George A. Romero is considered the godfather of modern horror movies and the father of the modern zombie flick. He's also considered no threat whatsoever to current directors.
There really isn't much to tell about the man himself that's funny. He made some awesome movies, he made some bad movies, and you saw him in Silence of the Lambs without even realizing it. (His name appears in the cast list, lower than the dog who played "Precious"). He's kind of funny looking these days with his white hair, bad teeth, and glasses so thick he can see the future, but what old man isn't? So instead of just showing you pictures of what we'll all look like at his age, let's talk about his movies.
Fuck it. We're going to show you the pictures anyway.
Before 1968, zombies in movies were frightening on that whole "Oh, shit, they're all coming after me and there's not much I can do about it" level, but they could be stopped. A bullet in the chest of a mindless slave is just as effective as a bullet in the chest of the villain in any John Wayne movie. Or, if you got really lucky, you could just track down the guy who turned all those people into zombies in the first place. Taking him out usually fixed the whole damned mess.
But this was all before. With their new movie, "Night of the Flesh Eaters", George A. Romero and John Russo presented a new kind of horror movie villain. Though they never used the word "zombie", the name stuck with the new idea, and before long, B movie directors everywhere were cashing in on the unstoppable, flesh-eating, walking dead.
This actor defined for the entire world what the word "ZOMBIE" would mean from that moment on.
The premise has been used so many times now that zombies are not only as recognizable as vampires, but like their undead cousins, they've sparked countless internet debates over what constitutes a "true" zombie. Never is it mentioned in these debates that what makes a true zombie is also what makes a true Smurf or a true tooth fairy, but let's face it, this is what makes the internet what it is.
Before its release, "Night of the Flesh Eaters" was renamed to "Night of the Living Dead". Unfortunately for George, a simple oversight on the new title screen resulted in no legal copyright existing for the film. Because of this, "Night of the Living Dead" is public domain, which means it can be legally reissued and sold by literally anyone, in any format.
Seriously, Hard Rock Zombies. This is the equivalent of releasing
Both Romero and Russo made a string of properly copyrighted sequels to "Night of the Living Dead", and both were successful in their own way. One was clearly better than the other, however, and unfortunately, Russo's inferior franchise managed to secure the rights to the "of the Living Dead" part of the title. Romero just stuck with "of the Dead" for his movies.
"Dawn of the Dead," made ten years later, picks up where "Night" left off. Society is starting to crumble and small bands of survivors are going into hiding and adapting to their new world. Mostly, this adaptation involves stealing shit and shooting guns and never, ever raising the question of how they plan to carry on the human race with three men and one woman. Let's just say that even if the zombies hadn't gotten two of them, it was just a matter of time before there was one man left standing.
She'd be cute enough to take her pick even if she wasn't the only woman left alive.
"Dawn" was chock full of bad make-up, silly special effects, and cheesy 70's horror movie music, and every minute of it was awesome. Even the introduction of the ridiculously stereotyped biker gang and all of the dumb humor that they introduced somehow manages to enhance the story rather than distract from it.
Ask people about "Dawn of the Dead" and one of the first things you'll hear about is "social commentary". In fact, you'll probably hear it praised as "brilliant" or "insightful". All these people are saying, in layman's terms, is that Romero managed to notice that people in our capitalistic society like to shop. The depiction of mall shoppers as mindless zombies is pretty accurate, but it's not like it's all that shocking of an idea. If you've ever been to a mall, ever, you've probably thought the same thing, whether you've seen "Dawn of the Dead" or not.
LOL OMG!!! you're like, totally talking about me, aren't you???
"Dawn of the Dead" marks the first appearance of the word "zombie" in a Romero movie.
"Day of the Dead", made seven years after "Dawn", takes us further into the apocalyptic future with one of the most badass awesome opening scenes of the 80's. "Day of the Dead" is the story of a small group of soldiers and scientists living in an underground bunker and trying to figure out how to stop the zombies.
This movie is in some ways better, and in many ways worse, than "Dawn of the Dead". With the possible exception of "Night of the Living Dead," "Day of the Dead" does the best job of setting the mood for the story. On the other hand, this movie has some of the most exaggerated acting ever. EVER.
You want to see ACTING? I'll show you motherfucking ACTING!!
It is important to note that while each movie in the series is a direct sequel to the movie before it, there is no consistency in the appearance of the characters. Hairstyles, mode of dress, etc, fit the time during which each movie was filmed, not when it takes place. Each movie is intended to take place a short time (usually months) after its predecessor.
For twenty years, "Dead" fans had only their precious three movies to watch. There were knock-offs and parodies galore (Russo's "Return of the Living Dead" series could be viewed as both), but most people considered the trilogy to be the entire story.
That was before the zombie revival of the last decade. The immense popularity of genre updates like "28 Days Later" and the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead" inspired Romero, much in the same way that the immense popularity of stupid shit that teenaged girls will spend money on inspired the "Twilight" series. In other words, he smelled money.
In 2005, twenty years after putting the series to rest, Romero shocked fans by not making it clear in the title what time his next "of the Dead" movie was taking place. "Land of the Dead" was announced to much anticipation. If they were going to bring back zombie movies in a big way, the reasoning went, Romero was the man to show them how it's done! Even more exciting was the fact that this movie had a big budget. There were big-name actors in it. The promo shots looked great. Details began to leak. There would be a walled city in which the wealthy had made their homes. Inside the city, there would be no zombies. Outside, there would be nothing but zombies. Everyone who bought a ticket to that movie bought it to see how the zombies would eventually get into the city and what kind of sick shit they'd do once they got in.
In that respect, the movie lived up to the hype. The zombies did get in, of course. And when they got in, it was a blood feast. The carnage was every bit as awesome as in Romero's previous movies, even if "Big Daddy's" makeup looked a lot more like Emperor Palpatine's than it should have.
But Romero, not content to just tell us a zombie story, decided to go and force some of his social commentary on us. Instead of using a perfect opportunity to blow up a bridge full of the walking dead at the end, the heroes decide to let them go. After all, as the protagonist points out, "they're just looking for someplace to go, just like us."
Yeah, they're just looking for someplace to go and EAT PEOPLE. The biggest question this raises is how this guy managed to survive the zombie apocalypse for this long.
But instead of shooting him in the back of his head and blowing up the bridge themselves, the rest of the characters look out thoughtfully, and the movie ends.
Using rational thought and diplomacy when dealing with your enemies is not a bad thing. Hell, it could have saved America all sorts of shit in the last few decades, as Romero was undoubtedly trying to tell us. But you know what, George? Go make a political movie. We're here at this one to see zombies eat people and people shoot zombies in the face. That's it. Anything beyond that is just shit we have to sit through.
After the disappointment that was "Land of the Dead", Romero made another, even more awesome announcement: he would be returning to the roots of the series with his next movie. Forget all that dumb ol' learning stuff that his zombies had been doing in the last two movies. He was going back to the beginning, to the original night on which it started, and he was going to tell us a whole new story of a whole new pack of survivors. Fans couldn't wait! Again, details were leaked. This time it would be a group of college kids shooting a horror movie in the woods. When the outbreak began, their cameras would be rolling to capture it all. This had the potential to be the best "Dead" movie yet!
Instead, we got "Diary of the Dead". That's right. Not "Twilight of the Dead" or "Midnight of the Dead" or even "7:14 PM EST of the Dead". Fucking Diary. Of the Dead.
Do you know why there aren't more scary movies with the word "diary" in the title?
The worst part is that the title isn't the worst part.
Seriously. If "Land of the Dead" suffered from a bad ending and some cheesy elements, "Diary of the Dead" just plain suffered. There is nothing good that can be said about this movie. OK, well, technically, it can be said that it's not "The Star Wars Holiday Special", but that's all.
Beyond the bad acting, the bad dialogue, and the unbelievable story (yes, even after accepting that the dead have risen up and begun feasting on the flesh of the living, we're still calling bullshit on this whole movie), there is the simple fact that the entire movie is nothing but a self-glorifying piece of propaganda. And it's not even propaganda for a cause, or a political party, or a way of life. It's just "hey, film makers are important people". For 95 minutes. That's an hour and a grueling half of a movie that is to "Night of the Living Dead" what "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is to "High Noon", only to be further insulted at the end with a proclamation that by making this movie, Romero has once again proven how essential his role in society is.
Stand aside, citizen. I'm making a film.
Romero's got a new one on the way already. After the resounding success of "Diary of the Dead", he's working on "Survival of the Dead", another great title (Note: Look up sarcasm. Apply.) and undoubtedly another great rape of a classic series by the very man who made it classic.
So tell us, what are you doing, George? Do you need to borrow some money? We can take up a collection. Seriously. You're just scraping the bottom now. "Survival of the Dead"? What's next? "Bedtime of the Dead"? "Christmas of the Dead"?
Seriously, where does it end?
It must be noted that with the exception of the ones he has released in the past decade, every one of Romero's movies has been remade. "Night of the Living Dead" has been remade multiple times. This is either evidence of their impact or of the fact that Hollywood has completely run out of ideas.
You know it's only a matter of time.
So here's the bottom line. Let's say your name is George. Romero, Lucas, it doesn't matter.
Let's say you've got a movie trilogy that people know and love under your belt. You've got an army of devoted fans and people are still discussing the minor details of your classic films every day on the internet.
Let's say that it's been twenty or more years since you've released anything under that title.
Let's say you're suddenly struck with an idea that would just make an AWESOME sequel, prequel, or some other thing to which you can cleverly add the suffix "quel".
Just know this: Your idea is not good and will forever dim the memories of legions of fans. Please, for the love of everything that is good, just leave it the hell alone.