GEORGE A. ROMERO... MORE THAN JUST ZOMBIES!
(July 05) by Jsyn.
|This summer, George
Romero returns to his most well-known and loved genre with the
zombie goodness of LAND OF THE DEAD. I'm looking forward
to it as much as the next ghoul, but to think that Romero
is a one-trick pony is totally unfair! He has consistently made
great (or at least interesting) films throughout his career and
influenced countless "new school" genre directors all
over the world. NIGHT, DAWN, DAY and LAND
OF THE DEAD may be the legacy for which he is forever revered
in the dark hearts of horror enthusiasts everywhere, but his other
films show the many different facets that make up this complex and
diverse artist. Take a look...
GEORGE A. ROMERO... MORE THAN JUST ZOMBIES!
CRAZIES. (1973): Panic, paranoia, large-scale disasters,
and the military are favorite Romero themes recurring in
many of his films. THE CRAZIES was a little rough around
the edges, but hey... it was the seventies. It's easy see how it
mirrorerd people's fears and suspicions of that day and age. I feel
This one is directly responsible for 28 DAYS LATER
, more so than his DEAD movies. A small Pennsylvania town
is accidentaly infected with chemicals from a plane crash that makes
the locals go nutty batshit berserk, and the Army is called in to
"contain" the infection. I'm sure you can guess where
this is headed. Because of the rough style in which it was shot,
THE CRAZIES is either something you'll love or hate. Regardless,
there is no denying the fact that it makes you "feel weird"
when you watch it. And I'm sure that is exactly what George
was going for when you think about it. This film is actually being
remade with Romero's blessing by Brad Anderson, director
of the underrated masterpieces SESSION 9 and THE MACHINIST!
(1977): An early Romero classic. His take on the vampire
genre has a grounding in reality the same way as his zombie movies
do. A young man named Martin is convinced he's a vampire.
He dosent turn into a bat and have a crazy widows-peak, but he does
kill lovely ladies and drinks their blood! This is a really interesting
film, that feels more like a character study than a straight up
vampire flick. Martin is obviously troubled, and through
his eyes we see "romantic" killings. Sexy, passionate,
the girls practically give themselves to him, just like the kind
seen in other vampire movies. Then in mid-scene, the perspective
jumps to the terrified victim, which is all struggle and screaming
as Martin almost pleads with them to die. Thus the genius
of Romero. At once cinematic and sweeping, while still retaining
elements of his documentary-style unflinching eye. So is Martin
TRULY a vampire? The ending scene courtesy of Tom Savini
pretty much makes that a moot point. I'm pretty sure there is a
new special edition DVD of this totally worth checking out.
(1981): Perhaps the most bizarre entry on Romero's resume.
This was a fun albiet weird movie about a troupe of modern-day "knights"
that joust on motorcycles. A young Ed Harris debuted (spectacularly)
as the Good King Billy and even Tom Savini (???WTF???) got
into the act, hamming it up, doing his best Burt Reynolds
wearing a studded leather speedo (???DOUBLE WTF???) as the Black
Knight Morgan. Both smart and silly at the same time, this feels
very much like it was made maybe five years too late, being more
suited for the Seventies. It had a really loose, cool "carnival"
atmosphere which perfectly mirrored the subject matter. Lots of
crazy motorcycle stuff and witty dialogue peppered throughout, and
lots of character development. I have no idea where Romero
got the inspiration to do this movie or why, but such is the mystery
of ROMERO! Don't ask questions, just sit back and enjoy this
one. I totally dug the fact that knights jousted on motorcycles.
(1982): The first of his collaborations with Horrormeister Stephen
King, CREEPSHOW was comic book adaptation literally lifted
off the page. This anthology practically oozed with the lifeblood
of the old EC Comics, respectfully borrowing imagery and
tone from TALES FROM THE CRYPT and THE VAULT OF HORROR.
Zombies, monsters, creepy-crawlies, murder most foul... this had
it all! If anyone remembers the Wes Craven version of SWAMP
THING, you'll notice some of those same visual comic-book elements
in that movie as well. I'd even go as far to say that certain little
touches pre-dated the stuff Robert Rodrigeuz did on SIN
CITY by over twenty years! Still scary, still awesome.
SHINES. (1988): Another kind of horror used to slyly
illustrate another kind of social commentary: science gone awry!
Boiled down to it's essence, the plot almost sounds like an episode
of Family Guy: killer helper monkey. But in the hands of
the Romero, it's a tense, dark thriller with a legitimate
threat in that little simian. After an accident, a man is left crippled
and hopeless. He is given a helper monkey, Ella, to assist in daily
life and possibly even lift his spirits. Unknown to him, Ella is
a genetically enhanced experimental monkey stuffed with human brain
cells. Ella somehow bonds with her master, picks up on the handicapped
man's anger and goes knife-happy. In my opinion this was the most
"commercial" Romero film in terms of style, script
and casting. MONKEY SHINES is a unique, straight-up thriller
with experimental sci-fi elements and one of Romero's tighter
EVIL EYES. (1990): Romero and Italian horror
king Dario Argento adapt two Edgar Allen Poe stories
for the big screen. They sort of teamed up once before on DAWN
OF THE DEAD (ZOMBI overseas), and on this one they made
it official. While not a critical or commercial success, TWO
EVIL EYES is an interesting footnote for fans of either director
and worth checking out. Originally, there were supposed to be four
directors adapting Poe stories (John Carpenter and
Wes Craven included!!!!) but scheduling did not work out
and the other two had to drop out. It's really interesting to see
two great directors concentrate their talents into a more compact,
tighter timeframe... it makes a much more potent brew. Romero
handled 'The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar' and Argento
tackled 'The Black Cat'. It's unfair to compare one to the
other, you really must take the film as a whole. Both had excellent
casting (Adrienne Barbeau and Harvey Kiteil!) and
effects by Tom Savini. While the film felt like more of an
expanded CREEPSHOW (short stories between King and
Poe are in some ways obviously similar) it showcased some
great work by both directors. Ideally, TWO EVIL EYES could
have totally blown away CREEPSHOW as FOUR EVIL EYES,
but for that I guess we have the upcoming anthology tv series MASTERS
OF HORROR to look forward to!
DARK HALF. (1993): Another Stephen King adaptation
and arguably one of the best ones, in the horror genre anyway. George
really stuck close to the source material, letting the original
story seep onto the frames. This movie, I think, was an unfortunate
casuality at the box office because of a combination of timing and
the fact the audiences were becoming tired of Stephen King
movies. After all, we had to endure SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK,
GRAVEYARD SHIFT and THE MANGLER. That lack of interest
led to THE DARK HALF becoming an underrated work, both for
King and Romero. The casting was great (Timothy
Hutton in dual roles!) and the look of the film was so creepy
in certain spots. It was also intellegent and well-written, without
having to cop-out to cheap exposition that plagues so many lesser
King adaptations. This is more a "thinking man's"
horror film more than anything else. This is one of my favorite
Romero non-DEAD films and it's a shame it doesn't
get more recognition.
(2000): Here's a really interesting one that is probably the most
personal film Romero has done since MARTIN. It's the
story of revenge, identity, anonimity, and consequence. An honest
shlub is pretty much screwed by everyone in his life for being an
honest shlub, and he wakes up one day to find that he literally
has no face, identity, and better yet, conscience. This complete
lack of self enables him to exact revenge and get medievel on the
asses of all that have wronged him. There are some great things
about this movie, such as the somewhat surrealistic cinematography...
and some not-so-great things like, um, the script. It was a cool
idea but somewhere it got lost along the way, which is a shame.
Romero himself commented on the many rewrites and unfortunatley
it really does hurt the film overall. But I'm still not gonna shoot
the chicken over one bad egg.