I wrote a couple of posts about The Walking Dead a few weeks back and wanted to return to the theme a bit. Those that know me, know that I typically dive DEEP into subjects that I get interested in. The whole zombie thing is no exception. I have read the first 16 graphic novels and watched all 2.5 seasons of the AMC hit show. But then, I realized with dismay that the great cult classic Night of the Living Dead by George Romero had completely passed me by (as well as the sequels), so I corrected that wrong last night. What an amazing horror film! No wonder it is considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time. That lead me to want to write about comparing these two different interpretations of the zombie craze.
The hero of the film version, Ben, is similar to Rick in that he is a natural leader and that he is a clever survivor. And, much to his credit, this was a RARE occasion – even as late as 1968 – for a black man to get a leading role. He doesn’t lose it until the end when the bald loser Harry locks him outside and then trains a shotgun on him. (Rick loses it quite a few times, but does need quite a bit of provoking like Ben – I like to call Ben killing Harry, Ben’s Rick Moment). The hapless Barbra character (she reminds me a little of Carol on the TV show) was a little annoying, but I was interested to learn – thanks again to Wikipedia! – that her recounting to Ben of how she lost her Johnny to the ghouls was all improved and done with a single take. I don’t know how much liberty is allowed for actors on the Walking Dead but probably a little less than on the 1968 set. I thought that the dialog in the basement between Harry and Helen was excellent – it was original to see the honesty of this couple falling apart, dealing with the sick child, and, of course, the zombie apocalypse. Helen reminded me a bit of Andrea in her practicality. Then there was Tom who was a sort of comic relief/red shirt in the film (these characters are LEGION on WD). I love the texture of the black and white film (just like I love the same colors in the Kirkman comic book) and found it truly carried me along for a fun, exhilarating ride. I had to ask myself whether the child actor playing Karen didn’t head straight to California and join Manson’s cult after feasting on her dad and shanking her mom with the concrete planer – that and the feasting on Tom and Judy were very well done in terms of realism for the period.
As for the zombies themselves, the film only calls them ghouls, the TV show calls them walkers or biters, but no one dares mention the word “zombie” in either. I don’t quite get the hesitation in using the term. Perhaps, the writers are thinking that it adds realism, because once the zombie word is mentioned the audience will be like “oh, this is a fake movie about re-animated dead folks” and that otherwise the risk of losing suspension of disbelief would be too high? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That being said, it is interesting that the Romero zombies are able to almost jog (like that first one that hauled ass behind Barbra’s car) whereas the Walking Dead variety just amble. When the farmhouse gets overwhelmed and the situation forces Ben into the cellar, it reminded me of the comic book when Douglas’ town gets wasted. Only thing is that in Walking Dead, there is no posse of rednecks coming to save them, so Rick has to lead. In the movie, Ben, of course, is alone having killed three and seen the rest die to the zombies, so he was pretty much hosed anyway. It is also interesting that in the Romero movie, the cause of the transformations is radiation from a returning sattelite (so some external cause) whereas in the TV show, it is a virus (escaped from the CDC? this is left unclear) that wipes out everyone.
Thinking a minute about the comic book version, it really doesn’t talk concretely about the cause of the catastrophe and just deals with the survival of the characters without asking too many questions. I wonder if the later volumes will give a little more insight. I think that the art in Walking Dead is very good and I enjoy the zombies and zombie massacres as much as or more than the same in either the film or TV show to be honest. I especially appreciate the two-page spreads as well as the long vertical panels that feature our favorite characters: Abraham, Rick, Michonne, and Glenn all bloodied up and kicking ass. But – as opposed to the film – there doesn’t seem to be an end to Rick’s groups tribulations. I think Ben got the easy way out here.
So, which of the three do I prefer? I think the Romero film has to come first (side note: I started watching Dawn of the Dead, the sequel to this one, and found it far less seductive – the colors are too saturated, the acting haphazard, the makeup too fake…), followed by the comic books, and then the TV show. Perhaps that is being unfair, but I am actually more impatient to get vol. 17 and then later next year (after WD S03 is actually over), vol. 18. than I am for WD to start up again in February. How about you? What is your favorite zombie flick? Or comic? Or perhaps you prefer the AMC show? Let me know in the comments.