Zombies: Eli Roth’s History of Horror pays homage to Romero


Zombies are everywhere on our television screens and in movie theaters. Not only are they terrifying but thanks to George A. Romero they can also be a metaphor for societal issues. Learn all about the walking dead in the first installment of Eli Roth’s History of Horror.

The Age of the Zombie

Zombies are unfortunate creatures, not quite living and not quite dead. They exist in a weird limbo area. In the past, especially in the 30’s and 40’s, Hollywood depicted them as unfortunate souls conjured up from their graves to serve some malevolent entity with evil intentions.

All of that changed 50 years ago when George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead hit theaters. This is our first lesson in Eli Roth’s compelling docu-series, History of Horror. We learn how NOTLD impacted the lives of various creators from Greg Nicotero, Rob Zombie, Stephen King, Max Brooks, John Landis, Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright. Who better to teach us then these masters of the genre, right?

What I liked about this show was the way it was presented. It felt like a syllabus and that it is a good thing. All stories have an origin and when you are talking about the living dead there is no other reference point but George Romero.

Roth and company have assembled Romero’s colleagues and friends from The Walking Dead showrunner Greg Nicotero to FX guru Tom Savini. Not only do we get to hear anecdotes and commentary about life on the set but we also get to hear their viewpoints on how Romero’s films held a mirror up to society forcing people to take a look at themselves and their behavior.

Without Night of the Living Dead, we wouldn’t have Edgar Wright’s brilliantly funny Shaun of the Dead or Danny Boyle’s terrifying 28 Days Later which re-imagined the zombie concept.

What Are the Rules?

Zombieland gave us a few rules to remember when combating those clever walking undead. Cardio and double tap spring to mind immediately. However, did you wonder how that list evolved? History of Horror clears that up.

Romero created the zombie rules. If you aren’t familiar with them and if you have never watched a horror movie featuring these creatures the principles are very simple.

Shoot them in the head, beat them or burn them. You can trace those methods to almost every current incarnation of this subgenre around today.

Edgar Wright readily admits that his zombie flick, Shaun of the Dead adheres to Romero’s template. He also unabashedly calls his effort a blatant “valentine” to the late director’s work. Everyone that has been assembled for this project is knowledgeable and passionate about the horror genre.

All of the interviewees have a chiller or two on their resume. If you are a connoisseur of terror, you have come to the right place because more than one body of Romero’s work is discussed. From the consumerism running rampant through our culture in Dawn of the Dead to his masterpiece Day of the Dead, no stone is left unturned when examining the filmmaker’s genius.

The New Order Is Created from Video Games

There is an interesting discussion about how zombie movies were dormant during the late 80’s and into the 90’s until video games revived the genre. Greg Nicotero and Edgar Wright both agree that Resident Evil’s resurgence helped to generate interest in the undead again.

28 Days Later, Danny Boyle’s reimagining of the zombie movie features lightning fast creatures. There are many parallels to life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks in this film as well.

Tony Timpone, formerly of Fangoria points out that the creatures in this movie were infected with a virus and at the time everyone was dealing with SARS, Anthrax scares and Mad Cow disease. Also, this movie was pointing out the rage that exists in our society just beneath the surface both psychologically and physically.

Frankenstein, Re-Animator and the New Dead

Did you know that Frankenstein and Re-Animator can be considered zombie films? Well, now you do. Honestly, I never thought of them in that light but as Eli Roth pointed out they both deal with the dead being awakened so they fit the profile.

Since all roads lead back to George Romero, The Walking Dead is a direct descendant. Which is no surprise since one of the director’s proteges, Greg Nicotero is the central force behind the AMC series.

Based on the Robert Kirkman comic books, this show came to the small screen right around the time the mortgage crisis occurred. Many people were in peril of losing their homes and having to downsize which definitely parallels events in TWD.

More from Horror on TV

The communities are forever on the move and having to stay vigilant against threats. Once again, the social parallels can be made with the collapse of order, current upheavals in our government and the sense of having to rebuild after a particularly tempestuous time. Although Romero may be gone, his impact and imprint are left everywhere in the horror genre.

The Verdict

For those of you who think zombies are zombies, think again. This convention is so much more as Eli Roth and his guests have pointed out. If you are a fan of all things creepy and you want to know their origin stories, this series is for you.

Right out of the gate, Roth and AMC have created a little slice of heaven for those of us who love the medium of film and prefer to think rather than have everything spoon fed to us. The examination of Romero’s work and his influence on the industry was both insightful and thoroughly researched.

I learned more in one hour about the subtext in zombie films than I ever did in my year at film school. Finally, a club for fans of the darker side of television and cinema.

Eli Roth: History of Horror on AMC - time to get schooled!. light. Related Story

Join Eli Roth for his genre masterclass every Sunday at midnight on AMC. Prepare to be schooled because History of Horror definitely makes learning fun.

Are you a fan of zombies? Did you catch the first episode of History of Horror yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. We want to hear from you.