Winner of the 2006 Bram Stoker Award, Gospel of the Living Dead connects American social and religious views with the classic American movie genre of the zombie horror film. For nearly forty years, the films of George A. Romero have presented viewers with hellish visions of our world overrun by flesh-eating ghouls. This study proves that Romero's films, like apocalyptic literature or Dante's Commedia, go beyond the surface experience of repulsion to probe deeper questions of human nature and purpose, often giving a chilling and darkly humorous critique of modern, secular America.
Acknowledgments Preface Introduction The Themes of the Current Zombie Movie Genre 1. Night of the Living Dead (1968) Romero’s First Look at Hell, Sin, and Human Nature 2. Dawn of the Dead (1978) Consumerism, Materialism, and the Fourth Circle of Hell 3. Day of the Dead (1985) Violence, Perverted Reason, and the Lower Circles of Hell 4. Dawn of the Dead (2004) Limbo and the Partial Victory of Reason and Virtue 5. Land of the Dead (2005) The Deepest Abyss of Hell and the Final Hope Conclusion The Meaning and Future of Zombie Movies Notes Bibliography Index
Kim Paffenroth (Ph.D. Notre Dame) is Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College
Whether readers agree with Paffenroth or not, this book will make a person think.. Paffenroth does the horror world a service by taking the subject of one of its luminaries and treating it as seriously as its fans.
Despite [ Night of the Living Dead's] bleakness, the author finds spiritual hope. By attacking human arrogance, the movie reveals the first part of redemption—when 'we realize our weakness and insufficiency.'
~Chronicle of Higher Education
Paffenroth weaves Christian theology, social criticism and allusions to Dante's Inferno throughout his discussion of films that feature cannibalism, mayhem and terror-a feat that probably has to be read to be believed. This is an excellent resource not just for fans of low-budget zombie films, but for anyone who wants to understand the appeal of the genre.
A fascinating, insightful tribute to the man who started it all.
~Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide
Paffenroth puts a surprising twist on zombie movies. The question is not 'what would zombies do?' but rather 'how are zombies like us?' The sins of sexism, racism, classism, and consumerism make the undead eerily familiar. Any fan of the undead whose brain has not yet been eaten will want to devour this book.
~William Irwin, King's College
By connecting Romeros' work to Dante's Inferno, the author challenges readers to view horror movies, and zombie movies in particular, as making important theological claims. Well written, well researched, a strong and edgy book.
~Craig Detweiler, Biola University
Paffenroth outlines the contribution that Romero has made to contemporary horror cinema in an analytical but highly readable manner. He succinctly profiles Romero’s classics, while also outlining their influence on living dead remakes, parodies, computer games, and beyond. This lively account uncovers a distinct moral message with George A. Romero’s macbre movie mayhem.
~Xavier Mendik, Director of the Cult Film Archive, Brunel University
The author provides terrific insights into an underexamined facet of American popular culture. His grasp of the zombie myth and his analyses of the films should inform all future work on the subject.
~David Wellington, author of Monster Island: A Zombie Novel