Happy Thanksgiving to all! As we all sit down to gorge ourselves on turkey and stuffing, I can't help but glance around the dinner table and think of spectacular death scenes from zombie cinema. What? No, I don't see a problem with the thought process. The way in which my family and friends tear into the succulent flesh of the ceremonial bird always brings to mind images of swarms of the undead descending upon some hapless dupe and making a hearty meal out his insides. So to kickoff the holiday season, I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of my favorite moments of zombies feasting on humanity...with ample carbon-based gravy of course.
Day of the Dead
While not my favorite Romero outing, Day of the Dead does offer further evidence that Tom Savini is a god of gore. The film centers on a micro society that has formed in a military bunker beneath the Earth in the aftermath of the ultimate zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately while the inhabitants are safe from the teaming hordes outside, they must still contend with their de facto leader; a douchebag military man with a penchant for dick measuring displays. As nasty as this bastard is, his comeuppance is even nastier. When the zombies invade, Sgt. Scumbag runs afoul of them and ends up very broken up over it. In fact, the ravenous creatures managed to divide said antagonist laterally. They make a two course meal out of him and the effects Mr. Savini constructs creates a certain amount of separation anxiety in the audience as well as the character.
I rediscovered Zombi a couple of weeks ago. I had seen it once before long ago and I really did enjoy it. But upon a more analytical viewing of late, I came to really appreciate the merits of this phenomenal Fulci nightmare. The music, the painstaking imagery, the makeup, and even the story congregate into what is quickly becoming one of my favorite entries into the genre. There is one particular moment in the film that exemplifies not only its overall quality, but its eligibility for this list. As a group of wayward fools stumble back to their lodgings amid an onset of the undead, they find one of their compatriots has become a main course. As if something out of a Norman Rockwell acid trip, four zombies sit around the disemboweled, dismembered corpse happily feasting. They are so engrossed in their delicious meal, that they don't pay any heed to the dumb-struck humans at the threshold. The pieces being removed and devoured from the woman look so juicy and inviting, well it made hungry.
The Return of the Living Dead
I absolutely love this 80's schlock titan that takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to zombies. In fact, there is very little about The Return of the Living Dead that anyone could take seriously. It embraces the over-the-top cheese coating of the decade and flies shamelessly into the realm of camp. A unique quality assigned to the living dead here is that they somehow have the ability to speak; differing from the mere grunting usually attributed to their unfortunate condition. This unusual characteristic allows for one of the film's best gags. While the last of the principal cast are holed up in a mortuary, a previously hailed ambulance arrives. Unfortunately the paramedics are ambushed as soon as they exit the vehicle and become lunch for the undead masses. The best part of this scene is the zombie that crawls into the cab and utters into the radio, "send more paramedics." So on this particular Thanksgiving, it looks like these zombies are ordering takeout. I'm not sure if this was the original intention of the inception of the Meals On Wheels program, but it is no less effective in solving the hunger problem.
Dawn of the Dead
There isn't a single reader of this site that need be informed of Dawn of the Dead's status as a classic. Romero's sophomore entry into his original trilogy his arguably the best. The man did such an amazing job creating the definitive zombie apocalypse that watching any of these films feels like experiencing another chapter in a piece of epic storytelling. As we all know, this particular chapter takes place mostly in a vacant shopping mall. The quartet of survivors who call this galleria home find themselves suddenly beset by a biker gang even more deadly than the zombies outside. There are a number of moments in this sequence that could easily qualify for this list and I would almost rather bake them all into one big carnage casserole. But I will single out a particular death that has always stuck with me. In a decision that flies in the face of reason, one biker makes the choice to take a blood-pressure test amid the imminent threat of swarming ghouls. I don't know, maybe heart disease is a major hereditary concern for him. Although in an instant, his heart is consumed by zombies so I'm not sure how that helps. The stinger of the scene, and the moment that won it acceptance to this list, is that the biker's severed arm remains in the sleeve of the machine; the monitor reading zero over zero. Amazing!
This selection is actually not from a zombie film at all. No, Dead Set is actually a British television series that aired in 2008. The basic premise is that a Big Brother type reality show is being filmed when a zombie outbreak befalls England. The people inside the house are just that much more removed from the catastrophic events and must struggle to survive in their pre-fabricated domicile while flesh-hungry creatures slowly conquer the "real world". In one seminal moment, one of the show's producers (a certifiable a-hole) makes an heroic gesture and finds himself directly on the menu. The gore in this scene is incredibly well done, but what makes this feast so memorable is the victim's reaction. The less-than-amiable producer does not go screaming into the gullets of the undead, but instead curses them all the way. At one point, he even expresses his fervent hope that he gives the zombies indigestion. Hooray!
So there's my list. It is in no way definitive, but these are a few of my favorites on which I will ponder as I dive into another helping of yams. Did I miss your favorite scene of feasting dead? Please, feel free to share in the comment section.