Printer Friendly

Normality is threatened by the monster: Robin Wood, Romero and Zombies.

The democratic scope of Robin Wood's film criticism is something to be celebrated in itself; that his interests were always varied and wide ranging is the key strength of his writing. Who, but Robin Wood, would have seen Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) as American family comedies? His critical career started with a call for taking Hitchcock seriously, and it is this quality, of taking movies seriously (cutting across apparent binaries of 'art' and 'exploitation'), that I admire the most, not least when it comes to horror. My tribute to Robin Wood will focus on his influence on horror criticism, and more specifically, on his appraisal of George A. Romero as 'a great and audacious filmmaker' through detailed consideration of his zombie movies. (1)

Robin Wood's approach to horror is characteristic of his criticism more generally, in its capacity to directly address and unravel concerns central to the experience of film. In an attempt to echo his characteristically straightforward manner I will start with a list of the key elements of his extraordinary influence on horror criticism.

1. 'Normality is threatened by the monster'. (2) Wood's basic formula for all horror films presents a paradigm which cuts directly to the key dynamics of the genre, despite its many forms across the varied eras of American filmmaking. His forthright statement crucially understands horror's close relationship to other genres--as indicated by his suggestion of the substitution of 'monster' for Indians/aliens etc--yet doesn't undermine its complexity.

2. 'Return of the repressed'. Consistent with his earlier observation that genres represent 'different strategies for dealing with the same ideological tensions', Wood's argument that horror dramatises the process of repression and its rupture in ideological terms, is a seminal argument which has since dominated the general landscape of horror writing. (3) Building on the normality/monster paradigm, Wood situates the potential radicalism or conservativism of horror as stemming from this central concept, depending on how the ensuing tensions are dealt with; whether the monster is defeated or 'normality' is not re-established, ambiguity allowed to remain a problem:

One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses or oppresses: its re-emergence dramatized, as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror, and the 'happy ending' (when it exists) typically signifying the restoration of repression. (4)

3. Ambivalence. From these thematic and ideological bases Wood connected address and response by drawing attention to the ambivalence encouraged by horror. Most strikingly, for Wood this is expressed by a sympathetic monster (he suggested that few are totally unsympathetic) and its destruction of 'normality': 'Central to the effect and fascination of horror films is their fulfilment of our nightmare wish to smash the norms that oppress us and to which our moral conditioning teaches us to revere'. (5) Wood's perception that the monster has its source in the very systems of normal society is a conceptually brilliant and highly persuasive hypothesis, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.

4. Horror's importance to American Cinema. In coherence with his observation that '[o]ne of the greatest obstacles to any fruitful theory of genre has been the tendency to treat the genres as discrete', through Wood's analyses horror is treated seriously, as one of the central genres of American cinema. (6) This quality of Wood's writing is also consistent with his enthusiasm for films of all kinds; his writing on horror must be seen as part of his commitment to a range of areas which converge in illuminating ways. While the ascendance of the horror film in the 1970s lends itself to his understanding of 'the horror film as an important phenomenon within our culture, since the genre, and particularly its finest specimens offer [...] the material for a radical and diagnostic reading of the culture itself, Wood's criteria for conservatism/radicalism remains a revealing basis for considerations of modern horror. (7) In the background of these core threads, is the importance of film's form in shaping viewer's experience--for example, the power of Hitchcock's mise-en-scene to make us feel attitudes to characters and situations--to Wood's writing on film. His desire and ability to capture the attitude of a film, or genre in this case, to the viewer and convey the relationship between the two runs underpins his criticism.

One monster that directly responds to horror's potential ambivalence is the zombie, or, more specifically, George A. Romero's re-articulation of the zombie from voodoo slave to flesh-eating undead American, as depicted in Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). As such, it is no surprise that, for Wood, 'Romero's work represents the most progressive potentialities of the horror film, the possibility of breaking the impasse of the monster/normality relationship developed out of Gothic tradition'. (8) The manner of Romero's reconstruction of the undead plays with their various physical possibilities: alive but dead; animated but unconscious; collective yet individual; ungainly yet deadly; oppressive yet simultaneously oppressed. Indeed, the tensions Romero imbues in their representation underline a doubling centred on the apparent opposition, and eventual paralleling, of the living and the undead. From the first time a zombie is seen and initially mistaken for a living person, to the later presentation of them in large groups, where each zombie is different and carries the indicators of its former life (specifically through details of costume), the commonality across their various incarnations is that they remain materially close to that of the living. The decision to make them look like people, not otherworldly monsters, means the zombies maintain a strong connection to their living counterparts, and it is this ordinariness that Romero's films are particularly keen to preserve. As Steven Shaviro suggests, while the first three films are 'violently apocalyptic; at the same time they remain disconcertingly close to the habitual surfaces and mundane realities of everyday life'. (9) Romero's zombies are the ultimate internal threat, and one which raises more ideological and material tensions than it could ever resolve. They threaten normality as defined in the films: the unity of the family; heterosexual norms, including the social norms of masculinity and femininity, as male and female zombies are equally monstrous, living women become active agents in destruction of the undead and couples are driven apart by the crisis; the importance of capitalism, as money and systems of political power no longer carry authority. More importantly, zombies are normality: everyday Americans reconstituted as monsters (a transformation which can happen at anytime to anyone). The difference is that their response to the frameworks of 'normality' operates in excess: they attack and consume family members and return to shopping malls in crowds, insistently fulfilling capitalist consumerism even though it is (or should be) irrelevant to a post-apocalyptic society.


Romero is now well established as one of American horror's great auteurs, and Night of the Living Dead is certainly a member of the horror canon (if we can use this term in the context of such a disreputable genre). Indeed, Wood's early and continued appreciation of Romero as a progressive filmmaker, rather than just a director of low-budget horror movies, has been of major importance to the critical acceptance of his work. This is captured prominently in his appreciation of the relationship between Romero's zombie films: 'although certain motifs recur and are developed [through Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead] [...] Romero never repeats himself'. (10) For Wood, Romero is a filmmaker who remains in dialogue with America and the filmmaking industry (a point which holds particular poignancy in consideration of the importance of different media forms in Diary of the Dead): 'one must see the films historically, in terms of Romero's changing responses to changes in American society and technology'. (11)

The central ambivalence of Romero's zombie films, the ambiguities and tensions he invites us to see in making the implications surrounding the material proximity between us and them so chilling and revealing, is encompassed not only in the zombies' closeness to normality, but also in the rejection of what constitutes normality by the most sympathetic human protagonists: The characters [...] are valued precisely according to their potential to distinguish themselves from the zombies, their ability to demonstrate that the zombies are not "us"'. (12) Considering the need of the survivors' to break free from normality (the frameworks of nuclear family, capitalist culture and military power) it is entirely fitting that none of the films, despite the relative hopefulness of the endings of Down of the Dead and Land of the Dead, conclude by fulfilling potential romantic unions, or by wiping out the zombie threat.

In order to consider the ambivalence in the relationship between normality and the monster--that central and most important component of Wood's horror criticism--created by Romero's zombies, I will focus my analysis on the materiality of the films through close attention to the bodies on-screen. In doing so, my aim is to follow Wood's dedication to the close reading of film, his ambition and commitment to considering 'the force of the images on the screen'. (13) Another significant piece of Wood's writing in this respect is his article 'Acting Up' (one of the few early considerations of film acting, a subject that has only relatively recently become of importance to the discipline), in which he recognises the significance of the body and how we are invited to see it to the understanding and evaluation of performance, in his appraisal of Susan George's performance in Mandingo (Richard Fleischer, 1975): 'The impossibility of Blanche's situation, the absence of any conceivable resolution, her own limitations of awareness, the anguish of her growing desperation, are conveyed as much through the actress as by her'. (14) My concerns are similarly tied to the ways in which Romero's films elaborate evolving articulations of and attitudes towards the bodies of living and undead through their stylistic strategies. There are essential developments in the feel of each film, which correspond to these evolutions in the material relationship between living and undead. Wood draws attention to the way the differences in tone are constituted by the textural changes in format/colour palette in the first three films:
  'For a start, there is the very marked difference of
  tone, established most obviously by the broad differences
  of format: grainy black-and-white for Night of the
  Living Dead, bright lighting, garish colors, lavish
  decor for Dawn of the Dead, subdued lighting, drab colors,
  a totally depleted decor for Day of the Dead'. (15)
  By looking in detail at moments from Night of the Living
  Dead, Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead, I hope to
  draw together Wood's interests in horror and style by
  exploring how these differences of feel and mood indicate
  the development of Romero's attitude to the embodiment of
  the zombies.

The tensions set up in the opposition and paralleling of the living and undead, are actualised most poignantly through the characters we experience as both. Central characters become zombies, each one's subsequent return revealing attitudes to the frameworks of 'normal' society--family, race and class--that invite us to question these structures: Johnny (Russell Streiner) is killed at the start of Night of the Dead, and later arrives at the farmhouse apparently looking for his sister Barbra (Judith O'Dea); Stephen (David Emge) in Dawn of the Dead emerges from a zombie attack transformed, then proceeds to lead the other zombies through the shopping mall to a partition concealing entrance to the humans' living quarters; Cholo (John Leguizamo) in Land of the Dead is bitten, but refuses to be shot, returning to attack villainous tycoon Kaufman (Dennis Hopper). Romero reminds us of their closeness to their previous lives by specifically illuminating physical responses or gestures to focus our recognition of the human, which equally foregrounds their differences. For example, Johnny's gloved hand appears in the foreground of the frame making him recognisable in the crowd of ghouls. Such moments of transformation seem to directly question whether our engagement with these figures, whom we were aligned to or sympathetic with as people, automatically stops when they become zombies, and what responses we are being asked to have to the change. We are certainly invited to remain emotionally concerned with these transformed characters, whether through fear for others, as with Johnny or Stephen, or complicity, as with Cholo's act of revenge against Kaufman.

In life Cholo deals in blackmarket goods, looted from long abandoned shops, for Kaufman, who has financial control over the zombie-besieged society which has become polarised through the latter's plutocratic rule (the rich white class live in a shopping mall/apartment complex which attempts to hermetically seal in 'normal' life, while everyone else occupies slums located outside it). Kaufman makes it clear that while he is happy to buy goods from Cholo he does not consider him a social equal. Cholo's toughness is expressed through dialogue as well as his muscled body and ease with a weapon. The way the character is positioned, physically, socially and narratively, and most immediately by his name, dramatises specifically racialised representations of Latin-Americans in North American culture, belonging to the working, and more specifically service, class as well as to gang culture. That Cholo chooses to be left to turn when he is bitten by a zombie is unsurprising but also resonates with the tension the film implies between integration and social alienation. He responds to his companion's offer to shoot him by saying, "I've always wanted to see how the other half lives". Cholo's transformation, more than any other in Romero's films, dramatises the racialised notion of zombies and thus the films' addressal of their relationship to exploitation and slavery. He finally acknowledges what is already apparent to us: he will never be accepted by society as he is already 'Other'. That he seeks out Kaufman for revenge, in light of the representation of his human self, becomes a highly evocative subversion of this racial articulation of the zombie, the slave attacking the master.



Zombie-Cholo appears only to Kaufman, entering the basement car park where he is attempting to escape from the zombies' attack on the city, and it is significant to Kaufman's previous treatment of Cholo that he doesn't immediately recognise him as undead. Zombie-Cholo is first presented silhouetted in shadow, elements of his physical shape and clothes making his identity clear, while his awkward movements alone indicate his change. Kaufman's response, having been shot at by Cholo, is to shoot him, repeatedly doing so until the zombie, still hidden in shadow, collapses by a pillar. Kaufman, satisfied that he has killed the "Spic bastard", returns to his bags of money. That Kaufman doesn't initially recognise the change, even though we might (knowing that he has been bitten), invites us to consider at first glance how physically similar human and zombie might be. Nonetheless, the weight of Cholo's change is placed within his material differences, manifested predominantly in the stiffened quality of Leguizimo's movement. That his difference is manifested in the body rather than the mind, corresponds to the articulation of his desire to destroy Kaufman being as strong in death as in life, and therefore response to Cholo is not dramatically changed by his transformation. To be more specific, engagement is altered, but only because his being a zombie allows us to take pleasure in Cholo's power to destroy Kaufman (a response qualified by his attempt, when human, to blow up the entire human city because of his dispute with the same), which he does shortly afterwards.

Although, I agree with Wood's observation that, 'Land is the weakest of the first four films (Hopper and the black zombie apart, its characters are not very interesting, and too much of the first half merely repeats the now-familiar slaughter)' I would argue that Cholo's reincarnation as a zombie warrants attention, for the way in which it dramatises tensions of race and class in modern America. (16) The return of that which the middle-class white society of the film has repressed is realised with violent and deadly consequences, which directly invites the celebration of ambivalence that Wood indicated as critical to the progressive horror film.

By moving back to the beginning of the series, we can start to see that a fuller understanding of the kind of ambivalence embedded in Romero's construction of zombies in Land of the Dead evolves from a primarily physical approach to strategies of presentation. At first there is no reason to think the first zombie (Bill Heinzman) in Night of the Living Dead is anything other than human. Seen in the distance, apparently a shuffling old man or tramp, it is not until Barbra walks towards him, wanting to apologise for Johnny's joking around, that the man abruptly attacks her and his essential difference to the living becomes apparent. The struggles that ensue, between Barbra and the zombie, and then Johnny and the zombie, which end in johnny's death and Barbra's escape, are filmed using a handheld camera, which follows the movement of the performers so closely, largely in close-up and medium shot framings, that there is a certain amount of disorientation over who is where and what is going on, making the scene stylistically complex.

The close-up is often a moment of revelation, as it can present full access to the subtlest expressions. Yet many of the close-ups employed here obscure expressivity, because of the camera's closeness details of the action are difficult to pin down as Johnny clings to the zombie, the two locked in an awkward grappling hold. The rapidity of the bodies shifting in and out of the frame, intensified by the editing and camera movement, renders the close-up unable to capture anything much. The confusion of which body we are seeing in the struggle, while contributing to anxiety over what will happen, also disrupts a clear sense of alignment or allegiance to a particular body. Even when they stagger slightly away from the camera, which makes it easier to see that the zombie appears to be overpowering Johnny, the close physical resemblance of Streiner and Heinzman underlines the difficulty of distinguishing them. The chaotic feel of the cinematic treatment of this moment in Night of the Living Dead invokes sustained bodily conflict. The film's tone is grounded in affective response, the 'feel' of a film. Here the only discernable difference between human and zombie is communicated through the slight stiffness of the Heinzman's body (there is no special make-up).

During the struggle there are moments in which the film cuts to shots away from the action, which principally serve to maintain our anxiety. Once Barbra is freed from the zombie by Johnny, she runs out of the way to a headstone, positioning herself against it. Access to Judith O'Dea's face registers concern over the action off-screen, as she grimaces and audibly inhales. By cutting to her the film leads us to experience events through another body. After the zombie kills Johnny, their struggle ending with the zombie knocking Johnny's head against a tombstone, the film again cuts back to a medium shot of O'Dea, still in the same position as she shrinks back against the headstone and cries out lohnny!'. O'Dea's physical tension in this moment--the way she grips the headstone and presses herself against it--qualifies the full extent of what is at stake; the failure of familial and gender dynamics to protect her, and the vulnerability of her body. As we share her position of watching, our bodies are alerted to be similarly anxious.

The stylistic strategies through which we experience the zombie ensure that he is dynamically present and forceful. There is no chance of epistemic access but we intuitively understand the impetus his physicality communicates. Moreover, the lack of dialogue in the scene means that we have no choice but to pay attention to the bodies on-screen in order to comprehend their interaction, and, more disturbingly, to recognise their closeness. Tension is provided by the score and editing, but also through physicality--encapsulated in the kinetic or textural clash and correspondence of the performers' bodies and their presentation.

The visceral nature of zombie embodiment is carried through to Day of the Dead, the first of Romero's films to present a zombie as a character in its own right: Bub (Howard Sherman) is the subject of scientific research. However, in relation to the sequence from Night of the Living Dead, Bub's introduction is presented in a much more stylistically straightforward manner. As scientists Sarah (Lori Cardille), Logan (Richard Liberty) and Ted (John Amplas), watch from the other side of an observation window, Bub--stood in front of a metal table, a filthy wall behind him and an old-fashioned microphone hanging over him--reacts to three objects that Logan has given him: a toothbrush, razor and book. The central dynamic of the sequence is Bub's interaction with the objects, presented in relation to the scientists' reactions. In coherence with this the scene is dramatised in three principal static set-ups repeated substantially throughout: a medium shot of the scientists watching Bub from inside their observation suite; a medium close-up of Howard Sherman as Bub interacts with the objects; a long shot of Sherman from inside the observation suite, which reveals the details of Bub's surroundings and the reflection of the scientists watching. A significant result of this is that, in comparison with Heinzman's portrayal of the first zombie, Sherman's embodiment of Bub is signalled more obviously as a crafted performance, and at the same time is more complex in terms of epistemic position and sympathy. As such, attention to Romero's presentation of Bub provides an opportunity to think further about the material tensions inherent to the zombie, the nature of the ambivalence created by this, and the development in what kind of relationship with the zombie the film invites.


There is a moment in the scene, after Bub has examined the toothbrush and thrown it away, when he interacts with the razor. The film cuts from the scientists to Bub, a medium close-up placing emphasis on his face, who is holding a razor in his hand and staring intently at it. He then presses it to his cheek and looks forwards, moves the razor to another place on his cheek and then looks forward again. On the second look Sherman's expression registers surprise, his gaze suddenly more focused in front of him, and the film cuts to Bub's optical point of view, a mirror on the wall opposite revealing him in it, with various scientific apparatus cluttering the frame below it. As Bub looks at himself in the mirror, his body wobbles slightly and the razor drops down his cheek. The film then cuts to the long shot of Sherman, with Richard Liberty and Lori Cardille reflected in the glass, their expressions registering pleasure and astonishment. When the film returns to the medium close-up of Sherman, he has turned his face slightly and is beginning to draw the razor down his cheek, as though shaving. As Bub shaves some of his skin rips, and on a second stroke some of it comes off. Bub stares down at the razor and examines the skin, then slowly sticking his thumb in his mouth. With this his hand holding the razor drops, putting it back on the table, and drool falls out of his mouth.

The stylistic simplicity of the scene means that we get a great deal of access to Sherman, which is repaid with material detail: the close-ups reveal subtle changes in expression and gesture. Indeed, because of the close-up there is limited access to his whole body, so much of the performance is relayed through facial expression and hand gesture, communicating Bub's experience of the objects. This powerfully draws out his humanity, we are not distracted by his awkward body and it is easier to see him as more human--aided too by the minimal amount of decomposition (i.e. special effects make-up) evident on Sherman's face--and therefore to interpret his actions. Nevertheless, the close-up also reveals his textural differences, the flatness and disintegration of skin, the lack of controlled elasticity in his face, which create a tension in his apparently human movements and emotional reactions. By witnessing the detail of Bub's gestures we are invited to see and respond to him as becoming more human, as a result of his contact with Logan. He doesn't just shave his face as he used to, but reacts to the new effect of the razor on his skin, and thus radically goes against the conception of the zombie as having no phenomenal consciousness. The physicalised anxiety of this moment, the razor graphically peeling flesh, makes this an occasion when we're most likely to feel a physical connection with Bub. At the same time, that Bub doesn't physically react to it in the same way we might underlines that he is different: if we wince, or physically squirm at his ripped skin, our actions do not mirror his.

This is the first occasion of the representation of a zombie moving away from emptiness, and as such goes against conventions of how we see him, and what we experience of him. The texture of Sherman's performance is certainly in this sense markedly different to that of Heinzman. The distinction in visual treatment foregrounds a key change, in that Heinzman is being followed by a camera, whereas Sherman is performing to one that is able to capture and centralise the minute details of his expression, which are also foregrounded by lighting and the use of colour stock. It is important to remember in concert with this that the set-ups used here have important differences, and as such are designed to evoke a range of responses to Bub: when he is shown in close-up we are in the same space as him, and when he is shown from further away we see him from inside the scientists' observation room. As a result, closeness and attention to texture is continually held in balance with a more analytical view, reminding us he is the subject of research, or perhaps even a religious view, if we consider the framework on the wall behind him evocative of a crucifix. Of course, both of these views are from the same position, so that we are continually looking from the same physical position as the scientists, but there seems to be an important tension created through the degrees of our awareness of alignment with them.

Unlike the first zombie in Night of the Living Dead, Bub is shown to have interiority and point of view--a step which exemplifies Romero's approach to the zombie as something more than "motorised instinct" (as articulated by Dr Milliard Rausch (Richard France) in a televised interview at the beginning of Dawn of the Dead). We briefly share the same spatial perspective as a zombie, the closest connection between us and them, which is surely an indicator of how much Romero wants us to engage with him, and, accordingly, of how close he sees the zombies to the living. At the end of their observation Logan excitedly comments "He remembers. He remembers everything that he used to". Bub remembers, but through attention to the details of expression and gesture it seems that Bub not only remembers the objects, but has feelings about them--signalled by his expression of disregard for the toothbrush and later palpable desire for the book, which he grasps and peers at intently. The clarity afforded Sherman's performance invites us to connect his actions as implicitly expressive of thought and feeling, as opposed to the first zombie's dynamic movement, suggestive of a more basic compulsion. He is battling against his emptiness, against the numbness of his embodiment; he can feel, just differently to us. Bub is special because he refrains from attacking Logan, understanding himself through Logan's treatment of him. Here the presentation of Sherman's body qualifies our emotional response to Bub and enables us to be sympathetic for, rather than anxious of the monster. As such, the tone of Bub's embodiment offers a different balance of emptiness and excess that, while challenging in relation to our expectations of zombies, is less fraught with grotesque disorder. Most importantly, sympathy is offered in the texture of Sherman's performance, particularly in the way he emphasises Bub's childlike qualities--his wide staring eyes, the tactiiity of his interaction with the objects, his grunting communication.

The achievement of sympathy for Bub is a key continuation point from him to the main zombie of Land of the Dead, 'Big Daddy' (Eugene Clarke), through whom Romero's construction of zombie embodiment comes full circle. As he is portrayed by an African-American actor, Big Daddy represents the dynamic progression of another motif in the films, the centrality of a dynamic black male protagonist. Early on in the film it is established that the human hunting parties are able to distract the zombies by letting off fireworks, and that Big Daddy alone has realised that this is a trick. Whilst his fellow zombies stare at the sky, he moves amongst them groaning and trying to distract them. The way in which Big Daddy responds to the humans' actions demonstrates that he has moved beyond Bub's tentative physical and conceptual existence. Whereas Bub seems to understand himself through others treatment of him. Big Daddy's independent movement and ability to reject human activity, show that he is in full control of his embodiment, and his inner life. As the humans drive past they fire off bullets, killing zombies. Big Daddy growls in frustration and moves more quickly through the gathered zombies, throwing them out of the way of the humans' guns as he does so.

The action implies that he understands things for himself, and appreciably through interaction with, and observation of, his fellow zombies. His movement through the space invites alignment with him, and the foregrounding of his reactions in close or medium shots, as well as their clarity of expression, encourages sympathy with him over the humans and their random destruction. The measured access given to Eugene Clark as he moves about the space, invites us to understand his responses, and consequently the question of whether he holds interiority is not as fraught. Whereas Bub seems to understand himself through others treatment of him, Big Daddy's independent movement and ability to reject human activity, show that he is in full control of his embodiment, and his inner life. In recognition of this his presence is not treated differently from the humans by the film. In spite of any anxieties we might feel on behalf of the human characters, Clark's performance offers the final progression of monstrous ambivalence, implying that full sympathy in Land of the Dead lies with the zombies, and that we are asked to respond to them as explicitly oppressed. Moreover, by transposing a human figure who has become central to the series into a zombie body, Romero further underlines the similarity between the living and the dead in a way that understands the accumulation of what has gone on in the previous three films. That he can physically interact and learn, is a significant step forwards in overcoming his oppressors (the humans), and therefore a turning point in the manner in which the zombies' representation is materially addressing our sense of what is at stake, for both humans and zombies.

'If we can't find the "soul" of a work of art expressed in its body, informing and giving life to every limb, then we may be pretty sure it is not worth looking for'. (17) The words of Robin Wood quoted here speak to the materiality of film, and to synthesis between style and meaning. Taken from one of his earliest pieces of criticism, they also communicate his lasting commitment to being responsive to and involved by the expressive achievements of cinema, in all its diversity. For me, they also evoke the sense that films are peopled, and that meaning is expressed through the bodies of those on-screen. In Romero's films, zombies' actions are centred on revealing what constitutes ourselves, doing so by drawing attention to the body and addressing its boundaries (that which is usually repressed), evoking physical anxiety through the spectacle of the violent destruction of bodies, and in the realisation of our own potential emptiness.


(1) Robin Wood, "Fresh Meat," in Film Comment 44: 1 (2008), 31.

(2) Robin Wood, "An Introduction to the American Horror Film," in American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film, ed. Robin Wood and Richard Lippe (Toronto: Festival of Festivals, 1979), 14.

(3) Robin Wood, "Ideology, Genre, Auteur," in Film Comment 13: 1 (1977), 47.

(4) Wood, "An Introduction to the American Horror Film," 10.

(5) Wood, "Introduction to the American Horror Film," 15.

(6) Wood, "Ideology, Genre, Auteur," 47.

(7) Robin Wood, "Neglected Nightmares," in Film Comment 1 6:2 (1980), 25.

(8) Robin Wood, Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan ... And Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 108.

(9) Steven Shaviro, The Cinematic Body (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 83.

(10) Robin Wood, "The Woman's Nightmare: Masculinity in Day of the Dead" in CineAction! 6 (1986), 45

(11) Ibid.

(12) Ibid., 47.

(13) Wood, Hitchcock's Films, 9.

(14) Robin Wood, "Acting up," in Film Comment 12: 2 (1976), 23.

(15) Wood, "The Woman's Nightmare," 45.

(16) Wood, "Fresh Meat," 29.

(17) Wood, Hitchcock's Films, 1 7.

Lucy Fife Donaldson recently completed her Ph.D 'Engaging with Performance in Post-Studio Horror' in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CineAction
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Robin Wood and George A. Romero
Author:Donaldson, Lucy Fife
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2011
Previous Article:Beyond the male gaze: departures from Scottie's point of view in Vertigo.
Next Article:The literary critic, the nineteenth century novel and the wire.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |