As Halloween approached, a long-time friend asked me, “So why do you people like to get together dressed up as zombies?” Not surprisingly, this is a question I have asked myself as I shambled with thousands of people over the years at Monroeville Mall (site of the original Dawn of the Dead movie).
First of all, we Pittsburghers like to pay homage to one of our own, George A. Romero. Romero redefined the horror movie in 1968 with the release of Night of the Living Dead, bringing a gritty reality to a genre that had long ceased to really frighten anybody. Films like Frankenstein, which had caused heart attacks in the 1930’s, had become quaint anachronisms. And, viewers needed something at least more grisly that the nightly details of senseless mayhem occurring in Vietnam entering our homes daily on the evening news.
Second, Romero brought social consciousness to horror films. From his courageous depiction of strong minority and women characters to the insistence that only reason can overcome bureaucratic incompetence, mindless consumerism, and greed, Romero’s films exude a concern for the future welfare of human society. By showing the slow evolution of the zombies to greater awareness and unified action, he held up his mirror to our society rife with decay and self-destruction.
And, in the end, it’s just fun. The fake blood, plastic brains, groaning and shambling are just a riotous good time, especially when you watch the faces of unsuspecting onlookers. In a world that appears too often to be going mad, dressing up like a zombie seems to me one of saner activities. So, this Halloween, get out the makeup, tear some clothes, and drag that leg with the rest of us zombies!