George Romero has made a career out of creating zombie films. On the 30th anniversary of his first film The Night of the Living Dead (1978) he returns with George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (2008). The plot has the young filmmakers with hand-held video cameras filming their adventure as the dead “return” to roam the countryside. True to the storyline first created by Romero, friends and family members “bitten” by zombies have to be killed to prevent them from becoming zombies. The dramatic tension is thus created as survivors struggle with the horror of the realization that they have to kill the zombie that looks like their mother or their best friend, or have to kill their mother or their best friend who has just been bitten by a zombie to prevent them from becoming a life threatening incredibly ugly monster.
A sense of humor is essential in viewing zombie films. Few people suspect that such films are a profound comment on the nature of reality—but they are—such is the nature of art. In Romero’s latest version of comic-horror, the film that the young filmmakers are shooting is entitled The Death of Death meaning, I suppose, that zombies are doomed to roam the earth forever feeding on the living who then become zombies ad infinitum. Stories have been written about people unwisely making a bargain with the devil to avoid death. The point of such stories is that death is natural and not being able to die turns out to be a different kind of nightmare.
What I also see in these films is a metaphor for the human condition. In P-B humanity exists in an unconscious state not unlike the staggering and lurching zombies in Romero’s films. Behaving in a self-destructive way, people are driven by desires and cravings that create a horrific horror story where they are indirectly preying on each other. Whereas zombies only destroy living human beings, people today are destroying each other and the planet. Until we awaken from our somnambulistic state we will all live paralyzed by the fear that something horrible awaits us unseen and lurking in the darkness of the next moment. And we will be right.
Bibliography, notes and references are in the published books by Roy Charles Henry.