The Columbus Dispatch photographer’s image is frightening and compelling. Approximately 100 protesters who were urging Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to end the state’s stay-at-home order and reopen businesses pressed up against the glass doors to the statehouse, chanting and banging windows.
One wears a Guy Fawkes mask. Two men wear Trump-branded baseball caps. Two women, the closest to the windows, shape their mouths into the same elongated howl as Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” American flags obscure some of the protesters in the back.
“I thought this was a screencap from a zombie movie,” tweeted one woman.
“Some strong ‘Shaun of the Dead’ energy in this photo from the protests in Ohio,” tweeted another man.
It looked awfully familiar to Michael Satrazemis, the director of photography for “The Walking Dead” and director of “Fear the Walking Dead,” two shows that seem a little scarier these days, since they’re about a zombie apocalypse that begins with an uncontrollable pathogen.
The visual trope is “classic horror,” says Satrazemis. It plays on the common fear of claustrophobia, making the audience “feel the walls are closing in and the world is shrinking around you. And there’s no way out.”
It’s a device his show has deployed across seasons: In their pursuit of humans, the walkers have been trapped against chain link fences, and, in a particularly memorable scene, a revolving glass door. (“That was really, really a crazy sequence just because to get out, [the humans] had to revolve it,” says Satrazemis. But the way they were positioned in the door, it meant someone would get pushed out to the zombies, and eaten.) He thinks the device works best when the pressure of so many bodies against the glass cracks it slowly until it shatters and the zombies come pouring in. “You can really kind of build up and intensify the horror,” he says.
Tom Savini acted and did the makeup and prosthetics for George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” the 1978 film in which zombies pursue humans in a shopping mall. Seeing the Ohio protest image for the first time, he was drawn to the different attire and personalities of the people in the glass, much like the film.
“The zombies were all sorts of types of people. There was a guy in a suit, like he had come directly from the funeral home. There were football players. Clowns. A woman in a wedding dress,” says Savini. “It’s very, very similar to ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ ”
But the trope works two ways — both in horror, and in Bickel’s photo. Often, the screaming faces pressed up against the glass are the monsters. But sometimes, as in Satrazemis’s revolving door, they’re the protagonists — and they’re trapped as they try to flee the zombies.
The barrier provides a decisive moment for them: It’s time to fight back. People who aren’t in favor of social distancing and are pushing to quickly reopen the economy see prey, not predators in the screams of the Ohio protesters. They see heroes.
Bickel saw door frames.
“When I was making the picture, I thought the windows and door were an interesting compositional element, but not much beyond that,” he told The Post via email. The resemblance to a zombie movie didn’t occur to him until other people pointed it out on Twitter.
Savini sees comedy. “It reminds me of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ ” the 2004 British “Dawn of the Dead” parody, he says. Promotional images for that film do the glass trope, too. There’s an element of humor in the Ohio image for Satrazemis, as well: Though the people might look as though they could have been on his show, “We wouldn’t style it with so many funny hats.”
Satrazemis was in the middle of shooting the upcoming season of “Fear the Walking Dead” last month when the production was shut down because of the coronavirus. It felt like life imitating art — well, the virus part, not the shuffling, flesh-eating monster part. Themes from the last month, he says, may show up in that season, whenever they get the chance to finish it.
Savini says current events make him feel like he’s in the film “28 Days Later.” That one is about a highly contagious rage-inducing virus, where survivors must make their way through an abandoned London and a quarantined Britain.
“What makes it seem like a horror movie to me is when I walk a block away from my house and all the stores, the restaurants . . . are empty, closed, dark on Friday night,” he says. “That’s like, what the hell’s going on?”