February 26, 2007

When Zombies Attack

So while everyone else was watching the marathon of self-congratulation that is the Oscars, I watched Land of the Dead, the final installment of Romero's zombie-fest. I felt it was an appropriate homage to Hollywood, plus I like zombie movies.

Or I DID, until this one. See, I was hoping against hope that all those quotes from Romero about "social commentary in the form of rotting corpses" wouldn't really pan out. Not because I don't think you can't read social commentary into Night of the Living Dead, because you totally can, and I actually enjoy reading articles about what our love of zombie movies tells us about society's hidden fears, but because if what Romero was spouting about his intentions with this movie were true, then it definitely ran the risk of being a bunch of heavy-handed stupidity.

And lo, about 20 minutes into the film, heavy-handed stupidity arrived, sat down on my sofa, popped open a beer, and proceeded to belch and scratch its way through the rest of the movie.

The premise was okay--bands of humans fortifying themselves against the dead, who, having been around for a while, are actually starting to learn again. Life goes on. Yadda yadda, insert tired, 60's era trope about "who are the real zombies, dude?" here.

But here's the thing--Romero tries too hard to force the viewer to identify with the populist everyman, whose entire motivation is to get the hell as far away from everyone else as possible. Dennis Hopper's character--the overlord in this little morality play--is completely one-dimensional, as though just putting a rich white guy on screen is enough to make the audience take one look at him and scream "THERE'S THE REAL EVIL, MAAAAANNN!"

And the ending? Where populist everyman DOESN'T destroy the zombies because "They're just looking for somewhere to go?" Um. What. The. Hell.

Note to everyone: Zombies will EAT you. They aren't sympathetic. Ever. They are the BAD GUYS. Populist everyman just watched a herd of them chow down on the "friends" that he had just finished passionately rousing everyone to save, and now he won't finish them off to prevent them from doing it again? So the living dead cheerleader figured out how to pull the trigger on an AK. Isn't that MORE of a reason to blow her head off? What, it's not enough that we're expected to understand the repressed rage of the undead at being considered second-class citizens, we have to leave them to create a zombie utopia in the ruins of a luxury high-rise?

What kind of dumb, half-assed moral relativism is this, anyway?

Plus the internal logic doesn't work--populist everyman seems to think that the zombies just want a home, dude. But that's wrong, because zombies have to eat, they only eat people, and if the people have fled, the zombies will have to follow them. I know, logic in a zombie movie. But I can only suspend disbelief so far--zombies existing and munching on human entrails? Fine. Humans suddenly deciding that the zombies are just, like, misunderstood ciphers for the underclass? Dear God, no.

Bottom line: If I have to choose between the soulless capitalist Dennis Hopper and an undead revolutionary, I'm going with Hopper EVERY TIME.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at February 26, 2007 12:07 PM | TrackBack

This is a "must read" for all true zombie-ites: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. Chock full of useful info and laugh-out-loud funny.

I hated Land of the Dead also, but watched it a second time with my zombie-loving teenagers so we could point out all the zombie lore errors.

Posted by: Vicki at February 27, 2007 09:00 AM

I don't get Zombies either. Shakespeare and Zombies.

Derrida had some nice remarks on ghosts and their dramatic functions, as did Stanley Cavell. I wish I could remember them.

Derrida's remarks seem to resummarize themselves in the first couple pages of _Specters of Marx_. Hamlet is mentioned.

(Derrida always starts off with a very dense summary of what will follow ; close attention advised.)

Posted by: Ron Hardin at February 27, 2007 11:58 AM
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