Monday, July 17, 2017

I Have a Feeling He'll Be Back

Another Titan has fallen- George Romero, the father of the modern zombie/ghoul/living dead horror genre, has died, but I suspect he'll be back. Romero's films, made on tight budgets with casts of unknowns, are notable for their political content as well as for their gore. The original Night of the Living Dead was notable for featuring an African-American protagonist, and while the political message is in the background, the practically subliminal racial tension is a factor in the dynamics of the group almost as much as the tension between the living and the not-exactly-dead. The ending of the movie is one of the great shocking twists of cinema history.

Dawn of the Dead, in my estimation Romero's grand opus, is a savage satire of consumer culture, as rival groups of survivors (particularly cops and outlaw bikers) ensconce themselves in a mall to withstand a siege by ghouls. The breathers and the shamblers are all obsessed with consumption- the undead at least realize that humanity is the product.

The Tor article I linked to is an essential read for Romero fans- the sheer ubiquity of the tropes the Romero started served to drown out the oeuvre of the man himself, leaving little room for an auteur who preferred to work with modest budgets and practical effects.

One thing that I have to note about Romero is that he had a sense of humor, albeit a grim one. One particular scene comes to mind, in which the female protagonist's brother tries to scare her:

My favorite line in any of Romero's movies is the deadpan-snark description of the undead uttered by the character of the police chief who is leading the local response to the zombie uprising:

Night of the Living Dead, surprisingly, is in the public domain. It's a bit gruesome, but not over the top like some modern splatter films. Even if you're not a horror movie fan, it is an interesting watch, because of its genre-defining status. Just keep the lights on, because George might be coming to get you.

1 comment:

mikey said...

So much of the modern zombie canon was clarified and cemented by Romero. You can't mess with the 'physical laws' of the canon or people will hate your film, calling it 'unrealistic'.

There are two pieces that are never clearly answered.

1.) Zombies eat. But they're dead, so they can't shit. Eventually they are going to be literally 'filled up'.

2.) In the later examples of the genre such as the Walking Dead, nobody ever develops mechanized/industrial methods of zombie eradication. One up-armored bulldozers could spend the entire day 'mowing the lawn'. Of course a damaged zombie is not a dead zombie - that still requires a head wound - but an immobilized zombie can be mopped up at extremely low risk. For that matter, explosives would do the trick. Lure them into a broad depression in the ground that is lined with det cord, cook it off and follow up with a couple dozen frag grenades. Bang - a few hundred fewer zombies...