People either love George Romero's films or they hate them. But whatever camp you reside in there is no denying that he is one of the icons of modern horror. Most only know him for his living dead films, but he has sat in the director’s chair for a few other really good films. Romero turned 75 this week (Feb, 4th to be exact); and in honor of one of my favorite horror directors I would like to share with you my 10 favorite Romero films.
10: Monkey Shines-1988
For me, the biggest problem with this film is that it is too long. It would've been better as an hour long film instead of two hours. What I did like about the film was that it was the first time Romero kept the terror internalized rather than over the top with in your face blood and guts. It had more of a Hitchcock feel and pace to it. It really is more of a twisted love story with hints of The Fly and Frankenstein’s Monster; a real treat for the psychological horror fans out there.
9: The Dark Half-1991
This was the second time that Stephen King and George Romero teamed up on a film and it was my second favorite horror film in 1991 (Popcorn being my first). It was a surprisingly good little horror film decent scares and make up. This is a re-imaging of another horror classics, Jekyll and Hyde and it is visually Romero’s best looking film. But unfortunately the acting was a bit annoying for my taste.
8: Diary of the Dead-2009
I guess it was inevitable that even Romero would have to delve into the found-footage genre of horror and this was his entry. I liked this one more than most did. Unfortunately the first person perspective, in my opinion, dilutes the tension associated with a good zombie apocalypse films. But it is still a decent re-boot for his zombie franchise. Its too bad that those that followed seemed to be way off mark.
7: The Crazies-1973
This one disappointed a lot of people that saw it because they were expecting another zombie flick. But Romero was trying to go another route. The threat in The Crazies is not zombies; it is science and humans, specifically the government/military (a theme that would show up again in my number one pick). My favorite aspect of this film was the way that Romero films the military agents and politicians when they are bickering among themselves; whenever he sifts the focus on them the soundtrack is filled with overlapping, chattering voices and the scenes are edited in way that makes everything feel kind of off-kilter and slightly annoying. Much like listening to politicians and military types in real life.
A lot of my fellow horror fans had no idea this was a Romero film; when it was released many critics proclaimed it would be the end of George Romero’s career. But I disagree in a big way. I will be first to admit that it is not very scary, but it is tense and creepy. Romero uses shadows coupled with some clever editing and decent acting to build the tension in a satisfying manner that is missing in a lot of horror films these days. He also stayed away from the gore factor that is so common in a lot of modern horror. If you haven’t seen this one I highly recommend you check it out.
As I mentioned earlier lot of people were upset with The Crazies, but Romero returned to top form with this vampire tale. A lot of critics felt this was Romero’s best work artistically. It has all the scares and gore you would expect from the king of zombies, but it is also a surprisingly tender and sometimes sexy little film with a lot of heart.
King wrote and Romero directed this send up to the classic EC comics and they hit home run. Sure it’s hokey and cheesy, but it proves that Romero and King know how to mix tongue in cheek humor with gut clenching thrills.
3: Dawn of the Dead-1978
Even Ebert thought this was “one of the best horror films ever made”. It is violent, it is brutal and it is appalling; but it is also very well put together, funny and merciless in its satiric view of American consumerism. It also has one of the most iconic zombies to shuffle across the screen in Fly boy.
2: Night of the Living Dead-1968
I get rotting zombie intestinal piles of gore from my fellow horror aficionados every time this discussion comes up. This is the movie that started it all; you will get no argument from me on that front. But It just does not thrill me like my number one pick does...sorry. There is no doubt that with Night of the Living Dead Romero ripped every cliche of the horror genre to shreds and set up a whole new genre at the same time. While the zombies are the bread and butter of this film, it’s the tension in the house that drives it until the very end. The humans are surrounded by the living dead, but it’s the still living characters inability to cooperate that is the real threat in this movie.
1. Day of the Dead-1985
Like I said, i'm constantly getting a royal butt chewing for this one. But its my list and I have to be honest. I've always felt that this one has never received the attention it deserved. I feel you have to watch all three of the living dead films to truly appreciate this one. It was the most ambitious of the three films as far as story and the makeup effects ( the head rip is classic) and it is never boring. My only problem with Day is with the side characters; all the soldiers (including their leader) are cliches and the acting is way over the top. But it is and always will be my favorite of the Romero zombie films.
So happy birthday George and thanks for all the blood.