If you made it through high school English you’ve probably
had the significance of the trilogy explained to you more than once.
Three self contained works that nonetheless represent a beginning,
middle, and end. Examples abound: from The Godfather films
to Lord Of The Rings, to the Oedipus plays of Sophocles.
The trilogy is standard for dramatic symmetry. Well I say fuck The
Trilogy! George A Romero is back with a new installment
to his legendary Dead series and I for one couldn’t
be happier! All hail the Zombie Quartet!
Of course the series started way back in 1968 with Romero’s
landmark horror film Night Of The Living Dead, which led
to the superior Dawn Of The Dead and supposedly culminated
with the forgettable Day Of The Dead. The success of these
films basically invented the modern zombie film as we know it. And
while some may sneer very few film artists can be said to have actually
created and left so firm an imprint on an entire genre of work,
thanks to 28 Days Later and Shaun Of The Dead
(both of which owe heavily to Romero) the zombie film is back, and
hotter than a downloadable Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie
sex tape. (Okay, that’s a wild exaggeration.)
Anyways the film is set sometime after the zombies have conquered
the earth. There remains at least one outpost of humanity centered
around a luxury apartment complex known as the Green. Like a medieval
castle the Haves enjoy the good life within, while the Have-nots
make out one way or another down below. One of the reoccurring themes
in Romero’s films is that the zombie crisis leaves the survivors’
own humanity degraded. And like any good counter-culture type Romero
wants us to have a healthy mistrust of the The Man, especially when
The Man is Dennis Hopper.
Modern audiences may find Romero’s film anachronistic in
some ways. Not one to jump on trends Romero eschews the running
kamikaze zombies for the familiar sleepwalking cannibalized corpses,
and it’s true the film doesn’t have quite the punch
of Danny Boyle’s jarringly realistic 28
Days Later. Romero is from the old school. He’s clearly
learned from masters like Howard Hawks how to develop
characters and to keep the action intelligible (though way gorier).
In fact entire film, from the relationship dynamic between the put-upon
hero Riley (Baker), his sidekick Charlie (Joy),
and the heroine Slack (Argento, daughter of famed
Italian horror director Dario) to the shootouts
can be seen as an homage to Howard Hawks’ westerns.
The film also adds a twist by giving the zombies slightly more
intelligence than usual (this is somewhat prefigured in Romero’s
earlier films. In fact we’re even given a sort of zombie Spartacus
to root for. And as one might expect, Romero finds some grim satire
in the zombies’ clash with a barbarous humanity stripped of
its thin veil of civilization.