Today, one of the masters of horror left us alone. Indeed, horde of zombies and living dead are orphan tonight. George A. Romero left us today at the age of 77.
What can I tell about Romero? He is the father of the zombies as we know it. All the zombies (not the infected ones like 28 days later) have in my opinion to follow the Romero’s canon: originated from an infectious agent, resulting in their transformation into creature solely driven by their reptilian brain and nourishing from flesh-eating.
But beyond the living dead image, Romero was indeed a very talented filmmaker, because the zombies, the living dead, were indeed us, a mirror image reflecting on our society.
Romero’s genius resided in his ability to shock and awe the viewer, but only to ask them to think about the symbolism and the meaning. Through the tetrad of the “Living Dead” (Night/Dawn/Day and Land), Romero was behind his movies stinging us in the heart of the society.
“Night” was indirectly bringing on the table the case of Vietnam war veterans and the racism that was still alive and kicking 100 years after the Civil War and just a couple of years after the Civil Rights Movement. Romero shook the American audience by having Duane Jones, an African-American, as one main character. This was a very bold and progressive move from Romero, but also a very provocative one. Jones was the hero, he was the one that set a barricade, where the “white savior complex” got slashed through the entire movie. The white man is coward, hide from the danger and will kill any non-white on sight. Duane Jones performance was fantastic and at the end of the movie *SPOILER ALERT* survived the whole living dead siege only to be shot from distance by a sheriff *SPOILER ALERT*.
“Dawn” was set about 10 years later than “Night” and at another period, another criticism of our society. That time, a virulent prosecution of the consumer society. It starts with the siege within a TV station in which the channel director fulminates on how the usual programming grid is interrupted in a middle of a major chaos. When we end with “Night”, we have this false sense that the situation is under control, that it was just some isolated incident. “Dawn” shows the gravity of the situation. Big cities are in total chaos, SWAT teams with National Guards and some enthusiastic drunken gun-totting civilians try to keep the situation in order. We see the society crumbling before our eyes, with law and order of the civil society sinking into abyss. The only refuge of all this chaos is…..a shopping mall. A f***ing shopping mall with living dead wandering around, as a reflection of their past lives. Again, another African-American takes the lead impersonated by Ken Foree. Where all people of the survival group lost themselves into their delusion, Ken stood still and focused and again one of the only one to survive, with an open-ending that keeps us with a question unanswered: with an helicopter running out of fuel and the two last survivors flying over in the horizon, did they make it safe or did they just die?
The contribution of Dario Argento resulted in two major directors cut, with my favorite is of course the Argento cut.
“Day” is again set 10 years later and again Romero’s use to fingerpointing at his best. The US is now invaded by living dead, only small pockets of resistance are maintaining their survival. This group ironically found refuge in a former ICBM silo. This one goes heavily on the US military, with the absurdity of the military in pursuing insane research, just look at Bubba experiment, such absurdity culminates at the end of the movie and only those that kept their ethics straight.
“Land” was certainly one that was the most misunderstood. It got half-bombed in the box office but was indeed one of the most visionary version 20 years early. A divided US, between those surviving in junk towns and the only happy few (a clear illustration of what we call “The 1%”) living literary in their ivory tower in a delusional world, dreaming of their “Make America Great Again” promised by the ruling class on the pleb, with pleb dreaming that one day they will also belong to that 1%.
George A Romero also had other movies that encountered much a mitigated success but George also acquired the highly distinguished title of “Master of Horror” with his collaboration on “Creepshow” with Stephen King.
Tonight, one Master of Horror gave us his latest salute. May your soul rest in peace and let your filmography haunt us with your spirit 😦