Entertainment Today and Beyond

Never Met a Zombi I Didn’t Like…

ROMERO to shoot new ZOMBIE film and a look back on his LEGACY in the genre!

With News that the legendary GEORGE ROMERO is all set to start filming his newest ZOMBIE film, reportedly a quasi-sequel to his DIARY OF THE DEAD, with the storyline set on an island, I thought I would take a look at his legacy in this genre. It started in 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a low budget shocker that was not only way ahead of its time, but one of the most influential movies ever made. It also launched the concept of the flesh eating undead! Shot on a budget of less than 115,000, the film, laced with the director’s trademark social commentary, was heavily criticized upon its release in 1968 as it featured the type of graphic content not seen in movies at this time. It also featured a black man as its lead, well played by DUANE JONES, in low key but heroic fashion. While not very successful on its initial release, the black and white film started to catch on in a decade worth of re-releases, especially midnight showings. Its reputation would be solidified with solid word of mouth and become a cult classic. Ultimately Night of The Living Dead grossed over 40,000,000 worldwide and put first time director Romero on the map!

A little more than a decade later Romero would create not only one of the greatest genre films ever made, but one of the best movies ever produced. That was his 1978 film, DAWN OF THE DEAD. Shot over the course of four months on a budget of less than $1,000,000., the film is considered by many, including myself, as the Gone with the Wind of the horror genre. Filmed mainly at the Monroeville mall in Pennsylvannia, Romero used the zombie setting to take a shot at America’s obsession with consumerism. Despite its modest budget, the film comes off as epic in scope and works on many levels. Part horror, part action adventure and socially relevant, the film is a true classic. If there’s truly a thing as movie magic, Dawn of the Dead has it, as it’s a totally satisfying movie on every level. The cast, which included mostly unknowns including Ken Foree, David Emge, Scott Reiniger and Gaylen Ross, all worked well together creating well-rounded and memorable characters, despite a grueling filming schedule of overnight shooting. That was due to the availability of the Monroeville mall as it was open to the public during the day. The film’s concept of four people who hide out in a shopping mall during a massive zombie outbreak is one of pure fantasy that audiences really got involved in. Dawn became a mainstay of the midnight movie going experience and the film would ultimately gross more than $55,000,000. There are three different versions of the film, available on the definitive ultimate special edition DVD – a must own for any collection. The three versions are the U.S theatrical version (Romero’s definitive cut), the European version (slightly shorter with a different score), and the extended version (the longest version and my personal favorite).

In 1985 Romero’s third entry in his dead trilogy, DAY OF THE DEAD, was released to mixed/negative reviews as many complained the film, set mostly in an underground army base, was too slow, talky and depressing. Its main theme of scientists versus the military wasn’t nearly as epic as his much bigger in scope Dawn of the Dead, which sort of took fans by surprise. Over the years many have come to appreciate the film as a solid entry in his original trilogy and Romero himself regards it as his favorite in the series. While Dawn remains my personal favorite, I’ve always liked Day a lot, and think it’s a fascinating film. The movie grossed 5.8 million domestically and 34 million internationally, making it profitable.

In 2005, twenty years after his last zombie film, Romero took the bait of the studio system and created his LAND OF THE DEAD for Universal. The film, which dealt with America’s class system set against the backdrop of a continuing zombie plague, opened to a majority of positive reviews – although hard core fans thought the overall experience was somewhat lackluster. While I like the film, I don’t think it’s on par with the original trilogy. Worldwide, the movie grossed 46,000,000 on a budget of 16,000,000.

Romero’s barely released DAIRY OF THE DEAD (2008) which was shot for only $1,000,000., using the handheld semi shaky camera technique, was an interesting film indeed. While I think it has to be judged somewhat on its budgetary constraints, the movie works as an interesting companion piece to his original 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, as the story deals with the beginnings of the initial zombie outbreak. In many ways it’s almost like the film was never made as it had no real theatrical release to speak of and many have never seen it. Still, I think it’s well worth a look and I liked it even though it’s not overly memorable!  Worldwide the film grossed $4,600,000. on a budget of less than $2,000,000..

At the age of 68 it will be interesting to see what George can do with his next zombie outing. I know I’ll be there to see it!


September 27, 2008 - Posted by | Reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Here’s my view on Romero’s legacy in this genre READ […]

    Pingback by First Look TRAILER to George Romero’s new DEAD film « Entertainment Today and Beyond | January 6, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: