bub

There’s this idea that the dead ought not to be acknowledged. That to return to them is to commit an indignity to the memory of the actual person who lived and to literally fetishise the corpse. That’s why you grieve in the moment, leave your flowers, take your memento mori and move on. Orpheus might have met someone nice at Eurydice’s funeral, Juliet would have probably bounced back, found a rebound and gotten a fashionable tattoo. The living teach the lesson – the dead have nothing to offer. That’s why you don’t build on a graveyard, that’s why -to paraphrase Douglas Adams- you rarely invite your ancestors round to dinner.

It’s such a fundamental taboo that it finds its expression in a thousand contradictory laws across the world and across history. Apparently, the aborigines of Tasmania never even referred to their dead, once they had passed. It was as if they had never existed. It seems that this appalled the Europeans, who at this time in their civilisation were not above carrying locks of hair and the bones of their dead around them, lest they forget. In 1830 the Europeans celebrated their differences by attempting to stamp out every Tasmanian aborigine, marching arm in arm from the north of the island to the south, carrying guns and chains. They were only following in the example that had been set more than three hundred years before – just ask the Aztecs, who had their own ways and means and menus.

These kinds of colonial expeditions were often funded by well-meaning myopics who had been told terrible tales of brutal barbarian cannibal hordes living overseas in sin, who desperately needed the crusading colonial zeal of empire builders to bring the heathens the body of Christ and a healthy respect for the spreadsheet. The word cannibal comes from a racial epithet coined by colonialists of those living in the Caribbean – in fact, at around the same time and place, the Spanish and the French took the word buccan from the native Arawak: it’s a wooden frame used to cook meat and it gave us both buccaneer and barbecue. Dangerous, but delicious.

If you take your lessons in dying from religious crusaders or global capitalists you should probably mind your table manners. You might be better off either eschewing eschatology entirely or at least chewing your food more carefully.

Nowadays of course we are a lot more sensitive – we always go in with drones and never discuss religion or politics at dinner parties.

We also make films about our dead, and what they did next, and for the last fifty years some of the very best have been made by, or followed in the example of, George A Romero.

Back in 1968 he directed Night of the Living Dead, which managed to create a brand new monster – a cannibal ghoul coming at you in impossible plague numbers, and then marry chaotic and hideous violence with both painful social commentary and an excruciating misunderstanding of copyright law. Rob Daniel and his podcaster-in-crime Rob Wallis, neither of them strangers to these pages, recently invited me to talk with them about this bloody masterpiece on their Electric Shadows program…

 

If REO Speedwagon have taught us anything it’s that one lonely night is all it takes to/completely break you… but Romero wanted to be sure, so he turned his Night into a twenty-year trilogy. Dawn of the Dead, released in 1978, focuses its apocalypse on a shopping mall where if the legion of necrotic fiends don’t get you then the crushing boredom of a lifetime spent shopping will. And Day of the Dead, which found us in 1985, shows us an aftermath where the few remaining survivors are reduced either to endlessly obsessing over their pointless duties or going stark staring mad. By now Rob and Rob had the taste of blood in their mouth, so we carried on talking about these two epics in the second course…

 

Thing is, whether through airborne infection, over-occupied Hell or just sloppy legal work, by now everyone had an appetite for a cannibal Armageddon, so before you knew it we had Dawn of the Dead reworked as both a roller coaster ride and a romzomcom in one single year, a brand new trilogy that predicted Twitter and Donald Trump, and something that all the cool kids are calling a zomblosion. Hence part three of Rob ‘n’ Rob’s podcast series…

 

And now it’s five past midnight and we live on a wracked planet alongside the cannibal dead and we hardly even notice. Turns out the end of the world didn’t destroy us, just nudged us along sufficiently so that we could thrive on the stench of dead flesh and the endless anxiety of living in the end times, watching the thermometer rise while smashed out of our head on bath salts, modest proposals and the cordyceps fungus. You don’t have to be dead to work here, but it helps – must be part four…

 

Thanks to the delicious Rob Daniel (https://electric-shadows.com) and the moreish Rob Wallis (http://ofallthefilmsites.com/) for setting a place for me at their table and giving me a chance to sing for my supper. I definitely didn’t kill them and eat them, merely helped them in their Becoming.

Catch you for breakfast…