Zombies are everywhere today. We’re going to look back at where it all began and hope to get some grizzly insight into George Romero’s breakout hit NOTLD!
Welcome back my Nasties. Zip up your hazmat suits and grab a shovel because today we’re digging up some ghoulish delights as we dare to question that one riddle puzzling the mind of the most devoted horror nerds — are zombies and the infected the same thing?
As we walk through the mists of dystopian ecstasy let’s pause momentarily where the whole phenomena originally took root. Sure there have been plenty who filmed the notion of the apocalypse, but undoubtedly no one with a camera has ever made the future seem bleaker (and all too close) than our dearly departed George Romero.
Paw Paw Romero invented a new monster when he released the zombie plague upon unsuspecting audiences with Night of the Living Dead. He secured his legacy in horror history with his follow up Dawn of the Dead, which is the favored horror film of many fans.
Nevertheless, NOTLD should never have to play second fiddle to its bigger brothers. The film is an incredible achievement and, to this day, it scares viewers who dare sitting down in a darkened room all alone with only the glow of the TV to guide them through the unsettling gloom.image via Dread Central
It’s interesting that in the Criterion release of NOTLD, Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro compares Romero’s first foray into horror as a dream. That strikes a chord with me personally. You see back when I was a kid, I vividly remember sneaking out of my room one night, creeping down the hallway with all the disciplined silence of Bruce Wayne, and peeking my little Manic nose around the corner to the living room to spy on what horror movie I knew my folks were watching. I wasn’t ready for what I saw!
People, ghoulish and ferocious men and women, were setting about a sloppy feast of flesh and organs, wait I must make it clear –HUMAN flesh and HUMAN organs. The movie was in fact Night of the Living Dead, and I was kinda scarred. My five-year-old psyche was seared with those images. I didn’t know that kind of thing happened, not even in movies!image via Bloody Disgusting, courtesy of the Criterion Collection
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I then had the worst nightmare of my life. I was trapped in our house, all alone, and climbing up the hill was a legion of the living dead, all sharing one common thought – to eat me alive. I was trapped. I hid in the furthest room back, which was the bathroom, the worst possible place to hide in any horror scenario. I could hear the undying things groaning as they shuffled down the hall, then one pale and rotting hand appeared on the threshold, and then its face followed. That’s when I woke up sick and terrified.
Thanks to that, I was scared of zombies until I was nineteen. Yup, the only monster to ever scare me, Manic Exorcism, was the zombie. And that’s thanks to Romero’s movie.
Del Toro also compares NOTLD to old fairy tales and fables hiding deeper moral lessons in their simple prose. And who can deny the inherent horror of those old cautionary tales that warn children not to go into the woods alone and always obey their parents? So for a modern age and with a simple independent company Romero wove together a new cautionary tale about the dead who refuse to die, and inadvertently released a brand new genre upon the world. One of plagues, disaster and apocalyptic realities.
It has gone on to spawn sequels, remakes, video games and even a comic book run. It’s been proven that Romero’s vision will never die.