I love zombies. Next to werewolves they are my favourite genre of horror. My infatuation with the undead began c1980 when I discovered my cousin’s stash or Fangoria magazines. There was an article about George A Romero’s new movie, Dawn of the Dead, with an awesome tagline:
“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
The movie poster was creepy enough, but it was the machete headshot that sealed the deal and within weeks I had managed to convince the local video store owner that I was old enough to rent it. Oh sure, the menacing hordes were a little green-faced, and the acting wasn’t fantastic, but the concept of a mindless mob of murderous cannibals marching relentlessly toward their human prey was truly frightening. I was an instant fan.
The next movie I watched was Mr Romero’s 1968 masterpiece, the Night of the Living Dead. Although Johnny gave me goosebumps when he told his sister, “They’re coming to get you Barbara”, before becoming a zombie himself and dragging her to her doom through the boarded up doorway, the highlight of the film was the scene where the young couple get blown up at the petrol station and the zombies get stuck into the charred chunks of roasted human scattered over the roadway.
As special effect techniques improved so did the gore. The Return of the Living Dead brought melting, gooey corpses, reanimated cadavers, and a dark sense of humour as the fetid carcasses staggered around in search of ‘brains’.
One of the funniest scenes has a zombie on the police radio asking the dispatch office to “Send more cops”, which were promptly set upon and devoured. Return of the Living Dead became a staple horror movie for the B-Grade movie nights my friends and I would enjoy throughout the late eighties.
Of course, as any good father would do, I introduced my sons the the concept of zombies at an early age. When they were children I would sneak up behind them, yell the word ‘brains’, and, much to the chagrin of my wife, gently bite them on the top of their heads. They were introduced to the visual impact of the undead gradually beginning with the Nazi zombie levels within the game Call of Duty: World at War, but eventually their curiosity demanded that they see what all the fuss was about. By this stage they were old enough to see the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and so their own zombie journey began.
Since then we have enjoyed more cadaverous carnage than you can imagine. Land of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Dead Snow, Dead Set, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Walking Dead, World War Z and Zombieland, to name but a few. There have been good movies and some really bad ones, but all of them have been fun.
Thank you Mr Romero for bringing the undead to life.
Rest in Peace.