the first in what will be an occasional series of tributes to my favorite movies.
Night of the Living Dead
Let’s start here by telling you that I really, really want to be a zombie some day. Some people want to be firemen, some people want to be rock stars, I want to be a zombie. I’m really rooting for this whole bird flu thing to take off in the hopes that it will end in zombie infestation and I can just give up my being to the flesh eaters. You think I’m fighting the undead? No way. Why fight off the zombies? Why spend days running from them, trying to fend them off, beating them, shooting them, cowering in fear in the basement (we don’t even have a basement) when eventually, they are going to win? Once the zombie infestation starts, that’s it. It’s assimilate or die. You can shoot as many brains as you want, but in the end, the undead will outnumber the living and you may as well just let them bite you early on rather than attempting to put up some brave and noble fight for survival.
Had they realized this in Night of the Living Dead, things would have worked out a lot differently. Maybe if Barbra and Johnny and Ben had a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy, they could have avoided all that family-eating-family tragedy. No one wants to see that. Give yourself up at the start and you won’t find yourself staring down your zombified teenage daughter gnawing on her father.
Yes, I would give up that easily. What can I say? I’m a joiner. I follow trends, I don’t set them. It’s just so much easier to hold out your arms and accept what fate hands you than to fight it. It’s easier to convince yourself that being a zombie wouldn’t be so bad after all – no work, no taxes to pay, abundant food supply and, best of all, I could go on the hunt for people I hate and zombiefy them. How cool would it be to sink my undead teeth into Yngwie Malmsteem’s fleshy neck?
Anyhow, Night of the Living Dead. Yes, I know; social commentary, racism, class warfare, women are weak, blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all. But let’s get down to basics. It’s a zombie movie. People get eaten. Teeth are bared. Kids eat their parents. Brains explode. The living dead! Braaaaainnnnnnnssssss! Who the hell cares if George Romero was giving us a subtle lesson in social mores? There are zombies. And they’re coming to get you, Barbra!
For all I care the movie – and all Romero’s movies, really – could have contained within the dialogue the hidden codes to figuring out the order of the universe, the secret life of Jesus Christ, and how to get eternal life in Legend of Zelda and I still wouldn’t care. Well, maybe I’d care about the Zelda thing. Because eternal life would rule.
There’s not much to else say about Night of the Living Dead. It’s a classic. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen it. It paved the way for zillions of zombie movies after it. Without the cheesiness and stilted dialogue and awkward social commentary of Night of the Living Dead, we wouldn’t have Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead or Return of the Living Dead or even Shaun of the Dead. And then where would we be? If it weren’t for Romero, I would be just another aimless human being, a worker drone living out a meek existence just waiting for death to come take me away. But, no. I have a goal. I have a plan. I’m going to become a zombie someday! Come on, bird flu! Work your viral magic!
I can’t wait for the day I wake up only to find my children all bug eyed and bloody, arguing over the last piece of my neighbor’s leg. Then I’ll know I made it. I will walk out the door and down the street and look for the first large group of zombies I can find. And then I’m going climb on top of the nearest building and do the most awesome stage dive ever right into the middle of that pack of living dead things, some Slayer song playing inside my head. Sure it might hurt at first. The flesh tearing thing probably isn’t a whole lot of fun. But in the end, I win. I get to be zombie.
We need to pay tribute, not really to this film, per se, but to the undead in general. How many Misfits songs would have gone unwritten if not for zombies? Would there be an Army of Darkness? A House of Dead game at your local arcade? See what I mean? Don’t mess with the zombies, man. They have added more to our culture than most Europeans.
Next time you’re enjoying brains for dinner or brains for lunch, give a little thanks to George Romero, ok?
Read Full Post »