Hail To The Zombie King
Growing up in New York in the early 40s was no small feat. The realities of organized crime and World War Two were enough to shape the mindset of an aspiring filmmaker from the Bronx to that of a doomed future for humanity. George A. Romero’s bleak worldview became glaringly apparent on October 1, 1968, when he let loose upon the world, Night of the Living Dead, a terrifying story of the reanimated dead attacking and consuming a group of survivors hiding within a small farmhouse.
On the surface, Romero’s vision of a world plagued by the flesh-eating living dead is simply a visceral creature feature (nothing wrong with that). But, the subtextual coverage of social issues and identity politics is where it truly terrifies. Using a zombie apocalypse allegorically to showcase the true plague that continues to ravage humanity. Intolerance, tribalism, and humanity’s inhumanity toward man are all subjects broached within the horror masterpiece.
Within Romero’s storied career, he has often attempted to infuse his films with social awareness. Not satisfied with simply scaring an audience with supernatural spectacle, Romero forces his audience to peer into the societal underbelly and reflect on humanity’s current, past, and future atrocities with only the slightest shimmer of hope. Much more terrifying than zombie-infested streets is when human beings are subjected to the realization that the true enemy is glaring back at them every time we look into a mirror.
However, there’s more to this dread-filled visionary than doom and gloom nihilism. Romero’s cheeky, whimsical side is often on display within his films. Whether it’s a zombie experiencing an unfortunate “haircut” from the blades of a helicopter in Dawn of the Dead, or the lovable “Bub” giving a final salute to the deplorable Captain Rhodes before his gruesome death.
With the recent release of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, the living dead are more prominent than ever. And while George Romero may have passed, but his legacy continues to live on in the form of the modern zombie. Paving the way for such properties as The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later and even Shaun of the Dead, Romero fought the battle of the indie filmmaker and won the hearts of millions of devoted fans who watched in awe as his decaying, putrid creations ravaged the world of cinema.