Zombies, pod people and election season: scary liberals and sinister neo-cons
"More people are keeping up on 'Dancing With the Stars' than who is running for office," complained a friend of mine a few years ago. Indeed there are just as many people concerned about who will die during the next season of 'The Walking Dead' as about who our next president will be. This is a pity since the modern zombie genre tends to be concerned with politics even when represented by clunkers like''Hell of the Living Dead' or 'City of the Walking Dead.'
George Romero's 1978 landmark 'Dawn of the Dead' was hell-bent on making a social statement even before the protagonists hole up in that damned mall. An opening scene with squabbling media management is soon followed by a violent clash between police (one of whom is a raving racist), inner-city urban activists (one of whom looks weirdly like Bob Villa) and (of course) hungry zombies -- a one-legged Hispanic priest laments the carnage and what it all means n one of the film's spookier moments.
During the same year, Phillip Kaufman released his remake of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and it had a lot to say about urban paranoia, cultural conformity and the failure of modern relationships. Oh yeah, and aliens that grow from giant plant pods and replace us while we sleep -- it is basically 'Dawn of the Dead' for affluent professionals who have seen 'Annie Hall' several times (when my family went to a theater in Hartford, Connecticut where 'Dawn of the Dead' was playing, the inner-city movie- patrons were in a line going out the door and visibly excited about what they had heard regarding the film).
The original 1956 version of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' by director Don Siegel is a classic and shame on you if you have not seen it. It has been remade three times and has inspired other cult classics of that era like 'Invaders from Mars' (itself remade during the 80s') and 'I Married a Monster From Outer Space.'
A film that bears a resemblance to Siegel's version is John Frankenheimer's 1964 thriller 'Seven Days in May,' which was scripted by Rod Serling of 'Twilight Zone' fame and deals with an attempted military coup in the United States. The film uses right-wing hawks positioned in the media, elected office and military instead of aliens from pods and seems to map out the path that neo-conservatism might take before the phrase was commonly used. A remake could easily substitute radical Islam for the Soviet Union as the story catalyst.
I always thought that the film would form a perfect double bill with 'The Last Supper' -- a brilliant black comedy featuring Ron Perlman and Cameron Diaz. This 1995 film highlights the crimes of a quintet of smug liberal graduate students that poison dinner guests whose views they find offensive. Both films feature political dogmatists with an "it's my way or the highway" attitude but from opposite sides of the fence.
Sometimes it is a short leap between zombies and the campaign season.