We will also feature the insightful contributions of some of the most eminent and distinguished horror film scholars: Prof. Each day is dedicated to the exploration of a specific theme: the origins, meanings, ideology, legacy, and influence of Night of the Living Dead. Thus, this special feature not only commemorates the 40th anniversary of Night of the Living Dead , but also celebrates the inspiring work of Romero, without a doubt one of the greatest directors in the history of motion pictures.
Welcome and enjoy the ride… but before you proceed, please do not forget to board doors and windows… just in case. A long time contributor to PopMatters , Marco incisively explores the hidden history and cultural meanings of horror cinema in his monthly column, Dread Reckoning. Old Crow Medicine Show honor history on Live at the Ryman, while continuing to show more interest in new, charged versions of tradition.
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Moral absolutism was dissolving before them, and the utopic American dream was slowly turning into a nightmare. If the fear that anyone of the living protagonists could turn into the undead at any moment bread distrust among the refugees in that Pennsylvanian farmhouse, then that distrust was already present in homes all throughout the USA. In the documentary The American Nightmare Adam Simon, , Tom Gunning offers his explanation for the horror felt at the sight of ghoulish cannibalism which distinguished Night from its contemporaries — I would prefer a less psychologically oriented perspective in favour of a more ontological analysis.
As highlighted earlier, death itself breeds fear in the idea of our own materiality. We fear the absence of spirit, the loss of the subjective identity which is the antecedent for all psychic processes. Just as we revile the zombie for existing as no more than cold matter driven by the most basic of drives, we dread the same thing in ourselves.
Fighting Two Wars:
By not only killing the spirit but consuming the flesh, the zombie makes it apparent to us that it perceives us much the same way that we perceive them: nothing more than a heap of flesh and fluid. Devouring us the way that we devour animals, the ghoul denies our cognition and reminds us that we are the same as any other animal or plant, no more and no less.
Considering the gory photojournalism of soldiers killed gruesomely in the field of action and the endless conscripts fed into the war machine, Night of the Living Dead hit too close to home. Here was a zombie film with a more subversive moral discourse than those which preceded it, more complex than the earlier propaganda films using zombies to symbolize the Red Scare or the dangers of drug use.
Night of the Living Dead disregarded the cultural ignorance of the traditional zombie movie to make a more subtly introspective film -a masterpiece, as it has certainly been proclaimed.
Essay on George Romero's Night of the Living Dead
It took Romero eleven years to return to the zombie genre he had revived the decade before, and after more than ten years the social and cinematic landscape had changed dramatically. The Vietnam War had ended and Night had been a catalyst for the zombie subgenre, inspiring over 30 films across Europe and North America in less than a decade Dendle 7. Still, Romero rekindled the originality which he had brought to the genre in order to confront the rise of vapid consumerism in suburban America.
And so, as millions of citizens flooded out from their homes and into shopping complexes, Dawn likewise abandoned the rural farmhouse for the shelter of the Monroeville Mall. Just as he had reconfigured the zombie identity in Night of the Living Dead , there is a distinct evolution in the way Dawn of the Dead portrays its undead chorus.
Whereas Night was notable for its relentlessly bleak tone, Romero introduced an element of comedy into the ghouls of Dawn. The zombies remain the same lethargic, mindless, and cannibalistic fiends as established in the first Dead installment, but in the sequel their lack of higher reasoning permits Romero to toy with them like a child with a magnifying glass does to ants. A single zombie no longer forms such a prominent threat, as illustrated in scenes of Roger and Peter twirling and dodging through crowds of the living dead and shoving off those who lunge at them.
The ensuing montage is anything but what one would expect to find in a horror film, showcasing zombies shambling about dopily, bumping into each other, falling over, and staggering on the escalator. Though the film is not without its moments of terror and gore, it is in these moments where Romero once again subverts the norm of incessant horror in the zombie film and elevates the genre once more. The sequence endures for an astounding twenty-five minutes without a single zombie encounter, with the creatures serving primarily as a periphery menace rather than an immediate threat as in Night of the Living Dead.
Safe and sound within the secured mall, the ensemble has total access to all the material goods the mall has to offer, and they certainly exploit it. This metaphor becomes tangible when considering that zombies are exactly that: vacuous consumers of material human flesh. The editing of the sequence reveals this most forwardly, with Romero cutting from scene to scene of unburdened gaiety without concern for narrative progression or causality.
Rather, each cut proceeds asynchronously through discontinuous spaces, presenting superficial images of enjoyment without any enduring quality, set to music which begins jubilantly and becomes increasingly disquieting. Strength in Numbers. Through these two films and a third, Day of the Dead , Romero managed to reignite the zombie horror film two separate times over the latter half of the twentieth century, and these elements of his individual style fossilized into the general anatomy of the modern zombie movie.
Thirty years after the release of Night, one can still find apocalyptic premises, voracious cannibalism, bias toward scientific over mystical reanimation, and sardonic social metaphor in the descendants of the modern zombie genre. Just as in Night of the Living Dead where the zombies bore little resemblance to their Voodoo ancestors, Boyle treats his creatures with the same unorthodoxy and disregard for tradition.
The zombies conform to select similarities, such as their flesh-eating drive and battered exterior, but they stand apart on two distinctions: they are not the living dead, but humans consumed by a viral barbarism; and they do not shamble but run alarmingly quickly. By giving his zombies speed, Boyle marked a new stage in the evolution of the cinematic zombie. Likewise, the moral discourse of the film reflects a shift to the more immediate intimate aspects of morality on an interpersonal level.
Day of the Dead : Apocalypse Now? By accelerating the rhythm of scenes between the living and the dead, the characters have no real time to reveal their ideologies and are instead downgraded to purely impulse based reaction. This shift in the structure of zombie horror signaled an departure from social satire to visceral intensity, with the zombies themselves taking the limelight from the humans who resist them.
Night of the Living Dead Themes
But, as always for Romero, this new phase of zombie cinema was simply another convention to be undermined. The story of Diary of the Dead is that of a film within a film, told from the first person perspective of the cameraman, Jason Joshua Close , as well as through the voiceover of his girlfriend, Debra Michelle Morgan.
We are thrown into the reality of the image, understanding that it is intended to be raw and undoctored footage, and the minimal use of edits in a horror film appeals to Bazinian theory on the intensified realism afforded through the long take. However, the insertion of voiceover and source footage which divides each scene interrupts the flow of this realism, alternating captivating realism with distanced self-analysis. Essentially, Diary of the Dead takes the same concerns for the zombie genre which underscored Night of the Living Dead and transposes them into a modern context dealing with issues of omnipresent media and intersubjectivity in place of expanded consciousness of our own violent nature.
Zombies Enter the YouTube Generation. With his abhorrently graphic Night of the Living Dead , Romero laid unshakeable foundations for the zombie genre, which destabilized the presence of Voodoo mysticism in the conception of the zombie and offered a new form for ensuing zombie films. Night of the Living Dead formed the cornerstone of what we all perceive to be zombies, and Dawn of the Dead crystallized the satirical social discourse which its precursor had originated.
But, as with all innovations, the emergence of running zombies soon reverted to convention, lending the opportunity once more to oppose the normative and abide by a more personal vision of the zombie film. Bishop, Kyle.
Night of the Living Dead: The Impossible Essay – Nitehawk Cinema – Williamsburg
Dendle, Peter. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. Rhodes, Gary D. White Zombie?? The American Nightmare. Adam Simon. Minerva Pictures,