It is just over a week ago since the horror icon that was George. A Romero passed away. Romero will always be remembered for his groundbreaking 1968 film Night of The Living Dead but to me, his often underrated 1985 effort Day of The Dead will always take a special place in my heart. Alongside such classics as Tope Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and creature features such as THEM!, Day of The Dead was crucial to growing my appreciation of the genre during my late teens right through to today.
Horror Films As a Safe Place
Alongside this passion, I have always been interested in the psychology of horror films and why some love them and others, not so much. An interesting argument is that horror films provide audiences with a safe place, when the world around them is often, in itself, a scarier and more unknown reality. With all that is going on in the world, I am sure that this is something many will agree on. It is not a coincidence that American audiences in the 1930’s flocked to see Universal’s Dracula and Frankenstein films during the Depression and in doing so, launched the genre as a lucrative and dependable avenue for major studios for decades to come.
Yet, it is understandable, that people may wonder why I would find comfort in a film about people trapped in a bunker underneath hordes of the flesh-eating undead. As Day of the Dead illustrates, however, it is in the bleakest situations that individual humanity often shines the brightest. Through his approach, Romero manages to subtly place these qualities in our protagonists. This includes John, the Jamaican pilot among our human survivors who muses on why they can’t get along with the film’s military antagonists; incidentally, it also perfectly summarises why we as a species can’t help destroying one another and the planet we all call home;
“That’s the trouble with the world, Sarah darlin’. People got different ideas concernin’
what they want out of life”
Without a doubt, my favourite character is the zombie Bub, who is arguably the most human of all the film’s characters. How can you not love a zombie who appreciates Beethoven?
Below is my absolute favourite quote from Day of The Dead however, perhaps as relevant today as it was in 1985.
“You want to put some kind of explanation down here before you leave? Here’s one as good as any you’re likely to find. We’re bein’ punished by the Creator. He visited a curse on us. So that man could look at… what Hell was like. Maybe He didn’t want to see us blow ourselves up, put a big hole in the sky. Maybe He just wanted to show us He’s still the Boss Man. Maybe He figure, we was gettin’ too big for our britches, tryin’ to figure His shit out”