Movie directed by George Romero
Written by John Russo & George Romero
More than twenty years ago, we lived in Pittsburgh, the promised land of zombie flicks. Not only did we live in Pittsburgh, we lived a block away from Tom Savini and he had the coolest house on the block, especially at Halloween. This was around the time of From Dusk till Dawn, so he was all over the newspapers, which was cool because nobody showed up in our neighborhood to scare the children, at least as far as we could tell.
This was a good fifteen years after I had first seen Night of the Living Dead in a high school auditorium as the weekend entertainment provided by the school committee in charge of such things. I am pretty sure the biology teacher who advised the committee just wanted to get a rise out of the student body.
As I said- we were living in Pittsburgh and a local experimental rock band put on a show where they stood behind a giant projection of the film and played their own soundtrack. I have forgotten their name, but I remember it as being epic, full of angst and shock and operatic sadness, much like the film itself. At the time, the event seemed unique, but it appears from a quick internet search that people do this all the time now, from Des Moines to Boston. The amazing thing about this film is that it keeps inspiring more art. I don’t mean the decades of zombie films that have filled the multiplexes (and streaming services) but the true children of Night of the Living Dead who believe they can make films and craft the music that these bands perform.
Every time I see the movie, I walk away amazed by the accomplishment of this passionate, inexperienced film crew guided by George Romero, a local commercial director. Hell- props to everyone, even the money guys who saw something in what was being done and kept the cash flowing. Because, the movie is brilliant- as thousands of college students debating its meaning have proven. But that is not the heart of its greatness.
At its core, the characters matter- those actors delivered performances that defy the restrictions within which they worked. Even the zombies are perfect before they became such a universal symbol for unthinking servitude to cultural and political powers. Now think of every other zombie film (with one exception) and the characters end up having to fill a place. I mean that they are already predestined for their doom- you see it coming a mile away. That’s the fat guy. That’s the scientist. That’s the misogynist. But somehow, in Night of the Living Dead, these are people facing the ultimate betrayal by nature and ultimately by their fellow man.
The thing is that it can happen again- many have tried, but Zombieland succeeds the best for me as the characters seem three dimensional, even Bill Murray (a great actor in an unforgiving role). Zombieland even fits my criteria for the unexpected list of survivors (or should that be list of deceased?).
In the end, it really is all about characters as complete people, whether running on a beach into a lover’s arms or running away from certain doom. Perhaps that explains… why do I root for the zombies on Walking Dead?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 297 more to go.
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