The film begins with Barbra and Johnny visiting their father’s grave in rural Pennsylvania. Barbra is afraid to be in a cemetery at such a late hour. Johnny teases her, as any brother would, totally unaware that a zombie–a reanimated corpse–is about to knock him unconscious against a headstone. The rest is history. Night of the Living Dead proceeded to become one of the most revolutionary horror films of all time.
Until Night of the Living Dead came on the scene, horror movies were mostly innocuous—nobody took them seriously. But genuine fear dripped from the frames of this particular flick. Parents who naively took their kids to the theater reeled with regret as their unnerved children squirmed in genuine horror.
Exactly what was so scary about Night of the Living Dead? I think perhaps it was the sense that the evil inescapably was us. It is one thing when evil is out there, or when monsters can easily be identified as alien creatures from planet X. But the potential (and fear) for us and our loved ones to become the source of evil is a game changer.
Fear and death have always been closely linked. The potential for death, or loss, powerfully grips the human heart with various forms of fear–especially anxiety. It all points to a zombie-like existence in which we find ourselves longing for life, but beset by fear; for fear in and of itself is a form of death.
The intent of Lucifer’s zombie conspiracy was to usher fear and death into a world once defined by peace and life. The plan worked to the point that death and fear now characterize unredeemed humanity.
Many centuries before Night of the Living Dead was filmed in Evans City, Pennsylvania, the Apostle Paul wrote of another sort of living dead. In speaking of widows he stated, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6). Imagine that, a seemingly harmless widow proclaimed to be a sort of zombie long before film was ever conceived. Now that’s truly scary!
Paul’s words remind me of a lobster pound a traveler might find along the coast of Maine. Right there, in full view for patrons to see, is an open tank with live lobsters crawling around. I mean, technically they are alive, but in a greater sense those lobsters are already dead. They repeatedly circle the tank (what else is there to do?), their once powerful pinchers banded shut as they jostle for meaningless advantage. The finality of death is inevitable, and unless a savior of sorts purchases those crustaceans and releases them into the ocean, it is only a matter of time until they are boiling in a pot and then lying on a plate.
Since Lucifer initiated the zombie conspiracy, death and fear have continued to hold captive the general population of the human race. Like the lobsters in the tank, like the widows of 1 Timothy 5:6, ours is the Era of the Living Dead. Powerless, hopeless, and beset with fear, we scurry about, jostling for meaningless advantage, pursuing only momentary pleasures; doing what we can to forget about the giant hand of death that will, in its season, tear us from the only world we’ve ever known.
If this all sounds very morbid and repulsive, that is only because it is very morbid and repulsive. The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t simply a nice, optional message. The Gospel is our only genuine hope.