Monster of the Day #1605

There is so much to talk about with this film that it’s hard to get started. One obvious point is that just as movies redefined vampire and (especially) werewolf mythology, Romero completely redefined what a zombie is. Although his later works in the genre were weaker and easily surpassed by others shambling in his footsteps, the fact is that zombies have been the central monster in our culture for decades now and it’s all due to Romero and his coworkers on this ultra-cheap local production.

  • zombiewhacker

    Zombies became the central monster in large part because other monsters were redefined a little too much.

    Vampires once represented the same threat in horror fiction that zombies do today. They were innocent victims drained not only of their blood but also their souls, their very humanity, who were now forced to rise from the dead and feed on the living. Your best friend Fred isn’t Fred anymore; now Fred’s a vampire, and he’s coming to get you.

    Today your best friend Fred is a cool, gothy, angst-ridden Harlequin cover model who may or may not sparkle and who poses about as much threat to you as the Speedy Delivery guy from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. And if your life is in danger (particularly if you’re a cool, gothy angst-ridden Harlequin cover modelette), it’s Fred to your rescue.

    Now there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this new approach, of course, but it did leave a void that the zombie genre subsequently filled.

    Ditto werewolves, who weren’t always as cuddly as they’re sometimes depicted today, or space aliens, who originally posed the same general threat to the populace as vampires (Body Snatchers, The Thing, etc.) but are now as likely to be portrayed as benevolent emissaries than anything else.

  • bgbear_rnh

    The idea that a sudden walking dead event would result in a “come as you are” zombie party is so simple but brilliant. Others seem to miss, ignore, or skip out of convenience.

  • And you can kill Romero-type zombies by the hundreds, and no one will care….

  • Marsden

    I never liked the “can’t stop them unless you shoot them in the head” rule. Of course I’m not too fond of the “zombies eat brains” rule either, but that came after in the 80s I think, when the Living Dead franchise split from Romero’s Dead, or something, I’m no expert. I just don’t see why the head is so important. But I’m not really a fan of most zombie movies, and I hate fast zombies which seem to be really “in” now.

  • bgbear_rnh

    Well there is this thing we call “the brain” that controls the nervous system ;-)

    No actually I agree, the brain can’t function with out the lungs and heart working to supply it and obviously the zombies get hungry so if you disrupt their digestive system they would also be in trouble eventually.

  • Wow. This is looking like another week where Cullen doesn’t post much at all.

    You guys are SOOO lucky.

  • Ericb

    Romeroesque zombies are as much like a force of nature as they are monsters. Like the Monolith Monsters in human form.

  • Flangepart

    I can’t take zombies as seriously as other wee beasties (rotting muscles just don’t move bodies; they are rotting away! sheesh!) Don’t get me started on fast sombies…just don’t. Max Brooks sold them the book and said ‘Fine, whatever, just pay me, okay?’

    They are as ‘flexible’ a concept as the others. The author makes the rules, and so goes the game.

    Oh, and on ‘headshots’…it’s like in World of Tanks…there has to be SOME way to kill a tiger (Up the arse into the engine), so headshots for zombies just seems…fair.

  • Marsden

    Thank you, yes. But also I’m talking about seeming to chop off major parts of them and they still work, yet a baseball bat to the head even can “kill” them, it’s like a weak spot almost rather then a specific need. If it’s a dead body, it should have no functions. I accept, as it being a horror movie monster, that it moves and is dangerous, I don’t accept it has functioning organs or something approaching a life cycle. Rather like I accept Skeletons running around, do they have bodily functions to keep them going?

    Sorry if I’m complaining, I’m not a big zombie fan, although I thought the original movie was a good one. It’s just been so overused since then…

  • bgbear_rnh

    I think one element that is sort of implied in NOTLD and derivatives is that the people who rise were not really dead dead, just mostly dead (thanks Miracle Max). No one rose from their grave. It does not answer your why a head shot question, but helps with other fridge logic questions.

    I wonder if criticism like yours (and many others) led Romero to make “The Crazies” where people were merely infected and not walking dead.

  • Gamera977

    I have to admit I did find ‘Dead Alive’s’ parody of this concept hilarious. Esp the totally disgusting but somehow funny zombie intestines.

  • Gamera977

    Dammit Ken!!! Where did you get the photos of my last family reunion!!?!?!

  • bgbear_rnh

    Ethel, you get your clothes on!

  • Gamera977

    BTW: Watched ‘Mojin: The Lost Legend’ last night. It’s pretty much a Chinese take-off of the Brendan Frasier ‘Mummy’ movies. So-so movie over all but it has Imperial Japanese zombies!!! Too bad they’re only in the movie for about five minutes before they’re all blown up. Still a nice change of pace from the zillion or so Nazi zombie movies out there.

  • I’m sorry, but I don’t see the giant turtles in that picture.

  • Beckoning Chasm

    This may be where the “radiation from the Venus probe” might be useful. The risen dead are actually infected with a parasitic alien lifeform, which activates the brain’s function so that the parasite can be mobile and “infect” other humans to make more of its kind. Reproduction, basically.

    So while damage to the heart, lungs, other organs might eventually bring the “zombie” to a halt, the parasite is able to patch things together for a while and keep going, using bypass systems or something. Only destroying the brain kills the parasite.

    (Keep in mind I thought this up about two minutes ago, so yeah there are holes.)

  • bgbear_rnh

    Wife’s family ;-)

  • Funny (or scary) thing is that there really are parasites that take over their host’s brain….

  • Eric Hinkle

    To be fair to werewolves, they were (sorta) heroes thousands of years ago and even after. Check out Bruce Lincoln’s ‘Priests, Warriors, and Cattle’ for information on a (hypothetical?) werewolf cult among the ancient Aryans* circa 2500-2000 BC or so. They worshiped the god Indra, liberated cattle and the life-giving rains from the serpent-dragon Vritra (and his human dasya servants), and got potted on the sacred haoma/soma before they sallied forth to chop up the bad guys.

    Just the thing if you ever wanted to read about Conan the Barbarian as a Indo-Iranian werewolf. I’m not making any of that up.

    * — “Aryan” as in ‘early Indo-Iranians’.

  • Rodford Smith

    I have read speculation that Romero was influenced by the “zombie shuffle” in the last sequence from _Creature With the Atom Brain_. This movie had bodies reanimated by a radioactive serum and controlled by electronics implanted in the brain. The only way to stop them was to shoot at the head and hope you hit the electronics.

  • The Rev.

    Their playing against that rule is one of the reasons Return of the Living Dead is tops in the genre; things are a lot bleaker and intense when nothing short of total incineration stops them. Well, okay, being chopped into pieces makes it hard for them to chase you, but good luck doing that if you’re outnumbered.

  • The Rev.

    I noticed that too when I saw it, and made a similar connection.

    As an aside, anyone that hasn’t seen CwtAB should. It’s good stuff.

  • Rodford Smith

    When I first saw this movie as a kid I thought it was the greatest EVER!! It had atomic-powered zombies made by a Nazi mad scientist funded by a gangster who was getting even with the other gangsters who set him up.

    The first time I saw it as an adult I realized it was (at least in part) a parody.

    It also has one of my favorite movie dialog lines: I told you I’d come back.