Return of the repossessed
The Apocalyptic spirit of that last quote — the notion that the rising of the dead portends a war between good and evil and a Last Judgment — has been oddly missing in most of their recent screen manifestations. One exception is the messianic allegory of The Road (2009), John Hillcoat’s adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel, though technically speaking the cannibal troglodytes that prowl this end-of-the-days vision are still living and not zombies. Perhaps that urgency and relevance might return to the genre with the AMC television series The Walking Dead, based on the Robert Kirkman graphic-novel series, or in the film adaptation of Max Brooks’s (Mel’s son) novel World War Z, expected in 2012.
Also, interest persists in that vampire-movie anomaly, the blue-collar or redneck variation, as seen in Romero’s Martin (1977 and, according to Romero, in the process of being remade) and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987), which, perhaps unsurprisingly, are among the best films in the genre. One such recent example of this type is Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s widely acclaimed Let the Right One In (2008), about the friendship between a 12-year-old boy in a dreary suburb who befriends a girl who seems the same age. Not only is the revenant heroine not a rich aristocrat, but she comes from that truly powerless and oppressed — bullied pre-teens. Let Me In, the Hollywood remake of Alfredson’s film by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves and starring Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee, comes out October 1.
Surely there is no shortage of other groups that the undead could rise and represent and vindicate: victims of war, famine, terrorism, economic disaster. Back in 1919, Abel Gance’s epic J'Accuse! ended with a vision uncannily reminiscent of George Romero’s worst nightmares: thousands of the World War I fallen rising from their graves to demand that the living account for their sacrifice. This earliest of the zombie movies sets the standard for the rest to follow: the undead return to demand justice — for the living and the dead.
Peter Keough can be reached at email@example.com.
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