Monday, August 9, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Romero Zombies (But Never Cared to Ask)

Part 1 of an ongoing list of Romero rules

The gold-standard of the zombie film undoubtedly begins and ends with George A. Romero. I will argue (and win) with anyone who claims to believe the contrary. Romero set the stage with “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968. And, while there will always be the unending debate over “fast” or “slow” zombies, some rules have been carved into stone tablets, smashed against a mountain, and encased in a golden vessel, all thanks to George. Here are a few:

1) Zombies are the recently dead and buried
In NOTLD, it was made clear through various television and radio broadcasts that an unknown phenomenon caused the recently deceased to claw their ways out of their graves. Most of the zombies in that film seem slightly rotted or simply dazed and slow. In later films, the dead are in advanced stages of rot. One could argue these were the zombies who evaded headshots, fire, or other forms of zombie destruction.

2) Get bit, get turned
Johnny was the first bitten, but the last to show the audience what happened should a hungry undead flesheater get his hands on a living member of society. The bite acts as a virus, demonstrated by Harry’s daughter’s slow turn into a zombie, as if she caught the flu and slowly developed symptoms. A long sleep, murmurs of consciousness, and, ultimately, full-on zombie, wherein she eats dad and mom…but she eats mom with the aid of an instrument, which brings us to this next rule…

3) They can use tools
The famous “cemetery zombie” (played by Bill Hinzman, whom I will never forgive for participating in a George Lucas-esque “special edition” of NOTLD 30 years later, which I am ashamed to own, let alone have viewed) used a rock to break a car window to get at his prey, Barbara. Later, zombies surrounding the farmhouse, use various instruments to knock out headlights, and to attempt entry into said farmhouse. Zombies, in Romero’s stories, degenerate into cavemen-like mentality. Simple tools, but they serve the basic purpose. As an ape learned to shatter bones with bones in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a zombie can figure out how to survive…or at least follow its animal instinct: get the food.

More rules to follow. Stay warm-blooded, kiddies.

— Rob


  1. I will never forget the copy of NOTLD/'68 you gave me and was like "You gotta watch this" (high school I think). So I did...thanks a lot.. now I'm the grossy girl that likes horror movies and will never watch chick flicks. =0)

  2. See? I have done some good in this world, in case anyone ever doubted it...You are welcome, Chanel!

  3. Fast zombies pwn slow zombies. Can you imagine a standoff between the batshit insane mutant demons in "28 Days Later" and the ugly and repulsive but oh-so slow and unintimidating sloth corpses of NOTLD. It'd be like Usain Bolt racing Fat Albert in the 100, or Ving Rhames challenging Robert Pattinson in a contest of badassery.