Cult director George A. Romero’s most accomplished works derive from the fact that his first film single-handedly created an entire horror sub-genre. With his pivotal debut “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968 Romero captured the world’s attention by presenting a terrifying and frightening film that used the horror genre to comment on current political and human issues. Here are a few of the highlights of his career.
10. Bruiser (2000)
The story of a successful man who is submissive to everyone around him to the point where his face literally disappears and he is forced to regain his dignity and self worth in order to regain his identity and face back.
9. Creepshow (1982)
Stephen King and Romero together for one of the most disturbing, entertaining, and gross anthologies ever to come about and it’s presented as a live action comic book in the EC Comics tradition! The duo broke new ground with this film by opening up the anthology format and proving to audiences that a horror film can be funny as well as terrifying.
8. Two Evil Eyes (1990)
Romero’s The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar was an interesting Edgar Alan Poe adaptation that focused on character and story like all of his films yet steered clear away from the other trappings of his previous films such as the obsessive gore. These elements were saved for director Dario Argento’s contribution to the film The Black Cat. So, together Romero and Argento craft a modern day nightmare into the psyche that’s an A+ on both of the directors resumes.
7. The Crazies (1973)
Before “28 Days Later” this cautionary tale about a virus that is let loose in a small town presents the lengths at which the government will go to cover up their mistake. It’s also a tale of survival and the effects of mass hysteria and paranoia as people who were once your friends are now your enemies. The film was meant to inform the public that the government has its own agenda and it may not be the same as yours.
6. Monkey Shines (1988)
A psychological thriller that is carried mostly by one person and his monkey and that one person is immobile in a wheelchair. Not the greatest make up for a successful thriller but in Romero’s hands it’s a smart, complex cautionary tale about the dangers of experimental drugs on lab animals even if the ends do not justify the means.
Since it comes later in Romero’s career there is less gore and more reliance on suspense to terrify his audience and Romero proves that he is adept at using both.
5. Knightriders (1981)
Romero’s only non-horror film (unless you include the little seen and practically unavailable “There’s Always Vanilla”). This tale of a group of people living as knights of the middle ages in modern times is an engaging ensemble piece with some of the best performances in a Romero film to date. Romero has always presented human characters and this is no more apparent than in this film where the present day begins to infringe on the medieval culture of the knights threatening their way of life. Again, Romero stresses the influences of contemporary issues on a society which chooses to live in a time when life was simpler and better.
4. Day of the Dead (1985)
The second sequel to Romero’s dead trilogy is pessimistic in look and tone but presents a solution to the zombie apocalypse. That even through our ignorance there is the hope of a place out there for peace and tranquillity and it is this idea that drives the main characters from desperate beginning to brutal end. Romero wanted to end his trilogy with a sense of hope that was absent from the previous two films and there was no better ending than this (that is until “Land of the Dead”).
3. Martin (1977)
Hands down one of the most original vampire films ever to be released. Everything you think you know about vampires is turned on its head as the main title character relates the truth about vampires to a radio disk jockey. This doesn’t sound all that interesting but in Romero’s hands, he crafts a complex character study that encroaches on myth and legend and religion with an ending which is shocking yet fitting to the story you’ve just witnessed. Few films try to re-invent the vampire wheel and fewer still succeed as well as this one.
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
There is no denying the contributions of this landmark film on the horror genre. It opened a lot of doors for independent filmmaking as well as for people who wanted a deeper meaning in their horror films. In many circles it is considered the “Citizen Kane” of the horror genre and for good reason as this film broke new ground and took the genre into wonderful and unexplored directions.
1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Romero’s sequel to “Night of the Living Dead” ups the ante on gore but remains faithful to his continued allegiance to tell thought provoking stories that comment on our society. By taking place primarily in a strip mall Romero comments on our need for consumerism. It’s a thought provoking, character driven film that is the pantheon of all zombie-based films.
Written and compiled by Kevin Powers. Kevin is a filmmaker, producer, and writer. He starred in independent film “Jack O’Lantern”, and has produced the films “Hell’s End” and “Bad Land” for Southlan-Films. His written work has appeared in Citizens of America and Indie Slate magazines. He also publishes film reviews and an online graphic novel at his website Broken Lighthouse Pictures.