Monday, October 4, 2010

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

Part 2 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, and this time, I am expanding to include a nod to Romero’s sparsely-made sequels to NOTLD, the 1979 classic, “Dawn of the Dead” and the somewhat maligned, but loved by me, 1985’s “Day of the Dead”:

4) Destroy the brain, kill the zombie
This rule is one of the universal ones. It is simple: Aim for the head. Destroy the brain. The zombie flops dead instantly. In NOTLD, the principle is put forth in two ways. Ben uses a tire-iron to dismantle a particularly aware zombie who made his way into the farmhouse. The tire-iron is driven right through the skull. Later, Ben uses multiple bullets to disable the undead, despite hearing the television broadcasts informing the general public to destroy the brain. Hey, even heroes have their faults

5) Zombies have the ability to remember important things from their former life
When our four protagonists arrive at the best place for a stance against the undead — a shopping mall — in “Dawn of the Dead,” they find themselves with a great deal of company — zombies. Steve “Flyboy” muses that “this must have been an important place in their lives.” While Romero was making his not-so-subtle commentary on American consumerism, he also instated another rule: Zombies can hold onto deep-seeded memories, something else he later expanded on in “Day of the Dead” with Bub, the zombie pet. While the stumbling, bumbling undead may seem to only seek flesh, they also seek connection to… something…maybe a shopping mall…maybe to their atrocious prick of a parent (hence Harry’s demise in NOTLD).

6) One-on-one, you might have a chance; against a horde, you are screwed
Romero’s zombies, while slow, seem to add strength in numbers. While human protagonists are making epic mistakes, the zombies are gaining traction on the prize. In NOTLD, Ben makes a heroic stand at the farmhouse while sending young Tom and Judy to fuel the truck he barreled into the movie with. They screw it up and give the audience the very first feasting scene in any zombie film. While it seems cordial, tame and dated these days, it was beyond shocking back in 1968. In “Dawn,” Romero once again gives the audience and his protagonists a false sense of security: all the doors are locked, all the windows barred. What they don’t plan on is a group of bikers breaking through the initial barricade and all the zombies find a weak point to the protagonists hidden stronghold — and inevitably find a way to push through. While the zombies in “Dawn” had a bit of help, the zombies in NOTLD were focused and headed for the one opening they saw, like a football running back through a hole in the defense.
Romero zombies do not get tired. They will stick around until they see a hole in the defense. And they all seem to push through at once…hmmmm...

More rules to come. Chew on these for awhile...

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