“The Hollywood wisdom is you can’t make money with a zombie film unless you put big money into it,” noted Romero, indicating why it’s been nearly a decade since he last made a zombie movie. “You have to invest $200 million to make the film fantastic. I’m the opposite of that.”
Since Barbara, heroine of Romeros' Night of the Living Dead first wobbled her way through a bevy of tombstones fleeing the undead, the world has been facing a Zombie threat. It is a well established fact that if you know Zombie movies, then you know Romero did it first and he did it best.
His first film Night of the Living Dead stands as a black and white legend. The kind of film where they used raw sausages to represent human intestines and Bosco chocolate syrup on roast ham to imitate human flesh. It was gritty and raw and carried a hell of an ending wallop where the last survivor doesn't fall prey to the undead but rather the overzealous, and paranoid ( not to mention overt bigotry!) of other armed survivors. It was not a coincidence that he was black. Romero wanted everyone to get his point and in a very unsubtle way.
Zombie's are personal. They are by the very nature what we ultimately dread and hate. The worst of us where once they might have been the best. A undead walking reincarnation of our hidden sins and abject societal flaws come back to stalk us. That's why they go for the brain as their ultimate goal for carnal satisfaction. Of course they might gnaw a foot or arm in the process but they want our brains most of all.
Why the brain? Because it's the seat of our intellect, the very origin of where identity begins and ends with the brain. Zombies are us and we are zombies. When we depersonalize them and make them into hordes of mindless monsters who act like nothing more than meat grinders in the flesh, we lose that perspective. It's bringing the camera focus so far back that we can distance ourselves from what it is at the heart of the matter. But think about it, zombies even from their folklore origins were shades of their former selves. Bidden to do whatever their master commanded until such time as they could be freed. They were never fantastical creations like vampires or werewolves who hold no real basis in reality. That's why Romero likes to use them as a visceral representation of our failings. Because you can't get away from who you really are. Even Barbara learned that the hard way.
Does this mean that all zombie moves have to carry a moral message? Of course not. But when Hollywood just dumps copious amounts of money into a film so it can be soaked in blood and guts for shock value, completely bypassing the true nature of the zombie horror, something vital gets lost. The undeniable human identity at the heart of the zombie.
Zombies might hunger for brains, but Hollywood hungers for the dollar. Hollywood sees the wow factor strictly relating to the pools of blood, guts and brains that they can splatter the audience with. Metaphorically, of course.
According to Romero, Hollywood had moved drastically away from the low budget, more intimate style of the films he made and wants to keep on making. There have been numerous imitations, re-inventions and sub-versions of the Zombie film. They are now a intrinsic cultural and historical addendum to modern society, representing in turn, our fear of death, taxes and the war machine. Romero has always seen them as symbolic of humanity's deficits, both moral and cultural, which left unchecked will eventually rise up and consume us.
Which is why Romero is taking his on screen adaption of his zombie graphic novels, Empire of the Dead to cable where he feels its easier to be a more authentic medium to tell his story. Which is a shame because his expert touch will be sorely missed as the tidal wave of over the top zombie movies threatens to drown any semblance of genuine truth in the genre.
Zombie's are here to stay. TV,(Walking Dead, Zombie Nation) Movies, Books, even in real life with zombie runs for charity and zombie crawls for fun. There is no escaping them. Which is kinda the point, don't you think?
In case you're in need of fix, for either movie or book or TV, here are some suggestions that I have found to be above par and well worth watching.
Pontypool is a long time cult favorite and for excellent reason. A slow burn of a build to an unbelievable climax. The most fiendishly clever conception for the virus's point of contact transference and just some amazing acting by Stephen McHattie.
State of Emergency got moderate attention and not a lot of positive press but it's easy to understand why. It's got a simple, slow pace that to the adrenaline junkies of the twenty- something demographic(who unfortunately possess most of the disposable cash in the film audience world) must feel like waiting for their Facebook friend request to Kim Kardashian to be accepted. It's a shame, because this movie is very good. Solid acting by mostly unknowns, a basic but well written script and one of the most frightening zombie moments I've ever seen.
Think of the zombies you know. Slow when they want to be, marginally faster when they are hungry and most definitely not capable of subterfuge. In this movie when a woman shows up at the survivors barricaded door asking for help to find her daughter it sounds legit, right? I mean you'd want to help her out as one survivor to another. But fortunately the lead protagonist just feels like something is a bit off, and when he tells her at gunpoint her to lift her head up, BAM!, yep, she's a zombie. It freaked me out completely. Very clever and very scary all at the same time. No one wants a zombie who can think like that.
FEED was my first time reading about zombies because I usually see them only in a a visual media light. I was, however, extremely pleased and more than pleasantly surprised by how well this author brought them to undead life on the page.
Mira Grant has crafted a highly engrossing, extremely well written and fast paced novel. It takes you to a time after the zombie rising. When the world has picked itself up from the shambles of the apocalypse. and found newer, somewhat controversial, ways to go on. The science of how the virus was created is so legitimate, it's disturbing and the characters are three dimensional as well as extremely likable. Though labeled as young adult, I found no problem in related to the characters or the world they live in. I don't know if that speaks to my flexible nature or immaturity, either way, this book is excellent. The first in a series, I'm anxious to get to the next one.
As a parting note, something is emerging in the zombie genre that has been dormant for a long time. Seen in the recently released Extinction where the zombies have adapted to the second ice age. You could say this evolutionary imperative in the very DNA of the genre itself. Zombie plagues are most frequently are attributed to a virus. Virus's adapt, it is inherent to their survival. We assume because we kill the living host that we have vanquished the darkness inside it, but that is a false hope. It is a pleasant illusion with which we can hide from the truth. If humanity goes survives, then so must the virus.
Zombies are us, and we are zombies.