Zombies Ate My Brain: NYT Film Critic Sees Prophecy of 'White Supremacy' in Fright Flick

New York Times film critics A.O. Scott and Jason Zinoman remember horror zombie master George Romero on the front of Tuesday Arts page, “Old Master of Horror -- In George Romero’s signature zombie films, the living make for their own fright show.”

Romero was said to have a political angle to his flicks, and Scott in particular found a bizarre relevance between the Romero classic “Night of the Living Dead" and the election of "a calm and competent African-American" in 2012 who "saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity...and is destroyed." And then, the "white supremacy" that evidently came with Trump’s election in 2016.

Zinoman: George Romero will always be known for turning hordes of dead people into a new kind of mainstream monster, but what made him a revolutionary artist is that he didn’t let the living off the hook. Sometimes, he even seemed to like them less than his flesh-eating zombies. “Night of the Living Dead,” his 1968 debut that initiated the modern horror genre, has one of the movies’ great spooky opening scenes; the shadowy sequence when the girl chomps on her dad still gives me the chills. But what was and remains truly unsettling is the violence of the white law enforcement toward the black hero, played by Duane Jones. No horror movie seemed to take on racism with as much visceral force, until this year, with “Get Out.” And Mr. Romero’s movie is even bleaker.

Scott used that opening from Zinoman to squeeze all the current import he could out of the black hero of that half-century-old horror flick.

A. O. SCOTT I’m glad you mentioned “Get Out,” because that movie and some other very recent horror films -- like Trey Edward Shults’s lean, cheap and super-scary “It Comes at Night” -- highlight both the influence, and the prescience, of “Night of the Living Dead.” A few years ago, when I did a Critics’ Pick video on “Night,” I hinted that the Jones character’s death could be read as a prophecy of Barack Obama’s presidency: A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity (as well as from zombies) and is destroyed. Now, of course, the prophecy seems all the more chilling. The casual, unapologetic and ultimately self-destructive violence of white supremacy is the true and enduring horror of American life.

That video Scott mentions, from October 2008, on the eve of Obama’s victory over John McCain, insisted that the horror flick “sinks its teeth into a very real and very persistent social division. And it asks a question that was pertinent in 1968 and may still be today: Who can we trust? Who are we willing to trust?” It was at least more subtle than his newest screed

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Scott was obsessing over white supremacy in his rundown of 2016 movies as well:

For a lot of 2016, it seemed as if the dominant story was going to be about what, for want of a better word, is often called diversity, meaning the often frustrated, sometimes partly successful struggles of filmmakers who are not white men to work within a system that remains rigged against them....In politics, whiteness has reasserted itself with an insistence that has surprised many observers.

2016 Presidential Racism Movies New York Times A.O. Scott Donald Trump Barack Obama
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