A Bloody Good Time 01.10.13: The 10 Best George A. Romero Films
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Our month long look at horror directors continues with George A. Romero’s best films. Romero is a director that many will argue has suffered a downgrade in quality as he got older. He hasn’t made a movie since Survival of the Dead, which wasn’t well received and is considered one of his worst. But there was a time when he was very, very good. Most of these films come from that time.
#10: Two Evil Eyes (1990)
For horror fans, there’s not much to hate about Two Evil Eyes. It’s two of the genre’s best directors, George Romero and Dario Argento, taking on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. In this case, Argento takes on his own version of “The Black Cat” while Romero adapts a lesser-known story called “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” It has a stellar cast including E.G. Marshall (who appears later in this list!), Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau and Harvey Kietel. There’s even Julie Benz in her first acting role, if you’re curious about that.
While this movie isn’t as good as you may expect from putting these two in charge of adapting Poe stories, it’s still a decent watch, one that’s a little under appreciated today. Argento and Romero had worked together for years, so it’s only fitting that they would eventually make a film together at some point. Like Romero, many say that Argento has went downhill over the years as well. Whether or not either has is up to your own personal tastes.
#9: Land of the Dead (2005)
While it’s not the best of Romero’s Dead films by any stretch of the imagination, Romero’s Land of the Dead came along right after 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake so he could show everyone else how it’s done. There are some parts of this movie I don’t like. Dennis Hopper shows up and hurts things, as he wasn’t really doing anything but hamming it up at this stage of his career. I also never got the love for the Big Daddy character.
But we still have a solid zombie film with neat little gags like a hanged person that turns into a zombie, a huge tank capable of wiping out hordes of the undead and the idea that even in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Romero’s social commentary was slightly more on the nose this time around but it gets the job done. Plus there’s Asia Argento who is just gorgeous in this movie. Sorry, my inner male took over for a second. Where were we? Oh yeah. Zombies. They creep me out.
#8: The Dark Half (1993)
The Dark Half isn’t as beloved as other Stephen King novels or George Romero films but I think it still holds up. Of course the book is much better but that’s the case in a lot of film adaptations. I find it odd that this is the film that King and Romero eventually did together as an adaptation of a novel, because at one point Romero was set to do Pet Sematary. I honestly would have liked to see how that one would turn out. Maybe someone should hire him for the remake.
This movie is about an author who kills off his pseudonym (much like how Stephen King killed off Richard Bachman) until that pseudonym manifests itself and begins killing people. It’s an absurd concept, but you can’t deny its originality. Timothy Hutton manages to hold his own in dual roles and we also get a nice supporting turn from Michael Rooker as the Sheriff investigating the matter. It’s a weird but fun little horror movie that you should check out if you haven’t.
#7: The Crazies (1973)
I guess I should start by saying I thought the remake was better executed. That’s not to say this one is bad but the concept is pulled off a lot better. To start with, I think there are far too many shots of the government’s role in this. I kind of liked the faceless “big brother” approach in the remake better because it made it scarier. While an incompetent government can also be very scary (look at the world we live in), I’d like to watch something that doesn’t really remind me of the nastiness of real life. That’s just my take on it, and I’m sure you have your own.
But there is a lot of truth to The Crazies. For example, if a virus likes this does spread, it’s going to be because no one’s smart enough or careful enough to contain it properly. If we’re comparing this to the remake, then I can say I liked the way people went crazy in this film a lot better than the remake. The remake had them as zombie-like towards the end (or at least rage virus like) but here it was more subtle. You couldn’t really tell who was infected until they did something completely bizarre like laugh at a mass execution. While I prefer the remake, this is a very, very good film and one that is shockingly true-to-life in some ways, even now.
#6: Monkey Shines (1988)
Monkey Shines should not be as good as it is. It’s a story about a paraplegic who forms a symbiotic bond with a monkey, which is smarter than normal and begins murdering people. It’s ridiculous. But this works, mostly thanks to the performance of Jason Beghe. Beghe manages to ground the ridiculous plot by making us sympathize with his plight. A sympathetic character, and one that we enjoy can sometimes help us to suspend our disbelief.
Man and monkey do form a bond, and its believable. It’s also not played stupid, as in, whenever Alan realizes what’s going on he knows he has to take care of the monkey somehow. But he’s one man that can barely move against a small and highly intelligent animal. If you’re an animal lover and you were drawn into this movie as much as I was, the end of the film may actually strike you as very sad. But it had to be done. If you’re not emotionally involved, it’s still fun to see a man who insane to kill a small little monkey in a movie. He loses his damn mind at the end.
#5: Martin (1977)
This is the kind of movie that sets the question of “if vampires really existed, what would they be like?” It’s always debatable whether or not Martin is a vampire or if he’s just crazy. He drinks blood, but he does so with a razor. He conveniently doesn’t have any of a vampire’s weaknesses, which he dismisses as magic and silly. But he’s still drinking blood, and it’s never given any reason why. He could be crazy and a psychopath, but he could also be what he says he is. Maybe vampires aren’t supernatural, they just age slowly and crave our fluids.
Martin is a much slower movie as we spend time with this guy and get to know him in between his feedings. What he does is repulsive, but Martin himself seems like a likable guy. He’s one you would never suspect of murdering woman and consuming their blood. That’s probably what makes him just a little bit scary. You wouldn’t suspect him. Then he’s sticking you with a needle and everything’s over.
#4: Creepshow (1982)
If you like Tales from the Crypt, you’ll love Creepshow. Sure, it doesn’t have the Cryptkeeper, but it does have George Romero directing, Stephen King writing and cast that features E.G. Marshall, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins (sans mustache, which is just bizarre), Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, and Hal Holbrook. You get five stories plus a wraparound that are completely different from one another.
My favorite has always been “They’re Creeping Up On You”. That moment at the end in which the old man begins to have cockroaches burst out of him stuck with me for years after I saw this on Monstervision as a kid. Of course most people remember “The Crate” thanks to the the awesome looking monster used in the film. There has never really been a movie like Creepshow before or sense, and I think that’s why it holds up so well.
#3: Day of the Dead (1985)
Obviously the films that put Romero on the map were the Dead films. They also happen to be my favorites of his, with Day being the first up here. It’s the weakest of the original three, but by no means should that make you think it’s anything less than great. We get some more nasty gore (Savini could do zombie eating in his sleep at this point, I think), the amazing Joseph Pilato as Captain Rhodes and Bub the Zombie, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I think the reason Day is looked down upon by some is just because it’s not Night or Dawn. But how could it possibly live up to those two movies? Instead it’s a very fun zombie movie with a lot of great ideas (I love the scenes in Dr. Logan’s lab) and some amazing zombie effects. It’s a great watch and one that is thankfully getting more recognition the older it gets, stepping out of the shadows of its big brothers.
#2: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
There was a time when I may have ranked this as #1. However, over time my tastes have changed a little and I like the first choice over this. Night of the Living Dead is an iconic horror masterpiece and there’s really nothing I could say that hasn’t been said at some point or another. You’ve probably seen this movie without actually seeing it, thanks to countless imitators, the film itself being in the public domain (and ending up being shown in many inferior horror films) and the parodies that came out over the years.
This is the film that created the modern zombie and took it out of the days of voodoo. Romero changed the very landscape of how this particular style of horror was done and while there have been some slight alterations over the years, no one’s really been able to change it the way he did. Running zombies was popular for a bit, then it went back to normal. So if you’re tired of zombie movies, really you only have this one to blame. They weren’t nearly as prevalent before this came along and changed everything.
#1: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
I prefer Dawn to Night these days. Let me explain why. First of all, I enjoy the characters a lot more here than I do in Night. Ben is great, but Barbara is completely useless and the rest of the cast don’t do much better. Dawn has Flyboy, Peter, Roger and even Francine. I also enjoy the climax better here, as there’s a lot more carnage and better special effects overall than Night.
That doesn’t mean that this one is all about style over substance. There’s still the social satire, this time mocking consumerism. This one actually has more of a story and heart than the last one. In Night, we don’t really get to know the people we’re with, we just see their true colors as they have to handle an insane situation. In Dawn we are taken on a journey with these people. That’s why when Roger is killed after becoming a zombie, we don’t see it. It’s a lot different than just causally knocking off some random flesh-eater. I’m not slamming Night by any means, but Dawn is just the better film, one that’s just as much of a masterpiece.
That’s it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, I’m leaving the director I tackle up to you. Some will involve me watching a lot of movies, some I have ideas ready to go. But here’s the poll:
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