Commentary: Zombies and giving a damn

December 13, 2016

 

Zombie Mondays

 

(Editorial note: the complete schedule for Walker Stalker can be found here.)

 

The Webster Dictionary defines nihilism in part as the belief that traditional values and morals have no worth. The term has been applied by some to George Romero’s classic ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and by extension other modern zombie films. But what are these movies really about?

 

‘The Walking Dead’ mines familiar territory but has soul searching and human interest to spare. The show seems to say that just because the world is falling apart doesn’t mean that the human spirit has to.

 

‘Night of the Living Dead’ has a bleak outlook despite the moments of heroism by some of the characters. Not only does even the hero die at the end but he does so in a manner so unfair that it is somewhat comical. The sequels that Romero made become progressively more optimistic.

 

Does the fact that “Night of the Living Dead’ was made in the late 60s’ account for Romero’s pessimistic narrative view? Or is he trying to warn his audience that the injustices they are willing to tolerate will eventually creep to their doorstep?

‘Hell of the Living Dead’ is an early 80s’ zombie film from Italy. The excellent Overlook Encyclopedia of Horror Film dismisses it as the absolute worst in the cycle of films from that country that followed the international success of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and it is pretty bad – the acting is terrible, the production values are cheap, the violence and nudity are beyond gratuitous, the characters behave even more stupidly than normal for this kind of film and things occur without logic merely to advance the story.

 

But the film has one good idea in it – the good guys discover that the world’s governments have joined together and covertly create a virus that turns people into flesh-eating zombies for the express purpose of keeping down the populations of third world countries. The plot twist does not hold up to inspection since the characters that discover this were sent out by the authorities to investigate matters in the first place, but it stays in the mind long after the viewer has forgotten watching the heroine getting her eyeballs plucked out and eaten (yummy!).

 

Was this idea thrown in to make a statement? Or was it just the obligatory downbeat ending added to give the intended audience its money’s worth?

A zombie film can contain deeper and even uplifting messages when the filmmakers give a damn. Aspiring horror movie directors please take note.

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