The one movie I couldn’t explain away was Day of the Dead. Remnants of a military unit survive in an underground base. The last doctor on Earth experiments on a corral of zombies in hopes of discovering a cure. The best the doctor can do is turn one into a pet, which later—you guessed it—kills him. The movie is slow, long, poorly lit, with sparse dialogue. There is very little threat throughout. The soldiers are otherwise perfectly safe from the horrors above, yet they’ll never leave. In gray bunkers surrounded by several rings of fence, in a hell they cannot escape, they are away from the world, isolated, trapped. This made theirs more frightening than the world outside, teeming with undead.
My grandpa and me, we watched this movie many times.
In the goriest scene, zombies rip the doctor in half. They dig into his guts like children scooping handfuls of sand, and then pull. He is a bad man, yet the scene is terrifying.
I look to Joe for a punchline, a justification, a way of seeing that doesn’t make me want to scream.
He’s on his back in the armchair, resting his eyes.
The gentleman nodded at the bartender, who took up Curly’s drink. When Curly sat up to tell them where to go, the older gentleman blew at his chest as if he were a candle’s flame. Curly looked down to see if the man had spit on him or something. His eyes must’ve screwed up because he tumbled out of the saddle and spilled onto the floor. If he’d hit his head, he didn’t feel it. The older gentleman held out his hand to help him stand, as if they were going to be friends after that.
“I’ll do it my damn self,” Curly said.
The older gentleman crossed his arms, silver mustache a stiff line, immovable, a dare.
Curly climbed the leather stirrups. He pulled at the horn of the saddle, found his feet.
The older gentleman gave three slow claps. Curly wanted to hit him.
Behind the man, the family huddled in their corner. The stragglers, just shadows, shuffled near the door. The bartender disappeared calmly in back. No one was on Curly’s side, except the bear. The dumb beast leered behind the glass.
Then she slipped out of the condo’s front door, softly pawing down the steps into the tepid darkness, where she again became a woman, crunching across the crisp ice of a lover’s parking lot at five o’clock in the morning, feeling somewhat silly, yet nevertheless as if she might never die but instead return to youth again and again, only with hands more withered each time. Her walk to the curb took a brief nineteen seconds, by the end of which she had decided, no, she would not see Reynold again because he would fall in love with her.