead is a talky, depressing film punctuated with tons of show-stopping gore sequences, the best of which comes near the climax when Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato) is torn in half by a crew of hungry corpses. "Choke on 'em! Choke on 'em!"