Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Dead

This editorial is dedicated to Bill Hinzman (1936-2012). He was the first of all the undead to walk in modern horror. He will always remain so.


Zombies never die.

The first amongst evil crimes against humanity is the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade1. This practice of commercial genocide was fair trade for 500 years. It built the economies of the West/whites. It has dehumanized them to the point that they justify evil9.

Adolf Hitler reassured the Nazis prior to the Final Solution by saying; “Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians2?”3 He could have easily said “Who, after all, cares about the annihilation of the Africans?”

The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade kidnapped free men, women and children in West and Central Africa and transported them to the Americas. The Africans were of various ethnic groups/tribes4. They took their various religions with them.

4 I must declare an interest: I am second generation British of Nigerian descent. Ie I am 100% Yoruba5.
the first zombie was white (1932)
Africa created zombies but Hollywood invented them. The Golden Age of Horror (1931-1948)6 is also the gothic age of horror. White Zombie 1932 and I Walked with a Zombie 1943 present the undead as exotica and erotica. They are precursor to the Stepford Wife.

George A Romero changed all that when he stole the zombie from Hollywood. He sexed it up and gifted it to the masses. Night of the Living Dead 1968 is the beginning of modern horror.

Fear bypasses language thus Romero’s zombies translate into every tongue. Be it Italian (Zombie Flesh Eaters 1978) or even English (28 Days Later 2002). Director Danny Boyle7 is credited with the ‘super’ zombie – a reinvention of Romero’s prototype.

These zombies can run.
28 Weeks Later directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadilio

7 The credit to Boyle is misplaced. Romero himself directed The Crazies 1973. If there is an argument that The Crazies weren’t zombies then the same applies to 28 Days Later.

There can be no argument vis-à-vis Return of the Living Dead 1985. Those zombies not only run but they talk too. Writer John A Russo also co wrote (with Romero) Night of the Living Dead. The back story can be seen in the documentary More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead 2011.

The super-zombie is bigger, stronger, faster but not intrinsically better. This is especially not so in the horror genre and particularly not so in the universe opened up by Romero’s allegory. The super-zombie dominated the subgenre when it was new and different10. Once the novelty wore off its strength was exposed as its weakness.

10  2002-2009: from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later to [REC]2.

The ‘super’ attributes attracted action directors into the genre which is akin to inviting strippers to a porno set. Dawn of the Dead 1978 is the subgenre’s best film. In 2004 Zack Snyder remade it as a run & gun. The Day of the Dead 2008 remake suffered similar ignominy. By La Horde 2010 the public was savvy to the super-zombie as gimmick8.
run zombie run
The super-zombie maintained traction because there were gifted filmmakers who adopted the monster. Spaniards Juan Carlos Fresnadilio (28 Weeks Later 2007), Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza ([REC] 2007 and [REC]2). During this time the Romero zombie walked a rearguard action.

Shaun of the Dead 2004 was a worldwide hit. George A Romero’s Land of the Dead 2005 was for the fans. Dance of the Dead 2008 scored on the indie circuit and Pontypool 2009 was a critical darling. The mainstream was reminded by four Resident Evil sequels. The Romero zombie would not walk away.

The counter attack came in 2010. The Walking Dead is AMC’s most successful show. The Romero zombie is on television. He is mainstream. The movies reflect this: Zombies of Mass Destruction 2010, Rammbock 2011, The Dead 2011.

It is satisfying that today’s typical zombie bears little difference to the one Romero created. Despite the tinkering over the decades and the superficial add-ons the undead remain dead. James Bond no longer slaps women around but the zombie has come full circle. He walks again.

Hollywood first introduced the myth to the world 80 years ago. In the outbreak of the last decade there have been British, French, German and even Cuban zombies. It is apropos that there are now African zombies. It is an undead back-to-basics.
The Dead is a British film shot and set in the birthplace of Vodun (later Voodoo) – West Africa. This part of planet Earth starts at the Atlantic coast where beach merges into rain forest. Dense foliage gives way to savanna which melds into Sahel – semi-arid plains. After which comes the Sahara.

Filmmakers the Ford Brothers capture topography as vista as soon as the plane crashes in the opening scenes. This is a road movie from coast to desert. It is a sojourn and odyssey. It is horror. It is unforgiving. It is entertainment. It is art. It is cinema.

The Dead has its faults but they wont be nick picked here. For those who love The Dead Trilogy and Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters then The Dead is a pleasure – almost a privilege. To everyone else; go watch The Hunger Games.

It’s a Battle Royale 2000 rip off – but that won’t stop you.
uncorrupted by neon: beautiful sunrise and beautiful night skies
Magic sometimes occurs in pro wrestling. If the broadcast match reaches a pitch that is so exciting and if the crowd in attendance are that frenzied then the commentators will shut their mouths. This is the point where they acknowledge there is nothing they can say to further enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the fight. They put down their microphones and enjoy the match as fans.

It’s called ‘mark out’.
Mark out.

The Dead is released on DVD/Blu-ray on 14th February.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Survival of the Dead
1 the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade African Holocaust
2 Germany, Turkey and the Armenian Genocide Youtube
5 Yoruba people Wikipedia
6 Horror Films Wikipedia
8 The Dead and the Quick The Guardian
9 UK slave trade Apology ‘needed’ BBC

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