No thanks to Matt Zoller Seitz for not sending me his latest video essay, a Zombie 101 tutorial; I had to hunt it down on Movie City News. One presumes he was inspired by the success of Zombieland. I know that George Romero‘s latest, Survival of the Dead, is still looking for distribution, and is showing next at the American Film Market.

“Ultimately zombie films aren’t about the zombies, which have no conscious mind and therefore no personality,” he begins. “They’re a collective menace — rotting emblems of plague, catastrophe, war, and other world-upending events. The films depict representative social types wandering amid the ruins of the civilization they once took for granted, trying to reconcile their pre-zombie moral code (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) with the harsh necessities of the present (‘If you’ve got a gun, shoot ’em in the head,’ a sheriff tells a TV reporter in Night of the Living Dead, adding, ‘If you don’t, get yourself a club or a torch. Beat ’em or burn ’em, they go down pretty easy’).

“If there’s no military, no police force, no law, no justice, and no hope, what’s the point of being decent as opposed to selfish? Might it be possible that, under such unimaginably awful circumstances, selfishness is decency? And if your mom is bitten by a zombie, at what point is it all right to stop treating her like your mom and reach for the 12-gauge? Dear Abby never had to ponder such questions. To quote the alternative title of a 1974 Werner Herzog movie, in zombie films it’s every man for himself and God against all. And as survivors sift through the rubble, weighing selfish imperatives against kinder, gentler impulses that might get them and everyone around them killed, the genre pulls off a nifty bit of creative jujitsu, defining civilization, morality, stability, and decency by depicting their opposites.”