George A. Romero

Night of the Living Dead

Year: 1968
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: John A. Russo and George A. Romero

RYAN’S REVIEW

Here is the last of our Halloween movies that we had planned to do last month during October. We chose 6 movies to review and watched all of them but never found the time to write down our thoughts on this one. We had planned to publish this review on the day of Halloween because it is so legendary but opted with Nightmare on Elm Street instead. After watching Freddy’s debut film we changed our mind because it just seemed to fit so well with the day. I think this movie is great for Halloween but in today’s society zombies are bigger than Halloween and seemingly welcome year round.

We live in a zombie society these days in a pulp tense but almost in a literal sense as well. America is an apathetic and sedated society. When you take a step back it almost seems like we are all the walking dead just going about our routines blindly without noticing the world around us. It’s probably why they have become so popular. Take away the gore and half of the fans might as well be looking in a mirror when they sit down to watch The Walking Dead or go to the theater to see the newest zombie film.

Regardless any reason there is no denying the simple fact that zombies are popular. They make for great media and Amber and I have been sucked in for a while. (We do have a zombie apocalypse bag packed in our closet and a plan of action should the dead start rising today). We are big fans of The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman, as well as the show, and we also read the Empire of the Dead comic by George A. Romero that ties into this film. None of what we see today would have been possible without this film. This film is legendary for a number of reasons but most importantly it created the zombies that have become so popular today.

With this film George A. Romero created something new. Though in the movie the dead are only referred to as ghouls; they quickly took the title of zombie afterwards. Prior to this film zombies had been in films before but weren’t the flesh eating dead we know today. Romero created a new type of monster with his ghouls and did it without using masks or costumes. These zombies weren’t the living zombie under the spell of a voodoo witch doctor but recently deceased people who rose from their graves to eat human flesh and can only be killed by destroying their brains. The rest is history. Romero himself has made six films in this series but zombies have become so popular there is no end to the media they have invaded. Later this year we will even see a classic story invaded by zombies when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hits theaters.

I love this film because it is so groundbreaking. Not only in its creation of modern day zombies but because it was so aggressive. This movie was graphic in a way people were unaccustomed to in 1968 in more ways than one. It was violent, bloody, and it starred a black man for crying out loud. Yes this movie, if I’m not mistaken, was the first to star an African American in the lead. Granted he doesn’t survive in an end that must have blown people’s minds in 1968, but he is the star of the film. He opened the doors for many actors to walk through and that can’t be taken for granted. This movie also opened the doors for the industry in general by raising the bar of what was deemed acceptable.

Let me take this opportunity: Thank you George A. Romero! As a fan of more graphic content, when it is necessary, in media I appreciate this movie all the more for what it did for films. It was so bold and inventive. Even today when I watch this movie I am shocked by its graphic nature, but that is what impresses me. Here I am, nearly 50 years later and it still has the potential to surprise me. That’s amazing and that’s exactly what makes this movie so significant. One of my favorite movies of all time is Romero’s sequel to this one, Dawn of the DeadHowever, it would have never been possible without this, and this was pretty damn good in its own right.

This movie is the only reason that we have read Empire of the Dead by Romero. A couple of years ago Amber got me half of the available volumes of The Walking Dead comics for Christmas. I think I was dancing around the door when the Barnes & Nobles finally opened following the holiday. I had already burned through something like 8 volumes immediately, unable to stop or put them down. Once I bought every other volume up until 17 I was going mad at the possibility of waiting six months for the continuation of the story. Suddenly one day I realized if I went to an actual comic book store I could probable get a couple issues of what had come out before the next volume was available. A volume is six issues of the comic. Typically an issue comes out once a month, so you can consider each volume usually six months of compiled material. I love the series and even though it is maddening to wait for the next issue now on a monthly basis it never fails to surprise me with where it goes.

Once we started visiting the comic book store once a month we naturally got interested in more that was available. We now read several comics on a regular basis as issues are released and George A. Romero’s Empire of the Dead is one of them. I was not initially interested in reading another comic about zombies as I was already so aggressively invested in The Walking Dead. Yet when Amber brought home the debut issue one day I found myself reading it that evening. Despite my lack of enthusiasm it was the fact that it was rooted in this movie that got me to keep reading it as it came out. In the story of Empire of the Dead people have been living with the dead for a long time and have rebuilt a different sort of society set in New York City. They catch and train qualified zombies for pit games, the zombies have a low level of thought and organization, the Government is actually run by vampires so on and so forth. One of the main characters in the comic is the daughter of Barbara from this film. She believes zombies are capable of higher thought because her mother was not actually killed by the zombie brother that pulled her through the window in the film but saved by it. It’s neither here nor there but this story has kept me invested specifically because it is rooted in this film.

This movie really doesn’t need any input from me, it speaks for itself. It is an incredible movie that will never be forgotten and it is simply the beginning of an ongoing story that that is still going strong 46 years later. If you have seen this movie then it is never a bad idea to check it out again when Halloween rolls around. If you haven’t seen it then what are you waiting for? You have missed out on something that is awesome.

 

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Take Two

Year: 1978
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: George A. Romero

RYAN’S REVIEW

To read our original review of this film follow this link. If you would like to read our review of the 2004 remake follow this link.

This is my favorite horror movie of all time and without doubt one of my favorites films to watch during this time of the year.  What this film does right is capture the fear that has taken over society.  The desperation that rises as the enormity of the situation sets in.  The movie doesn’t waste time with any build up it just drops you right into the thick of things and we follow the four main characters as they get the heck out of dodge and seek refuge in a shopping mall. We see the weight the new world has laid on their shoulders and we see how futile their efforts are in the face of the threats that rise after the zombies do. The zombies we see in this film aren’t all that intimidating.  They are slow-moving, clumsy, and they aren’t overly aggressive.  The zombies we saw in the remake are the complete opposite.  In the 2004 film we see what I like to think of as the new age zombies.  Zombies that don’t just run but sprint at full speed with an intensity and aggression that will scare the hell out of anyone.  The differences in these two zombies completely change the face of this title in the remake film but it wasn’t for the better. It was nothing more than just shock value because these upgraded zombies were scary but they didn’t make for better film, only better scenes on occasion.

I had a discussion this weekend with someone about the merits of the two differing zombies and that’s what I’d like to focus this post on.  I can completely understand the new generation of viewers that prefers these new age zombies.  It’s shocking to see these zombies with such ferocity like we see in the 2004 remake of this movie, World War Z, 28 Days Later, and other new zombie films.  These zombies are scarier when watching the movie but they are almost too much.  This type of zombie is practically an overwhelming threat that can’t be subdued and therein lays the problem.  With zombies, I don’t think the real threat is the one they pose but the consequences they have on society.  When a zombie epidemic spreads throughout the world governments fall, the infrastructure falls apart, and society crumbles.  If they are the slow-moving stumbling zombies they can be defeated but the overwhelming amount of them is too much for anyone to handle. By the time some survival group does get a handle on the zombies the damage is done, and the way the world was working is just too big a puzzle to simply put back together again. When everything is lost and everything stops the people of the world have to learn to live again. We have become too reliant on technology and too many can’t live without it. The fear then doesn’t come from the zombies but from the world they have created because in the new world anarchy reigns. The zombies are simply a manageable threat that’s overwhelming at first but can be subdued over time. When they simply become another part of everyday life the real threat comes from the people who want what you have, because they will do anything to get it, and there is no authority around to stop them. With these new aged zombies that simply can’t be stopped, because they are so fast and aggressive, I see no possible outcome other than the extinction of humans.  Maybe that is what some people like about it but I think the threat of evil men, who are capable of thinking, who can take over society in the aftermath is much scarier.

We see these differences in the two versions of this film.  In 1978 the survivors find peace in the mall for a long time. The zombies outside their fortified home are still a threat but one they have learned to keep at bay and live with. Their safety and livelihood isn’t threatened until evil men come to take what they have.  The men in the motorcycle gang haven’t lived in the comfort of security, they’ve been out there in the dog eat dog world and they are looking at the mall with hungry eyes.  Not for the security it offers but the spoils available to them from within. They ride in and destroy the mall and everything the main characters have worked to achieve because they can. They are the real threat in the world created by zombies, and they are much scarier than the zombies ever could have been. In 2004 things are much different. The threat posed by the zombies is too great and the survivors are simply fighting to survive, but there is no survival in this scenario. We see some of the characters escape but there is no hope for them out there in a world full of new age zombies and eventually we are led to believe that they all die. The 2004 ending is scary but it’s all over then.  There is something to be said about that outcome and I can understand the appeal.  I just think there is so much more potential the other way around.  Things get bloody and awful in 2004, but in 1978 a story was told, and it was a story with the possibility to continue and offer us so much more. Speaking only under the parameters of “scenario,” I think the 1978 type offers more because the door is open for things to come, crazy things that might blow our minds like what we have already seen has.

This is what makes The Walking Dead so good.  Since reading the comics the show is based on I have become obsessed with the series.  The zombies are merely a dangerous annoyance in The Walking Dead world.  The real threat comes from the men who have risen out of the ashes to seize power for themselves. The Governor, the roaming cannibals, or the current and most awesome badass of all time Negan. Negan is such a cool bad guy I actually find myself wanting him to defeat Rick and following him through this new world of the undead as it is.  Negan actually berates Rick at one point, calling him an idiot because he actually uses guns on the dead.  Negan doesn’t do this; he saves his bullets for the enemies that require more than a simple head bashing to beat. In a world where the old school zombies have destroyed everything it’s better than new age zombies taking over because there are men like Negan out there, and Negan is scarier and more dangerous than all the zombies in the world put together. I have read that people really want Negan on the show but I don’t.  I love the show and I love Negan but it’s not a union that will work the way it should.  One of the things I really love about Negan is his proficiency with the Fuck word and profanity in general.  To take it away from him to put him on TV would seriously drop his cool factor, and I don’t know that any actor in the world could live up to the expectations I would have as a fan of the comic.

I think Hollywood is destroying the effectiveness of the old school zombies because they keep going for that shock factor.  It’s like overloading a film with too many explosions because you want to blow people away instead of getting inside their heads. The top example that comes to mind is World War Z. So many things are wrong with this film.  First of all it’s rated PG-13 so that they could take advantage of the teenage market, but no zombie film should be PG-13.  The Walking Dead is literally more graphic and it is contained by the limitations allowed on television.  Secondly, they are the new age zombies in World War Z and it wasn’t like that in the book.  The movie shows zombie running at full speed in hordes and building giant zombie ladders.  In the book the zombies aren’t like that, but that is why humanity was able to eventually prevail. In the book society crumbles due to the threat and the story is really about how the world survives and then manages to put itself back together.  The consequences are so significant. The damage done isn’t because of the zombies but because of the chaos and fear the zombies create.  When society breaks down resources become scarce, communication falls apart, and the world as we know it comes to an end.  People are forced to adapt if they are to survive and it’s not a simple thing to do.  The movie was really nothing at all like the book and just a pathetic attempt to make money on something that was successful.  Everything that made the book successful though is gone from the film and it’s just taking advantage of the name recognition.

This is all just my opinion but I’d invite you to sound off now on how you feel about the new age zombies vs. the original.  I think it is an interesting topic and there are valid points to both sides of it.  Let us know how you feel about it. Also, if you are a fan of The Walking Dead and know who Negan is let me know what you think about the guy.  To put it as Negan would, “I fucking love the fucking guy.” I don’t know anybody who has read as deep into the comic as I have so I have nobody to talk to about him.  I’d love to hear what someone else thought about him.  Otherwise, check out the original Dawn of the Dead as Halloween approaches, it’s a great movie that really sets the tone for the holiday.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Year: 1978
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: George A. Romero

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is easily my favorite horror film of all time.  It is a film that really was ahead of its time and even in the zombie fanatic society we live in now it still ranks among the best. There were certain things I liked about the attempt to remake this film but everything that made this film so remarkable was gone.  This wasn’t a movie made simply to scare people and make money. This movie tells a story, it sends a strong message about human nature, and above all it both scared and entertained us.  George A. Romero started something with his zombie films that I personally can’t even begin to understand.  I don’t know why, but zombies are everywhere these days and it all began with Romero. If anybody out there could explain to me our society’s fascination and obsession with zombies I would really appreciate it.

Romero does a fantastic job of capturing the fear and chaos that has over taken society with this film.  It begins amid the chaos and you can see how all types of people deal with the situation at hand.  The apocalypse has already started, some people run, some just keep on working, some arm themselves to fight, and many fall prey to the undead killers that come by the tens and hundreds.  If you let yourself get sucked into this one you can really feel the weight of what is going on.  When Peter shoots the room full of zombies one at a time in the beginning of the movie you can almost feel what he is going through. When the four main characters sit in the helicopter and all tell the cop they don’t have any cigarettes and then immediately light up after take off you can feel the desperation of the dog-eat-dog world society has turned into.  It’s each man for himself and life has become too dangerous to risk helping others.  So much of the film is more about what it does to the living to go on living in this world.  It isn’t easy to keep surviving and you can feel how hopeless their existence has become.  In the end Peter doesn’t even know if he wants to get away at all and ponders ending his life right then and there.  This movie is intense and effective throughout, that’s what makes it such a great film.

What I especially like about this film is that it was so bold and honest. This movie isn’t overly dramatic becuase these people don’t have time to deal with drama.  The movie is always intense because they are always in danger, from zombies and other survivors alike.  What I really hate about AMC’s The Walking Dead is that there is so much pointless drama in the show.  I like to call it “The Walking Cry Babies Who Sometimes See Zombies” because all the people do is bitch and moan like they don’t realize death is around every corner. The Laurie Holden character is the worse, always bitching about needing a gun.  Why the hell would they want guns when guns draw the zombies? It’s stupid, they literally find a stockpile of melee weapons at one point but continue to be preoccupied with guns.  Laurie Holden actually shoots another character at one point but not only is she allowed to continue carrying a gun she gets defensive about it all the time. In the final moments of the last episode in December the show literally switches roles and you actually find yourself feeling sorry for the zombies. This is a stupid show people and I implore you to put it aside and watch this film. See a good zombie movie and compare it, and if you would like a seasonal tv show I would suggest American Horror Story on FX.  It was both scary and very creative, and Jessica Lange was incredible.

You shouldn’t see this movie because I am telling you to watch it, you should see this movie because it is a classic. I would not call myself a zombie fan but it just so happens a lot of great media involves zombies.  I may not like The Walking Dead but I can see the merits of the show and understand why people like it.  Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite comedies of all time, I can literally watch it over and over again and still love it.  I really enjoyed Stephen King’s Cell, that was actually dedicated to George A. Romero.  I don’t understand what makes zombies so marketable, but I can tell you one thing…I’ve learned a things or two.  Should the dead rise from the grave I know exactly what to do.

UPDATE: I’d just like to note that since writing this review I have been won over by The Walking Dead and will take back some of the things I have said.  I stand by what I said in regards to season 2 but changed my tune after seeing this.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Who can say that they don’t like this movie? Unless, of course, you don’t like zombies and WHO doesn’t like zombie movies? This movie is a classic in every way. If you think The Walking Dead is great, then you definitely need to see this film that helped pave the way for all other movies in its genre. I am in no way endorsing The Walking Dead. I think it is drama-filled bullshit by, you know just by the way.

I don’t really have anything else to say about this movie except that you should see it. Ryan lays out all of the details for you, so I pretty much get to tell you whether or not I think it’s worth watching or not. Well this one is, it’s a classic and is well worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Dawn of the Dead (2004)