Reflecting upon The Walking Dead. If I had to pick a favorite …
Broadcast on The Mike Malloy Show June 24, 2013. Listen to Mike exclusively on the non-profit Progressive Voices Radio network LIVE at 9PM ET here: http://www.progressivevoices.com/
Below is an excerpt. To read the rest of the words go here:
From the beginning of cinema until 45 years ago, zombie movies took place in Haiti, or on some nameless Caribbean isle. And masters of The Dark Arts, like Bela Lugosi in White Zombie, used Voodoo as Mind Control to enslave the living as well as the dead. Then in 1968 George Romero grafted characteristics from the Vampire mythos onto the Zombie genre, broke about a half dozen cinematic taboos, and created Night of the Living Dead.
The vampire, as personified by Lugosi in Dracula, was an undead creature who continued its existence by drinking the blood of the living. Bela could drain a victim at one sitting or he’d take a sip from the heroine over a couple of nights to eventually turn her into his vampire bride. Dracula was a malevolent creature who fed off of the living but compared to the Zombies born in the late 60’s … he was downright civilized about it.
Zombies, as envisioned by George Romero, tear you apart and eat you alive. There are no seductive vampiric overtures. They just grab you, bite your face off, and rip you to pieces. Right in front of the camera. No discreet cutaway shots. Tom Savini’s make-up wizardry allowed Romero’s camera to stare unblinkingly at shocking images of gore infused ultra-violence. If a zombie only bit you, by the next day the infection would kill, and shortly thereafter you would join the shambling hordes. The only defense against a Romero zombie is to shoot it in the head. And again, because of Savini’s make-up effects, the camera caught the black blood and brain matter blasting out in all directions.
What elevated Night of the Living Dead, and the rest of Romero’s zombie films, was the socio-political commentary completely missing from the gore-porn cranked out by his imitators. In Dawn of the Dead, survivors take refuge in a mega-shopping mall, a relatively new development on America’s landscape in 1978. Yes it’s a flesh-eating zombie movie. But at the same time it examined the literal soullessness of a consumer-based society.