King of the Zombies is Dead (Permanently)

George A. Romero, one of my favorite filmmakers, has died after a short battle with lung cancer, Indiewire reports. Almost singlehandedly responsible for the zombie genre in its current form, Romero directed ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and its many sequels, most notably the consumerism allegory ‘Dawn of the Dead’ – my favorite horror film of all time.

Romero (born 1940, New York), who resided in Pittsburgh, made his feature debut with ‘Night of the Living Dead’. It was a low budget zombie movie that was both groundbreaking and shocking in its time. Quickly, it became a major horror classic. He then directed some smaller, personal films in which he often combined horror and social commentary. In 1978 he topped the success of ‘Night’ with his brilliant follow-up ‘Dawn of the Dead’.

In the eighties his career stagnated a bit when he created the third part in his zombie series ‘Day of the Dead’. It was a failure both commercially and critically. In 2005 Romero made a small comeback with ‘Land of the Dead’. Other noticeable films he made are ‘Martin’ (a vampire flick) and ‘the Crazies’ (an outbreak film).

To honor the master, I hereby re-publish my review of ‘Day of the Dead’ which he considered his favorite film.

Dear George, may you – as opposed to your favorite characters – rest in peace.

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Day of the Dead (1985, USA)

08-05-2008 – by Jeppe Kleyngeld

Director: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Jarlath Conroy

Running Time: 102 mins.

In George Andrew Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) the dead had been resurrected and started a crisis. In DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), the zombies were taking the upper hand. In 1985’s DAY OF THE DEAD, there are barely any humans left. A small group of survivors consisting of soldiers, scientists and civilians, are holed up in a military complex with hundreds of flesh-eaters roaming around on the outside.

There has been a time leap since DAWN, so the zombies are slowly decomposing and are looking greyer and greener than in the previous ‘Dead’ movies. The different groups living in the claustrophobic complex are each dealing with the situation in their own way. The scientists are searching for a way to ‘control’ the zombies, while the soldiers want to wipe them all out. The few civilians on the other hand, just want to enjoy the time they have left. Lack of any prospects starts to create tension in the group. Especially with the psychopathic Captain Rhodes (Joe Polito) who commands the small military force. Not before long, their infighting leads to a final clash with the zombies. Romero shows us once again that humans are a greater danger to themselves than any outside threat.

Romero called DAY his favourite entry in the series, even though it was derided by critics upon release. Today the film has got more of a cult status. And justly so. As a film basically showing total apocalypse, it succeeds brilliantly. Only problem is that it’s pretty depressing. From Dr. ‘Frankenstein’ Logan conducting gruesome experiments on zombies in his underground lab to the unpleasant characters: it all contributes in making this film pretty hard to sit through. In DAWN, the shopping mall location lend itself well for some inventive humor. The funniest thing about DAY is the ‘intelligent’ zombie Bub who even utters some dialogue in the film (A..llli….ciaaaa…).

In short, Romero’s golden touch, the fantastic special make-up effects by Tom Savini and the dark atmosphere make this a must-see for horror fans. The successful military satire is another good reason to see this. However, dejected types might be better off not watching this. Like the other ‘Dead’ films its concept may well be brilliant, but it is still a nasty and depressive movie. Twenty years later Romero would continue his series with LAND OF THE DEAD.

The Road

The Road

He thought about in the road and he thought that he should have tried to keep her in their lives in some way but he didn’t know how. He woke coughing and walked out so as not to wake the child. Following a stone wall in the dark, wrapped in his blanked, kneeling in the ashes like a penitent. He coughed till he could taste the blood and he said her name aloud. He thought perhaps he’d said it in his sleep. When he got back the boy was awake. I’m sorry, he said.
It’s okay
Go to sleep.
I wish I was with mom.
He didn’t answer. He sat beside the small figure wrapped in the quilts and blankets. After a while he said: You mean you wish that you were dead.
Yes.

Stel je voor dat de mensheid geen toekomst zou hebben. Dat de laatste mensen over een verbrande aarde zouden ronddolen, overlevend op de laatste resten ingeblikt voedsel en elkaar. Dat alle dieren zouden zijn uitgestorven tenzij misschien heel diep in de oceaan. Dat het zo koud zou zijn dat je de aankomende winter niet zou overleven…

Dat is in de essentie het scenario dat ‘The Road’ je voorschotelt, een meesterwerk van Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), dat de deelnemers aan de klimaattop eind 2015 allemaal zouden moeten lezen. Dit is hét boek voor de generatie van global warming.

Is er dan helemaal geen hoop in ‘The Road’? Een klein sprankje. Een vader en zoon reizen langs de verlaten weg van het verwoeste, asgrijze Noord Amerika. Ze leven op de schamele restanten voedsel die ze nog kunnen vinden, en zijn voortdurend op hun hoede voor de kannibalistische bendes die de weg stalken. De vader en zoon zijn op weg naar het zuiden van het land, waar mogelijk de zon nog wel eens schijnt, de enige hoop voor de mensheid…

‘The Road’ is hartverscheurend omdat het menselijk lijden plaatst in een wereld waar dit niet tot iets beters gaat lijden. Er wordt nooit uitgelegd wat er met de wereld is gebeurd, maar het heeft er alle waarschijnlijkheid van dat de overlevenden ten dode zijn opgeschreven. Zonder natuur, zonder flora en fauna is er geen overleving mogelijk. Dat maakt dat de ontberingen des te schrijnender zijn. Daarnaast is er nog de onbreekbare en diep ontroerende band tussen vader en zoon die McCarthy op virtuoze wijze tot leven weet te brengen.

Zonder twijfel een van de meest aangrijpende boeken van het laatste decennium. Het kan bijna niet anders dan diepe sporen in je nalaten. Maar wees gewaarschuwd; het is een erg mistroostig literair werk.