For the last six years, The Day of the Undead, held annually at Leicester’s Phoenix Square Cinema, has reigned supreme over the UK zombie scene, offering over 13 hours of non-stop gruesome entertainment. With special guests, prizes to be won, and more zombie films than you could shake a gruesome stick at, this year’s event was no different, with six films screened back to back, as well as much more.
Ever since George A. Romero turned up in Hollywood with Night of the Living Dead in the back of his truck, zombie films have remained a steady presence in cinema. Of course, the undead can be found in film as far back as the 1930s, but it was Romero’s allegorical tale of America literally as a country eating itself alive that sparked the modern proliferation of these films.
Festivals and events have emerged around the world celebrating zombie culture, with enthusiasts taking it upon themselves to outdo each other with costumes that could bring tears to your eyes. One of Britain’s foremost zombie festivals, The Day of the Undead, which takes place at Leicester’s wonderful independent cinema Phoenix Square, is no different.
Led by Zombie Ed from Terror4Fun, the festival offers everything even a vague zombie enthusiast could hope for. This year’s packed festival not only boasted a selection of zombie films, ranging from a classic of the genre in the form of Zombie Flesh Eaters to both international genre works and numerous UK premieres, but also hosted five authors, prize giveaways and even a guest reading by best selling author and comedian Charlie Higson.
However, the festival’s focus is, of course, on the varying films of the genre. To this end, most of the films that made up the 13-hour marathon were introduced by those responsible. Dominic Brunt, best known as Paddy Kirk from Emmerdale, appeared last year with a short clip of his first feature Before Dawn, and returned this year with his wife Joanne Mitchell, who wrote the film as well as starring in it alongside Brunt, to premiere the finished article. Also appearing to introduce their works was Damian Morter, director of The Eschatrilogy, and Matt Mitchell with the hilarious Guns, Gangsters and Zombies.
It may be that the zombie genre lacks the mainstream appeal that vampires seem to have always enjoyed (particularly now in the Twilight era), but with blockbuster films such as Warm Bodies and World War Z on the way, it could soon be the case that festivals like Leicester’s Day of the Undead will become even more successful.