ZOMBIES MATTER MORE THAN EVER
In a world close to ruin, brain-dead brain gobblers still have much to teach us
Zombies have always been more than just zombies. On the surface they’re shuffling, flesh-eating corpses, sure, but on the inside they represent something else. George A Romero, the king of the genre, knew this: that’s why Night Of The Living Dead has often been seen as a parable for the cruelty of the Vietnam War, while Day Of The Dead, released towards the end of the Cold War, was literally set inside a missile silo.
Fast-forward to today, and The Walking Dead rules the roost when it comes to zombie horror – which is why, in the era of global warming and Trump’s America, everything in the show is so doom-laden and bleak.
Greg Nicotero, legendary zombie make-up artist and the (delicious) brains behind much of the show, admits that this is no accident. “Any time America has been at war, the film industry flourishes,” he says. “It’s escapism: people want to escape their lives and be taken on this journey, and that journey needs to have thrills and chills. I grew up watching zombie movies without cellphones, without the internet, without Netflix. So for me, going to a movie theatre and sharing that communal experience was very cathartic. You walk out and you’re, like, ‘I’m so thankful I don’t have it as bad as they did in that movie.’”
As plastic fills the oceans, hurricanes ravage coastlines and countless despotic fingers hover over nuclear launch buttons, shows and films about the undead have become ever more potent because a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t actually seem that far-fetched any more.
“In The Walking Dead, we’re playing up the idea that the world is crumbling around them,” Nicotero says. “It’s like a western. In westerns, you always feel that there’s an outside threat. That the world around them is vast and dangerous.”
The good news is, zombies aren’t real. The bad news? People are. And, as Nicotero agrees, people are much, much worse. “That’s the world we live in,” he laughs. “You’re going to make assumptions that these creatures that have nothing to do other than devour you are probably the most horrible thing you can ever encounter. Then you realise that humanity – the people who should be bonding together to survive – is actually worse. That’s the utterly heartbreaking aspect of the genre.”
New episodes of The Walking Dead are on every Monday at 10pm on FOX