It’s remarkable how the living dead have defined the post-millennium zeitgeist more than any other pop culture entity.

From Max Brooks’ bestselling novel World War Z (an upcoming film adaptation will star Brad Pitt) to a glut of first person shooter videogames to mainstream television with AMC’s The Walking Dead (now in its second season), the zombie has mysteriously reached the peak of his popularity.

But it’s been a long, slow progression to get where we’ve gotten to, a road littered with taboo and terror and most of it can be traced back to the brain of one man, the master of zombie lore, George A. Romero.

It was Romero who, in 1968, took the basic thrust of Richard Matheson’s shattering vampire apocalypse novel I am Legend and brought the dead back to life with his game changing black and white masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. That film would spawn a series of rip-offs, sequels (Romero directed Dawn of the Dead in 1978 and followed that with four more 'Dead' pictures and Dawn was remade in 2004) and eventually spoofs, like Edgar Wright’s smash hit comedy, Shaun of the Dead.

 

Look anywhere, look everywhere – especially now, as Halloween creeps up – and you’ll see evidence of the zombie phenomen, surrounding us, trapping us, ready to eat us alive. And that’s what so spooky about the concept of the zombie. They’re us, back from our final rest and hungry to devour the people we once loved. Zombies are ugly, grotesque shadows of their former selves. They smell bad as all their parts have long soured. And they’re lethally dumb, driven only by an instinct to kill.

Yeah, zombies are not nice and if by some sort of biologically bad stroke of viral luck, Romero’s fantastical prophecies were to come true, if mankind were to suddenly be under siege from a revolution of the dead…what would we do?

Or more importantly, what SHOULDN’T we do?

Metro thought long and hard about this and – using the iconic films of George A. Romero as a guide and with commentary from the man himself and his frequent collaborator, iconic FX wizard, director and actor Tom Savini– offer you a selection of “do-nots” in the face of a potential zombie-geddon:

DO NOT Go In The House

As Night of the Living Dead proved, it’s best to either run from the dead or fight them head on.

Locking yourself in an airy, slipshod, abandoned farmhouse – like the hapless characters in 'Night' regretfully do - ain't the best way to block out the problem of a mounting zombie army assault. Because, no matter how many 2x4s you stick on the windows, those pesky ghouls will most certainly get in.

Romero: I think 'Night' is still scary. The concept of the collapse of family and people unable to agree in the face of disaster holds up. You can run but you can’t hide…

Savini: I directed the 1990 'Night' remake and I think I proved only idiots board themselves up. I would run for my life to my house and load myself up with all of my guns I can carry and the rest in a shopping cart and go out and blast the living hell out of every zombie I could find.

See also: 28 Weeks Later (2008), where in the first 10 minutes, the red-eyed ghouls tear a country manor to shreds to get to their shivering, hiding human victims.

DO NOT Take The Elevator…


In Romero’s incredibly influential 1978 epic Dawn of the Dead, a handful of survivors land their helicopter on the roof of Pittsburgh’s Monroeville Mall and block out the corpses, creating a Shangri-la of material bliss. But when the ghouls gain entrance as they always do, chopper pilot Fly Boy (David Emge) stupidly takes the lift and, when those doors open up, a horde of flesheaters burst in and ride with him. The following scenes are gory and should serve as a warning to potential zombie survivalists to always take the stairs…

Romero: 'Dawn' is a romp and I think it’s the most entertaining of all the 'Dead' films; I really cut loose and did it as “Comic Book” as I wanted to do it. But when Fly Boy gets it there’s tragedy in there too…

Savini: The other thing 'Dawn' teaches you is that your friends should NOT know where the hell you're hiding just in case they become zombies....with good memories.

See also: Resident Evil (2004), in which military types take an elevator to hell and encounter subterranean zombies of both human and canine persuasions…

DO NOT Tease The Dead…

Just because they’re dead and messed up, doesn’t mean zombies are fair game for bullying. In Romero’s third 'Dead' film, 1985’s 'Day of the Dead', we are introduced to the ex-military ghoul Bub (Howard Sherman) who, with a little help from a mad scientist, re-learns to speak, operate machinery and even maintain an emotional connection to his human meal tickets. But when loutish soldiers torment him and murder his “father,” Bub grabs a gun and ekes out some old school revenge from beyond the grave.

Romero: I loved what we did with Bub and Howard was great. This is still my favourite of the 'Dead' films. Everyone is so far over the top, like they were transported in from another dimension. It’s great fun; the real hardcore ‘trolls’ love it.

See Also: Dead Girl (2009) in which hormonal teens keep a girl ghoul prisoner for their own carnal interests and learn quickly that hell hath no fury like a zombie scorned…



DO NOT Marginalize or exploit the Dead…

Romero’s post 'Dawn' remake comeback, 2005’s Land of the Dead, saw the late Dennis Hopper as a capitalist swine who allows his fellow republicans to hide in his multi-million dollar condo while the dead population are hunted and slaughtered beyond his electrified fences. When a burly undead gas station attendant named Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) tires of seeing his “people” treated as target practice, he leads the zombies into an all out class struggle attack against their moneyed oppressors…

Romero: I think ['Land'] was the first time mainstream American critics saw the satire of my work and I owe it all to George Bush! I think it’s all there when Hopper says the line “ we do not negotiate with terrorists..”

Savini: I played a machete wielding zombie in 'Land' and George’s direction was simple: slam the s*** out of the guy who comes up to me. So I did.

See Also: The Omega Man (1971), the second adaptation of I am Legend, which see a zombie-like cult of blinded ghouls trying to kill any reminder of corporate America, including sole survivor Charlton Heston.

DO NOT Upload your homemade Zombie footage onto YouTube…

2007’s Diary of the Dead saw Romero doing the faux-documentary approach with a bunch of contemporary, tech-savvy kids shooting the zombie outbreak with their camcorders and sticking the resulting mess onto the internet. Of course in their mad quest to “shoot the dead” they forget that cannibal corpses don’t give a damn about their 15 minutes of fame and most of them get gobbled up, regardless of their cinematic pretensions.

Romero: 'Diary' is about that eye in the sky that’s watching us all and us pretending the problem doesn’t exist. Never a good thing…

See Also: The Zombie Diaries (2007) a similar first person British film where a film crew tries to film the unfilmable and end up players in their own drama…

DO NOT Attempt to out-swim The Dead…

Zombies aren’t bears, they aren’t afraid of the water as a few unfortunate characters in Romero’s 2010 horror-western 'Survival of the Dead' discover. When rogue SWAT cops go for a dip to escape the ghouls, they soon discover the dead – who remember, don’t breathe – are excellent swimmers and have no problem eating whilst underwater.

Romero: I had underwater zombie stuff in 'Land' and 'Diary' but really played with it here. There is a lot of humour in 'Survival' but it’s also really melancholic, less free and easy. Though at this stage of my life, I’m thinking of calling the next one – if there is a next one -Enough of the Dead!

Savini: Forget swimming. I go where there are places to run, and things to hide behind, maybe up high where I can blast away at them and they can't get to me......

See Also: Zombie (1979) the Italian 'Dawn' rip-off that sees an underwater Zom attack a shocked skinny dipper before doing titanic battle with a great white shark!

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