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Night of the Living Dead Series - Film Review

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by Daniel (subscribe)
That's How the Cow ate the Cabbage
Eat the Brains, Gain the Knowledge
"Kill the head and the body will die."

Apart from being the quote of the century, from the 1971 B film The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant with Anthony Lanza, this quote is also the catchphrase of any zombie film after George A Romero's Night of the Living Dead, known in the right circles as AN. 1968 marked the point in zombie history where they became liberated from their wizard overlords and spellbinding Haitian masters and became emancipated - cinematically that is.

Prior to Night of the Living Dead, zombies were merely dead people reanimated by madmen to work nights in the sugar fields in Haiti, or they were living people who had been placed under the spell of mad men to toil in the fields and generally perform the bidding of their warped masters. Two examples of this are Victor Halperin's 1932 White Zombie and Jacques Tourneur's 1943 movie I Walked With a Zombie.

Now the zombies have been set free to roam and wander the planet in search of human flesh. Romero's zombies are also infectious cannibals; you can become a zombie merely by being bitten by one. The only way to kill a Romero zombie is by destroying the brain, which is usually done with a head shot. These new upgrades to the zombie oeuvre were a stroke of genius and squeezed in some much needed drama to the sub-genre.

Unfortunately, many would agree (but I'm not sure I do) that George Romero has taken the zombie film about as far as it can go. He has made three more during the past seven years, the last zombie film in the Night of the Living Dead series being made in 2009 (Survival of the Dead). Diary of the Dead (2007) was good and I definitely appreciated Land of the Dead (2005). As far as I know these are the final three in the trilogy, but a final zombie film would be appreciated. A final chapter in the zombie book of knowledge.

I would like to see the zombies gain full autonomy, like the apes in Planet of the Apes. It would be great to see them as the new life form that takes over the planet and have them evolve into a rational and lucid being, which is, I felt, kind of where Land of the Dead was heading.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) would have to be the stand out film of the trilogy and possibly the quintessential zombie film in cinema history. The zombies are a metaphor for the modern consumer; all the zombies flock to a place of familiarity where they might find some human flesh to eat. The survivors go there as well, maybe for similar reasons, but also it seems like an excellent compound to lay low. There is also the element of a "kid being locked in a candy store" type scenario. The "adults" are able to lose sight of any kind of responsibility and run amok in a twisted Garden of Eden where they can consume as much as they like without the consequences of reality. Also what other zombie post-apocalyptic horror film has a giant cream pie fight between the good guys, an outlaw motorcycle gang and wandering zombies? None, that's how many… Dawn of the Dead is the yardstick by which all zombie films are measured.

Day of the Dead (1985) is the weak film in this trilogy and if sitting through all three films is a bit much for you, then this would be the one to miss. Day of the Dead is Romero's personal favourite of the three films so keep that little diamond in your mind, when it comes time to reach into your cow hide money bag and pay for the tickets.

And as a follow up I highly recommend the remakes of these films, they're definitely worth a watch. Maybe The Astor will screen them next year during Halloween. If we're lucky.
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