Dead 'n' Dumb
Are the undead all brawn and no brain?
In its ongoing quest for the ultimate postfilm conversation, Talking Pictures takes interesting people to interesting movies.
'Dr." Hugo Pecos has just witnessed the high-concept, stomach-churning gore-fest that is George Romero's Land of the Dead. He has issues with it, and is now ready to state, on the record, that the latest in Romero's popular zombie series--which began in 1968 with the tasty Night of the Living Dead--is crammed with factual distortions and misleading zombie misinformation.
But it's still kind of cool.
"For entertainment value alone, I would give Land of the Dead about three stars out of four," says Pecos, "but I'd only give it two stars for educational value, mainly because it gets a lot of the facts wrong. Zombies' capacity for learning has been proven to diminish rapidly after they are infected and transformed, unlike what happens in Land of the Dead, where the zombies have started to evolve intellectually and are beginning to learn how to use tools and guns, though they do use them rather badly.
"Still," he continues, "none of that is really possible because of the serious degradation of a zombie's deteriorating brain. In that sense, the movie is misleading and might cause people to become more fearful of zombies than they really should be."
Obviously, Dr. Pecos takes zombies very seriously. As explained in elaborate detail on the tongue-in-cheek website Pecos, an Albuquerque, N.M., resident, created four years ago as a kicky tribute to the "now decommissioned" Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency (www.fvza.org), zombies and vampires were once a major health threat in America, which saw a terrifying increase in vampire and zombie attacks before the agency was formed in 1868 by President Ulysses S. Grant. The highly amusing and insanely clever site is full of "facts," from detailed descriptions of vampire and zombie biology (did you know that the zombie virus was originally spread by ticks?) to the successful development of a zombie vaccine in 1911.
As for Land of the Dead, in which postapocalyptic city dwellers John Leguizamo, Simon Baker and Dennis Hopper fend off a hoard of angry, tool-waving, justice-seeking zombies who are as capable of committing compassionate zombie euthanasia as they are hungry for steaming human entrails, Pecos insists the premise is not credible.
"Immediately after infection, zombies lose a lot of gray matter," Dr. Pecos says. "They simply cannot regain any lost brain function. Zombies are frightening, yes, but in reality they are not formidable adversaries. They just sort of stagger toward you, till they get shot in the head by some guy with a rifle. And yet movies like this one have to invent reasons to make people believe there could be some widespread zombie outbreak. It's quite unlikely that we'd ever see anything on the scale of Dawn of the Dead or Land of the Dead."
With that understood, I now have a few meaty Land of the Dead-inspired questions for the good doctor.
"Do zombies ever get full, because in movies like this one, they seem to have unlimited stomach capacity?"
"Zombies do get full, of course they do. But that doesn't mean a full zombie isn't still dangerous. Zombies are sort of like bears. When bears have stuffed themselves with enough salmon, they'll keep catching fish, but they'll only eat the eyes and the brains. Just like zombies. When there's fresh food around, they keep eating, but if and when they get full, they'll just eat the brains and leave the rest, because brains are the most nutritious for them."
"Is it wrong to feel sorry for a zombie, because in Land of the Dead, where the military uses them for target practice and promoters pit them against people as carnival attractions, I kind of felt bad for them."
"It's not wrong; it's human," Dr. Pecos assures. "You have to remember that they had a life before they were afflicted. They had families and loved ones, hopes and dreams. Zombies are tragic, and they deserve our pity."
From the July 6-12, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.