Directed by George A. Romero
Update: Saw this moving again for the umpteenth time. It keeps getting better with each viewing.
George is a post-SHTF Ken Burns. He has thoroughly documented the course of events that led to the end of the old world and on into the establishment of a new one. While he has made many masterful movies, this one, by far, is the best. It documents the period when the public at large became aware of the problem through to the first inklings of what to do about it.
Romero's genius is such that I can easily overlook the liberties he has taken. For example, the use of tools by zombies to get at the living, their fear of fire and the eating of flesh other than human. While there is still debate on these topics in the academic study of the undead, they play just a minor role in the movie. The true worth of this piece lies in the characters, for they run the gamut of the typical personalities prevalent during the catastrophe.
They're coming to get you, Barbara!
Barbara is a woman who's mental map is completely out of sync with the real world. She will die unless she either snaps out of it or has someone to take care of her.
Therein lies the moral conundrum: Taking care of her will surely reduce your chances of survival. Not doing so makes you a passive accomplice to her death.
Don't you know what's goin' on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!
Unlike Barbara, Ben quickly came to terms with what is happening and is willing to do what it takes, rationally, to survive. He's the kind of guy you want to team up with in a crisis. Alas, he clearly demonstrates that no matter how well you have your shit together, survival is never 100% certain. One little slip or piece of bad luck is enough to kill you.
The Ass Hole
We'll see, when they come begging me to let them in down here.
I understand that his motivation is to save his family, but he is too narrowly focused on the immediate issue and is unwilling to consider options offered by others. Sometimes long term survival requires you to take the riskier option now. Likewise, you have to constantly re-evaluate your options and adjust your plans as new information comes to light.
I feel for Harry Cooper. I certainly would have behaved differently if I had been with my family during the crisis. I dare say that I may not have survived for some of the same reasons that doomed him.
We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn't going to solve anything.
My sympathies lie with this character. She has her head in the right place, is willing to help and soothes those – like Barbara – who are having problems coming to terms with reality. I want her on my team. The very thing, probably, that gives her this strength, though, is what leads to her downfall: her child. You cannot ask her to take the rational action. That would be too much.
Well... the television said that's the right thing to do.
Tom wants to do the right thing, he just can't figure out what that is for himself. He NEEDS a leader. I wouldn't want to team up with him if it was just the two of us because I cannot afford the time and effort it would take to tell him everything. However, in a large enough group, he would be quite useful. He's a hard worker with a strong back, he just ain't that smart.
You gonna let them get her too, huh?
This character comes in many variants, but Judy is the benign type. In general, she isn't a negative presence on the team. She assists where she can and it helps that she already has a mate. I've seen teams ripped apart by the competition to bed an available woman.
Like Helen Cooper, Judy suffers a brutal death because she let her emotions cloud her judgement. Unlike Helen, however, it truly was an irrational act. She was too young to know better.
This is a true nightmare: An infected child. You know what needs to be done, but who is cold enough to shoot a kid in the head? You certainly cannot ask the parents, though I have witnessed cases where one has done so and then turned the gun on themselves. I have euthanized kids in this condition and it haunts me still. Even today, I avoid babies and little children.
The berieved will have to forego the dubious comforts a funeral service will give. They're just dead flesh and dangerous.
It is possible to survive on your own for short periods of time. However, you will eventually need a team, if only to allow you to get some real rest. Assembling a team, though, is not like picking sides in kickball. They coalesce somewhat randomly and it's not always possible, or ethical, to pick and choose who to include or not. Romero cleverly demonstrates this in a small, Pennsylvanian farm house.
If you haven't seen this movie, do so now!