Article: Day of the Dead

I just got through watching Day of the Dead for the first time. I was looking for some inspiration for the next edition of Deserter (have a look in the ‘Comic’ section of my portfolio for the first part), I was not disappointed! The movie has given me a few ideas regarding the creatures I have been designing, however what really struck me in the film was its intricate character study of people under intense, seemingly hopeless, pressure.

The notion of people trying with all their might to survive dire circumstances with no end in sight is one we can relate to all too easily these days. I have been sheltered from the pandemic in Taiwan since it began (totally by chance) and managed to weather most of the COVID storm until recent weeks. I feel slightly ashamed to say that I hadn’t understood the mental toll lockdown has had on the people who have been going through it until the restrictions were imposed here. It has really opened my eyes to the severity of the situation; a virus that isn’t going away any time soon, possibly ever, ever-increasing restrictions on freedoms which, however necessary they may be, are affecting the way we fundamentally live our lives. An inability to plan for the future because the future has never seemed as uncertain as it feels now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in each character, or group of characters, in Day of the Dead, I could see different ways of reacting to intense uncertainty and doom. First off there are the soldiers, they have completely crumbled under the pressure and it has driven them insane. Though we don’t know them from their lives before, one can assume they did not go into the zombie pandemic whooping and hollering as they tried to corral zombies. They have embraced the hopelessness in a way and now simply survive just for the sake of it, with no real plan on what they would do if they even managed to escape the bunker. Miguel allows his terror to consume him and his mental breakdown has fatal consequences for many of the others in the bunker.

Next up are the scientists. Their sanity is holding on by a thread, held there by their mission to understand and possibly cure the zombie affliction. In a sense, they are trying to play God, Dr Logan in particular, who spends most of the movie attempting to train a zombie in civility. Their goal is to take back control, to do everything they can to exert their own intellect over the problem. Though in the end the irrationality of everyone else around them makes this impossible.

Finally there are the civilians, John and McDermott. They are simply along for the ride, trying to make the best of a bad situation safe in the knowledge of their own skills and the necessity for their own survival for the others. Their laidback attitude, staying out of the squabbles between the other main groups sees them able to keep cool heads and seem to cope relatively well with the notions of doom. They continue with their duties, even as death seems inevitable, and they lift up the other characters who come to them for help.

I guess watching this movie made me analyse how I’m dealing with the pandemic. I feel like I flit between the civilian approach (definitely the best way to deal with things) and the crumbling of Miguel. Though perhaps that is more to do with attempting to become an artist than anything.

Sometimes going for one’s goals feels like a lost cause, like there’s no point whatsoever in even trying and that it won’t ever lead anywhere, just a waste of time and hope. It’s easy to fall into this mindset and if you let it consume you, then failure is guaranteed. Instead we all need to take a lesson from John and McDermott, just go through the motions, keep doing what you’re doing and make the best of the situation.

Even when you’ve tried radioing the mainland every day for the last year to the response of dead static, go back the next day and send out your broadcast again. You never know if that will be the day the mainland picks up your broadcast and sends rescue, and if you don’t try, you never will.

Stay safe out there everyone. And watch Day of the Dead, it’s on YouTube and it’s awesome.

Also here are some sketches I did of the main antagonists Rhodes and Steel (respectively).

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