Nightmare City Is The First "Fast Zombie" Movie (Before 28 Days Later) – Screen Rant

Nightmare City Is The First "Fast Zombie" Movie (Before 28 Days Later) – Screen Rant

28 Days Later and Return Of The Living Dead have both been cited as the start of the fast zombie genre, but 1980’s Nightmare City got there first.
Nightmare City is the first real fast zombie movie and came many years before the likes of 28 Days Later. George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead kicked off the modern-day zombie movie-, with the filmmaker himself taking inspiration from Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Over the decades, zombies have come in all shapes and sizes on the big and small screen, from blockbuster thrills of World War Z, the comedy of Zombieland or the bleak post-apocalyptic thrills of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Fast zombies are a genre unto themselves, and somewhat controversial among those who prefer the slow, shuffling undead imagined by Romero. While 28 Days Later technically features people infected by the “Rage” virus as opposed to being truly undead, it’s often labeled a zombie movie. 28 Days Later also popularized the fast zombie, with Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake later using them to create a more kinetic movie. Some have linked the start of this subgenre to Return Of The Living Dead, but 1980’s Nightmare City appears to be the real starting point.
Related: Army Of The Dead vs. Dawn Of The Dead: Which Snyder Zombie Movie Is Better
Nightmare City – also known as City Of The Walking Dead – was helmed by Umberto Lenzi, and opens with a reporter (Hugo Stiglitz) being sent to an airport to interview a scientist about a nuclear accident. When the plane lands, a mob of irradiated ghouls emerge with weapons and start hacking people to death, and soon an outbreak overtakes the entire city. Once the action starts, Nightmare City doesn’t pause and jumps from attacks on a TV station, a hospital, an amusement park – nothing to do with Romero’s ’70s lost horror – and many other locales as the reporter and his wife flee to safety. Again, Nightmare City’s “zombies” are really contaminated humans – and in their drinking of blood to regenerate their cells, are more like vampires – but in essence, it’s still a zombie film.
In fact, Lenzi himself would bristle when people, including Quentin Tarantino, would describe Nightmare City’s ghouls as zombies. The film is said to have been an inspiration on Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror segment from Grindhouse, which also features fast-moving zombies who attack with guns and other weapons. Nightmare City suffers from a lack of story, fleshed out characters and a strange lack of overt gore – aside from a few nasty moments – but its relentless pacing and wild energy have seen it attain a cult following, with horror director Eli Roth proclaiming himself a major fan on Arrow’s Blu-ray release.
Nightmare City often gets lost in the conversation around fast zombies, and it doesn’t hold up nearly as well compared to movies like 28 Days Later. That said, as a wild, scrappy b-movie from a golden age of Italian horror cinema, it’s a fun ride while it lasts and deserves credit for giving fast zombies their first race.
Next: The Original Ending Of 28 Days Later Was Far More Haunting
It’s pronounced Paw-rick, not Pad-raig. Now that’s out of the way, a brief introduction. Padraig has been writing about film online since 2012, when a friend asked if he’d like to contribute the occasional review or feature to their site. A part-time hobby soon blossomed into a career when he discovered he really loved writing about movies, TV and video games – he even (arguably) had a little bit of talent for it. He has written words for Den of Geek, Collider, The Irish Times and Screen Rant over the years, and can discuss anything from the MCU – where Hawkeye is clearly the best character – to the most obscure cult b-movie gem, and his hot takes often require heat resistant gloves to handle. He’s super modern too, so his favorite movies include Jaws, Die Hard, The Thing, Ghostbusters and Batman. He can be found as i_Padds on Twitter making bad puns.

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