Death is the underlying basic theme of every zombie film and reflects the attitude and beliefs of society towards mortality.
There is little explanation of what happening after death and the livings, though liberated from the stigma of religion, are still haunted by this existential issue, either feeling that they are responsible for the dead or waiting for the last call. Halperin's voodoo zombies, Romero's living dead, Jackson's blood-splattered travesties, all show us the downside of immortality.
The first vision of death is physical. Therefore, to confront a zombie is to be reminded of our own mortality. We, as humans, go to great lengths to obscure the remains of our dead, especially our loved ones.
It is no mistake that we bury our corpses "six feet under" so as to eradicate the ugliness of decomposition. Being that our mortality is also something that we try put on a symbolical if not religious ritual with tidy rituals and outright denial, zombies serve as a painfully striking reminder that we will all eventually return to the same stinking earthly essence from which we are born.
The movie Pet Cemetary clearly articulates an aspect of death that is important in all zombie films, the role of acceptance. Perhaps it is when death is not accepted (either through grief or the desire for vengeance) that the dead are most likely to walk again or, taken metaphorically, the events of the past will sour life in the present.
The zombie is the embodiment of the insatiable tyranny of mortality, its rotting face and shuffling implacability represents a potent symbol for the horror death. Its unspeakable appetite warns us of the fragility of life when faced by the reality of death, and its violence is the revenge of a past which demands guilt and fear of us because we live on in a world it has been denied.
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