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Friday, 17 October 2014

What if: Night of the Living Dead actually happened?

What if Romero's living dead actually stalked the Earth?
In 1968 one of the greatest horror movies ever made was released by new director George A. Romero. That film was Night of the Living Dead and inspired a whole franchise in the form of the walking dead who crave the flesh of the living. Its influence is profound with it influencing everything from The Walking Dead to Call of Duty: Zombies. Today we look at what would happen if the iconic film actually happened but with a twist. We sought of know what would happen if it happened now thanks to Max Brooks' World War Z but Living Dead happened in 1968 so we've refined it already but to refine it more we're going on the basis that the plague never leaves the continental United States. So let us see what would happen if Romero's nightmare had come to life...

Initial outbreak- As Barbara, (the first main character introduced in the film), sees the first undead in Pennsylvania we can assume that the outbreak starts here. Quickly the infection spreads across the state and into neighbouring states including New Jersey and New York which spreads the infection further. As seen in the film organised authority collapses with small isolated bands forming in farmhouses as people flee from the towns and cities which are now infested with the dead. Anarchy would rage through the states in the North in the initial few weeks as people would not know what to do. Most likely the federal and state governments would broadcast news advising people to stay in their homes and avoid anyone who is infected but with the dead tearing at the doors most would flee their homes and those too slow to get away would swell the ranks of the dead. With the highways stretching from the Atlantic to Pacific quickly the entire country would be infected as people flee from the North-East and those hiding bites turning and biting others. In the film Barbara and later Ben, (excellently played by Duane Jones), flee to a farmhouse. This would be a good idea as the distance from urban environments allows the undead to take more time to come after them so states with large areas of non-urbanised land like Texas and Utah would be less affected. With confusion about the origin and how it is spread would allow the plague to spread quickly across the nation and soon causes continental United States to collapse.
How would the government respond to the plague?
Government response- The government response would be minimal. As the outbreak erupts in Pennsylvania and as it spreads to the South the governments of Canada and Mexico would be able close the border and prepare themselves against the wave of undead. The federal government would immediately close airports and docks to stop the rapid spread as well as spreading public service announcements to stay in their homes and avoid the infected. Lyndon Johnson would still be President and would invite vice-President Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon to form a provisional government to last until the problem gets solved. They would most likely flee Washington and set up government at the Peterson Air Force Base before fleeing to Alaska or Hawaii before resources dry up. Army and air force bases would be used as sanctuaries where the military would hide out until the plague dissipates and as the years drag on they would start to form their own little isolated communities and we could see a few mad captains like Captain Rhodes coming about.
The mad captain wouldn't be the only despotic leader around
Of course the government would use the military to counter the zombie epidemic but this would initially be limited. In 1968 the Vietnam War was in full flow and thousands of US GI were fighting in Vietnam and many others were stationed across the world where the US had interests including West Berlin and the Philippines. With the US army scattered around the world the government would resort to the National Guard. However the Guard would quickly fall as they would be ready for an armed fight not one against a horde of flesh eaters; in 1970 the National Guard had fired on a protest at Kent State University so if they had done this to a crowd jeering at them what would they do against a horde of possibly their friends and family trying to eat them? The army itself would experience mass desertions as many GIs would be disturbed as they would go from months of mental anguish fighting the Viet Cong only to be sent back to the US to fight the undead. Also actual tactics against the hordes would be inefficient. With it taking a while to realise that only a bullet to the head would kill a zombie many soldiers would either desert or add to the horde. As months drag by what was left of the government and army would collapse.
What would a zombie apocalypse be like?
Social response- Initial groups of survivors would band together like with the Cooper's, Ben and Barbara in the film. This would most likely occur in more agricultural areas and in small towns where communities were more close nit larger bands of survivors would exist. Race issues would still be prevalent however. Night of the Living Dead was released merely months after huge race riots swept the country following the assassination of Martin Luther King and some people still weren't used to the idea of working together with African-Americans. The film itself was impacted by issues as all the cast loved Duane Jones and were heartbroken about how the country had treated him because of his race and Jones even wanted the film to address this issue but Romero chose not to because he thought he 'was being hip', (something he later said that he regretted). In smaller towns where communities had sprung up to oppose the undead there could very well be small race riots, especially where segregation had previously been prevalent, which would allow the undead to swell their ranks. Other than small communities, such as the protagonists creating one in a mall in Dawn of the Dead, there would be small nomads and bandits. The nomads would roam around the now deserted towns and cities before looking for supplies before moving on whereas the bandits, like the bikers in Dawn, would prey on small communities where they would rape those in sight and steal their provisions before moving on. Slowly both women's and race rights would increase as the need to survive would be more of a pressing issue compared to past discrimination.

International response- It would be highly likely that the international community, specifically NATO aligned nations, would send briefly send troops to help fight the plague. Canada, Mexico, the UK, France and Israel would donate the most troops to help fight the undead and possibly even the USSR seeing a way to help thaw Cold War tensions. This help would most likely not last long after the coalition troops being turned. The WHO and UN would be under fire for not recognising the origin of the virus such as the Venus probe mentioned in the film as well as not doing enough to fight the virus. As the US government flees to Hawaii and Alaska the world would start to draw away from the collapsing United States and the continental United States would become a zombie filled no-man's land. The USSR would win the Space Race with NASA cancelling the space program after the zombies start to take over so we would see a Hammer and Sickle on the Moon instead of the Stars and Stripes. The Cold War would continue as normal as Britain, France, Japan and West Germany taking on the role of world protectors with their economies rising as the Western world starts to divert their original trade with the US to these nations. Of course their would be an economic slump for a decade without the US as the lack of imports and exports from the US would have a massive knock on effect. The OPEC Oil Crisis would still happen as the UK and France still recognise Israel but Communist China is admitted to the UN much sooner as it took Nixon to recognise Mao's China while France, Britain and the USSR had recognised Mao's China as the correct China years before. Like in World War Z Castro would welcome Cubans who had fled his regime back to Cuba in a massive propaganda coup but the still repressive nature means and the existence of the USSR would mean that Castro would refuse to democratise. Finally the Vietnam war would end much sooner as without the US supporting the South Vietnamese the North would easily take over the South with their Viet Cong allies but without continuous US bombing weakening the Sihanouk regime in Cambodia the Khmer Rouge wouldn't be able to seize control.
What would happen years later?
Years later- Eventually the undead would decline in number but a very different United States would emerge. With the Presidency and Congress moving to Hawaii and Alaska a new nation, the Alaskan-Hawaiian Republic, would form instead. The military would finally emerge and push back the zombies and any nomads or communities they encountered would join them. Two scenarios could emerge: the military reunify the US and prepare for elections but the country would be heavily decentralised and in fear of the dead or feudalism could come into play. Military commanders or despotic leaders of some communities would form mini-kingdoms like in Land of the Dead where a form of serfdom exists in the confines of an enclosure with guards stopping the undead from getting in and putting down dissenters. The US would be seen as a tribal nation like many nations in the Middle East in the 19th century with independent lords ruling over a city of people wary of the dead.

Thanks for reading and please comment for my next post which is a top ten. Continuing with the month of horror I will be doing a Top Ten Movie Monsters so vote for which monster you want. Human monsters like Michael Myers or humans given supernatural powers like vampires and Freddy Krueger are not being included though. Please comment and see you again.

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