Sunday, April 18, 2010

GEORGE A. ROMERO: THE MAN WHO CANNOT CATCH A BREAK

What can be said about George A. Romero that hasn't already been said? He's the father of the zombie, and created the most impacting franchise in the horror genre history. If it wasn't for this adorable old man in the thick, black glasses, half of the horror films to come out since 1960 wouldn't exist. He may be praised and cited as one of the most influential horror figures of all time, and lately he's been the subject of harsh and what I feel, unnecessary criticism.

Alright, so we can all admit that Survival of the Dead and Diary of the Dead aren't universally accepted to be the best films. Fair enough. I'll even bite the bullet and admit that Land of the Dead and even Day of the Dead have both come under speculation for being less than stellar films. However, why should these films be the reasons that he hangs up the hat? He's the director, yes, but what people need to realize is that there is so much more that goes into a film other than the choices of the director.

Think of it like the court systems. George A. Romero is the Supreme court and Actors are a parking ticket. Do you send the problem with the parking ticket to the Supreme court? Hell no, you complain about the casting director aka the traffic court! Alright that was a stretch, but it works. Anyway, a lot of the problems people have with his movies, have nothing to do with him. Day of the Dead was probably the last zombie movie that was totally of his vision. After that, the big studios got involved. While he oversees it, film makers have to sort of obey what the studios want. Why? THEY PAY THE BILLS. Does George A. Romero have a lot of money? Honestly, not really. NOTLD is a public domain film and I highly doubt he gets royalties from every zombie movie made inspired by him. He doesn't have the money to make a film off his own merit, so he has to do what the studios want. If they want a big budget explosion and CGI vomit out of a mutant zombie without an arm...he has to give them a big budget explosion and CGI vomit out of a mutant zombie without an arm. For some reason, people also like to complain about the social commentary. Have we really become a society where we can't watch a zombie movie with hidden meaning about how much we all suck? We must be, considering how many people complain that they just want to see zombies munching. So we complain and complain about how the zombie movies have fallen behind and that he should just move onto a different project.So he does, and what happens? He's ostracized and told to go back to what he's good at. Wait a minute, I thought we just said he was losing his touch at zombie films? If he stops making zombie films, he's told to get back to what he does best, and when he does go back to the very genre he established, people complain and whine this he's lost his touch. Cut him a friggen' break! No one likes to see Romero zombies being "smart" and using guns, but if he put out a film with the same gore level as NOTLD, people would call it weak. Thanks to films like Hostel and Saw, Romero HAS to add insane amounts of unnecessary gore in order to even keep audiences interested. He just can't win.Whether or not he's lost his touch is irrelevant to me. He's the man who started it all for most of today's horror films, and he deserves the utmost respect. Let's be honest, where else can you really go once you've made two seemingly perfect zombie films in a row?

18 comment(s):

Erin Rose Tollefsen said...

Glad you wrote this. I, too, was getting sick of people criticizing his every move. If you don't like his films, don't watch. Also, put your money where your mouth is. I challenge anyone who is over-critical of his new films to make a better one.

I wish he could make movies the way HE wants them, but like you said, that is nearly impossible now of days. We should start a fund raiser to get him the funds to make any movie he wants, exactly how he wants it. ^_^

Simon said...

Great piece. I hate it when people go off on any director like Romero for being 'weak'. I mean, even his weakest stuff is twice as good as any of the CGI-bloated horror flicks studios churn out every month.

Pax Romano said...

Brilliant piece, my dear. It's nice to see one of the younger folks "getting it" concerning Uncle Georgie. The man is a brilliant film maker who has always stayed true to this 60's ideals - he never sold out, and he continues to infuse his movies with undercurrents of what he thinks is socially relevant.

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

I don't think Romero should retire from the zombie genre, what he should do is take a break with it and direct other horror movies... then return to the zombie movies. (I really liked Monkey Shines). I have not lost any faith in him because like all great directors, he has is few flops.

4D4Films said...

Fantastic post. George has given so much to horror and obviously there are many forces at play when making a movie. A director gets all the credit when a film succeeds and all the blame when it fails. He deserves so much more respect than that. Thank you for writing something that needed to be said.

Neil Sarver said...

Great post!

I'm a big Romero fan. In that way that I see something worthwhile in everything he's done... Ok, not There's Always Vanilla, but in that I merely agree with the man himself, so I'll let it go... so I may view his recent material differently than others.

I think, as great as they can be, his living dead movies are overrated, if only in how they overshadow the many fascinating, beautiful and frightening things he's done with his other movies. I mean, Martin is brilliant and second to nothing in his oeuvre.

I saw Survival of the Dead at FantasticFest, with Romero in attendance, which was amazing, but it really felt to me like the movie was a struggle to make a zombie movie. It felt more like Knightriders than any of his other movies. I don't mean that as an insult, but rather a strange form of praise. I think he's reaching out to do more within this crazy subgenre that he invented, but it is a crazy subgenre and when it's seemingly the only thing he can get financed, it must feel limiting. I hope he's given the money to do something different than that soon.

the jaded viewer said...

He's basically copying the copycats of his movies instead of making new satire zombie movies he's famous for.

Land - Big explosions and CGI gore
Diary - First person Blair Witch crap
Survival - ???

I haven't seen Survival but its getting negative press.

I'll judge for myself when I see it.

Neil Sarver said...

I think Diary of the Dead was the first of the faux documentary movies that understood that the YouTube revolution meant that we all film our lives and share them. I thought that was a fantastic insight that made it vastly more interesting than simply a Blair Witch rip-off.

I think the time of Diary will come, because I think it more than Land or even Day actually did understand the times in which it was made.

I think Survival is a very lyrical, kind of sad wistful movie, which puts it very much on the same page as Knightriders, which made it nearly impossible to get good press from modern horror movie fans with no frame of reference to appreciate that.

That said, I stand by my statement that his movies feel to me like he's not particularly engaged with making zombie movies... I interpreted - although perhaps I'm reading in - the mournful quality as an artist longing for the ability to stretch out.

Kelly M. Hudson said...

I agree with Neil, Diary was brilliant and will one day get the recognition it deserves. I also loved Land and Survival and don't really understand why others don't. And like BJ-C, I don't get where all the negativity comes from. In any case, great article!

Cinema Suicide said...

I'll join the ranks of the accused here but take a softer stand.

See, there used to be a time when budgets dictated the scope of Romero's movies. He'd write like he had all the money in the world and then scale back the script once the budget was locked in. Still, when money was tight, George rose to the occasion and because of his unique method of meeting challenges we got some god damn progressive horror movies like Dawn and Day of the Dead (For the record, Day is my favorite of the bunch). But it doesn't end with zombies. Ever seen Martin? Knightriders? Monkeyshines?

For me, it was like when George Lucas announced that with the end of the Star Wars prequels, he was done with Star Wars and was going to make some arty movies like THX-1138, I got all freakin' excited. I thought we were going into a brave new world of off-beat creativity. Then Lucas announced a buttload of Star Wars related projects. It seemed to me like Romero was doing the same thing. Rather than challenge himself with more projects like Bruiser, he went for the easy sell and played to the crowd with a series of zombies movies that just don't really work and lack the impact that his signature movies had. That period of George A. Romero is past. His best movies are behind him and the high water mark was set in the 80's. My expectations of a man who made what I consider to be the biggest impact on horror movies ever decades ago is a period of free experimentation to close out his career.

George is awesome. He's a legend and I know that he has something awesome in his head. Working in the Canadian film system such as he does these days, he could make it happen if he could just stop wasting time and energy on zombies.

BJ-C said...

I personally liked Diary of the Dead, but I have to be fair and say i'm the minority on that one...

Sean Springett said...

Great entry. You totally nailed it.

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Emily said...

Well said. My thing about Romero is that all of his films historically gain depth as time goes on. I hated Day of the Dead for a really long time in the mid-90s, but today I find a lot of good in it (though I still hate the entire cast). Land has definitely aged better in recent years, and I'm of the opinion that if the narration were cut from Diary, it'd be a decent little socially minded movie. I haven't seen Survival yet, but I'm happy with the guy just having fun and experimenting in his old age. Like his new stuff or not, they're his movies and they still have the signature of one of the greatest horror directors of all time.

B-Sol said...

I'm also one of the proud minority of Diary of the Dead supporters. I thought it was better than Land, which I also enjoyed even if I had issues with it.

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

Zombie movies featuring merely zombies munching is but zombie porn. This does not, of course, mean that the zombies are naked and engaging in oral orgies. It means that I find such things as basically uninspiring as pornography, which, of course, is lust without meaning. It is amusing or exciting for perhaps five minutes. Then one wishes to view something with an actual story.
I have never understood why I found Creepshow 2 flat when both George Romero and Stephen King were involved and that is a winning combination, in my most humble opinion. However, the first Creepshow was genius. Night of the Living Dead remains my all time favorite zombie movie and the only one that I cannot watch before going to bed. Jaded though I may be, it still gives me a good chill!

Emily said...

I agree with Tempest, and it's why Deadgirl impressed me so much. In this day and age, you can't just make a zombie film to show off zombies, nor can you really use them as the driving force. Films should use zombies to explore something else. Otherwise, there's just nothing we haven't seen before.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. Great article.

Bayou Hunter

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