Gospel of The Living Dead
George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth
Dr. Kim Pattenroth
Baylor University Press
$19.95Gospel of The Living Dead is a unique, insightful examination of George Romero’s Living Dead films from the theological perspective of the author, an associate professor of religious studies at Iona College. You’re not likely to find a more fascinating perspective.
After a lengthy introduction that explores the themes of zombie movies in general, the book starts at the beginning with Romero’s 1968 Night of The Living Dead and carries on to the end with the 2005 Land of The Living Dead. Pattenroth offers readers some background information on each film, followed by a synopsis, analysis, and conclusion. It is, of course, the analysis and conclusions which give Gospel of The Living Dead its flavor and make it worthwhile reading.
For example, in his analysis for Romero’s 1978 Dawn of The Dead, Pattenroth writes: “Throughout this analysis, one thing is clear in this film: zombies are not just some deadly threat like sharks or Ebola, they are US, and we are THEM. This equation of zombies and humans is a theological vision of universal sinfulness, both among the living and the undead, and it gives Dawn of The Dead its deep and disturbing horror, and also its relevance and humanity.”
Zombie movies have always been out of the mainstream, even out of the mainstream of many horror fans. It’s this black sheep of the family role that Pattenroth seems drawn to, particularly as it reflects not only the idea of zombies but what they represent … an ugly, depraved reflection of ourselves.
Pattenroth has little optimism for government, society, culture, even religion, but he is optimistic about the future of zombie movies. “Zombie movies are not a fad and they are not sheer escapism,” he writes. In fact, they’ve kept their edge and relevance for nearly forty years, adapting their social critique to the continuing changes in our society.
Gospel of The Living Dead wraps up (before an extensive section of notes) with this: “Zombies will always be the nightmare that we love to hate, and the painful wake-up call from our sinful reveries, one that we dread as much as we need.”
As mentioned … a fascinating perspective. Well worth your time.