“They’re coming to get you, Barbara”
When your first movie is considered one of the most important not just in horror but film overall, you’re off to a hell of a start. Night of the Living Dead is critically acclaimed & amazingly has been selected by the Library of Congress in the US for preservation in the National Film Registry, as a film deemed ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.
George A. Romero is considered the godfather of zombies. We here at Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life owe him a lot. He’s the reason we love zombies so much & he’s the reason why we love horror so much.
He died aged 77 on July 16th 2017 & we wanted to pay tribute to him in the only way we know how. This is a career retrospective (in the same vein as our Wes Craven retrospective). A look back at some of George’s best moments in film as well as some of his worst.
“I guess in my pictures you’re either doomed or you’ve got yourself a hell of a job.”
The only place to start is with his crowning glory…the ‘of the dead’ trilogy.
Night of the Living Dead was directed by George A. Romero & written by John Russo & Romero himself. Released in 1968 it told the story of a group of people coming under attack from the living dead at a remote farmhouse. Incredibly shocking & ahead of its time, it is a work of art (read our full review here). So much so that it has seen countless remakes, sequels & spin-offs.
Without Night of the Living Dead we wouldn’t have the huge amount of horrific zombie shite that we have now! Not sure if that’s such a good thing! Also never forget that Russo & Romero’s falling out over the direction to take the series after Night of the Living Dead saw the creation of The Return of the Living Dead series!
As good as Night of the Living Dead was no-one could have expected what would come ten years later.
Dawn of the Dead was such a step forward in every aspect. For starters it was in colour! And what a difference it made. A killer cast, a great story that spoke about American commercialism as well as the living dead & genuine moments of horror! You can read our full review here.
Made on a small budget the scale of what Romero managed to create here continues to amaze to this very day. It saw a ‘remake/re-imagining’ in 2008 which was also very well received by many.
Often considered to be the best of Romero’s work as well as one of the best zombies movies ever made. On a personal note for a long time I considered this to be my favourite of his movies. However that was because I was to young to fully appreciate the darkness that came with the next in the series.
In 1985 Day of the Dead would be released & while it wasn’t initially as successful as the previous two it has become a cult favourite over the years. Focusing more on the human horror of things, Day of the Dead is an incredibly bleak movie. It also has some of the best acting & best gore of the series so far. You can read our full review of that movie here.
“Just because I’m showing somebody being disemboweled doesn’t mean I have to get heavy and put a message round it.”
The ‘of the dead’ series could do no wrong, it felt complete & made Romero a household name. In 2005 he would return to the movies that made his name with 3 more sequels. Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead & Survival of the Dead. The three movies were disappointing to say the least but at least retained Romero’s wit & interesting take on American culture & class. Of the later three Land of the Dead was the best received & credit has to be given for Romero’s attempts to evolve his own story.
“I’ll never get sick of zombies. I just get sick of producers.”
George A. Romero will always be known for his zombie movies but they weren’t the only films he directed or worked on. Early in his career (1973) he wrote & directed the cult classic horror, The Crazies. A movie about the effects of an accidental release of a military biological weapon on the people of a small American town. A fantastic movie that failed on initial release but is now considered a seminal piece of work. Even getting a remake in 2010.
In 1982 he directed the horror anthology, Creepshow. Considered by many (including us, check out our review here) to be the bar that all other horror anthologies have to reach. A lot of Creepshow’s success can also be attributed to the screenplay having been written by Stephen King. Romero & King…alongside an excellent cast & some great tongue in cheek humour made absolute gold here.
It’s often overlooked that Creepshow was directed by Romero, as is the fact he wrote the screenplay for Creepshow 2. While no-where as good as the first anthology (you can read our full review of that movie here) it still has moments & one particular great story (The Raft).
Throughout the 90’s Romero didn’t do much directing or writing. In fact, the only memorable work he did was writing the screenplay for Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (another great anthology, read our review of it here) & directing/writing the adaption of the Stephen King book, The Dark Half.
Interestingly every so often Romero would make cameo’s in movies too. Many that would go completely unnoticed. As well as all his own movies, Romero pops up in The Silence of the Lambs!
Throughout the noughties, Romero concentrated on the next 3 movies in his ‘of the dead’ series as well as appearing as himself in a few documentaries & shorts. His last credited film was Deadtime Stories: Volume 2 (executive producer & actor) in 2011.
Let’s not forget that we would have had a very different set of Resident Evil movies had he written & directed it. After all, the games were influenced by his style of zombie. At least we got his Resident Evil 2 commercial though!
There is no denying the impact Romero has had on, not just horror, but culture itself. The shambling dead…perhaps the ultimate sign of respect though was when he was made into a zombie boss character in the Call of the Dead DLC pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Millions of gamers worldwide have enjoyed shooting the hell out of a super-powered zombie George A. Romero.
So if you should ever see a zombie walking towards you remember what you need to do…go for the head.