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Ranking George A. Romero’s Movies From Worst to Best (#17 – 13)

October 14, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Crazies George A. Romero

The George A. Romero Movie Countdown: #17-#13

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George A. Romero is easily one of the preeminent movie directors of the last fifty years. Hugely influential in both the horror genre and independent movie worlds, Romero spent most of his career making indie movies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before moving to Canada and making his last four movies there. While primarily known for making horror movies, Romero’s filmography does include a few non-horror movies, and from everything I’ve ever read on him Romero would have loved to make other kinds of movies but he never got the chance in any major way (it was difficult enough to raise money to make a horror movie let alone something else. And the major studios clearly had no interest in investing in a non-horror Romero movie since all of the major studio movies he did make were horror flicks). Romero managed to make seventeen movies in his career, starting with Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and ending with Survival of the Dead in 2009. Romero died in 2017.

And so, since it’s October and the Halloween season and Romero is a horror legend and whatnot, I’ve decided, like I did not that long ago with the movies of John Carpenter, that I will rank the seventeen movies Romero made over his four decade career. This list will take four weeks and will start with five movies, spots #17 through #13. The last three weeks will feature four picks each. If you’re unfamiliar with Romero’s full filmography, check out his imdb page here.

And so, without any further what have you, let’s get this George A. Romero Movie Countdown list started. What appears in spots #17 through #13?

The George A. Romero Movie Countdown: #17-#13

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17- There’s Always Vanilla: There’s Always Vanilla is the movie that Romero made after his landmark horror flick Night of the Living Dead. With a screenplay by friend Rudy Ricci and the hope that, by making a sort of romantic comedy/drama, that he wouldn’t be pigeonholed as a horror movie director, There’s Always Vanilla tries very hard to be important and meaningful while also trying to make you laugh (not big belly laughs or anything like that. It’s not that kind of comedy. It’s more of a subdued kind of attempted comedy) and manages to fail on just about every level. While the movie does feature some nice performances by stars Raymond Laine and Judith Ridley, the thing never really gets going and is a slog to sit through. The editing is jarring and super busy and the music is often annoying. As for the story, it’s not half as interesting as it wants you to believe it is. Even if I agree with how Raymond Laine’s Chris Bradley sees the world or am upset about how Ridley’s Lynn is treated throughout, you never really like anyone in the movie. The only real reason to watch There’s Always Vanilla is to see the various people Romero worked with on Night of the Living Dead in a different setting (Russ Streiner, Ridley, John Russo, George Kosana, and Bill Hinzman. Richard France, of The Crazies and Dawn of the Dead fame, also shows up). It’s also kind of fun to see if the title of the movie is going to be explained (it is). There was a period of time where this movie was considered “lost” although I’m not entirely sure how true that is. I do remember seeing snippets of this movie on the Night of the Living Dead special edition DVD from Elite but not the whole movie. There’s Always Vanilla did appear as an extra on a DVD edition of Season of the Witch from Anchor Bay Entertainment and is now available from Arrow Video in a big hooha special edition of some sort. I would only seek this movie out if you’re a full on Romero nerd and somehow haven’t seen it yet.

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16-Season of the Witch: Also known as Jack’s Wife and Hungry Wives, Season of the Witch is the story of a bored housewife (Jan White) who tries to change the trajectory of her life by studying witchcraft with mixed results. I say “mixed” because, in order to get to her better/higher self, White’s Joan Mitchell has to go through some nasty stuff (she gets smacked around by her douchebag husband, her college aged sort of hippie daughter ignores her, she watches her friends go through some of the same “my life is boring” stuff but come to different conclusions on how to fix things, and she hooks up with a pretentious asshole played by Raymond Laine. Joan also ends up committing accidental homicide at the end of the movie, which can’t be seen as a good thing). While not a “proper” horror movie, Season of the Witch does include some shocking imagery, some suspenseful sequences, and some occult bullshit that it can be considered a kind of horror movie. I’d imagine that the movie failed at the box office because, coming from the director of Night of the Living Dead, Season of the Witch didn’t include enough shocks, suspense, or occult bullshit to satisfy anyone. I’d also suspect that any non-horror/non-Romero fan checking this movie out would be disappointed by how, while ambitious and high minded, the movie is done in by its cheap looking production value and slow pacing (the version of the movie I’m familiar with runs at 90 minutes, but there is a version that’s 104 minutes and is available on home video via Arrow Video and while I now know what was cut from the movie I can’t imagine how that cut stuff made the movie better). The movie is also way too talky for its own good. Jan White is good in it, though, despite the movie’s numerous drawbacks. Romero said for years that, out of all of the movies he directed, he would have liked to remake Season of the Witch with a bigger budget. Romero obviously can’t do that now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing someone take a crack at an updated version of the story. A slicker version of the movie would probably work.

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15-The Crazies: The Crazies, also known as Code Name: Trixie, is all about a small town in Pennsylvania becoming infected via an experimental military bioweapon accidentally released into the town’s water supply after a military plane carrying the weapon crashes. The weapon, known as “Trixie,” makes the infected insane and willing to kill. Once the military realizes what’s happened, they move in, shut the town down, and try to contain the spread of the disease. There’s also a group of people trying to get out of the town, an endeavor that doesn’t exactly work out for anyone. The Crazies is another super ambitious story that Romero tries very hard to make work on a super limited budget but doesn’t quite get there. It’s more successful than Vanilla and Witch, but it also suffers from a lot of the things that made those two movies not very successful: not enough money, everything looks cheap, it’s way too long and it drags way too often. There are some nice set pieces of infected people attacking white hazmat suit wearing soldiers and it’s fun watching Richard France as Dr. Watts trying to figure out how to combat the infection via science (not to mention Lynn Lowry and future “Dr. Frankenstein” Richard Liberty do their thing). The movie’s paranoia can also be quite unsettling at times (the hazmat suit soldiers are also sort of iconic in horror movie circles as a result of this movie). But Romero clearly needed more money and more time to make this story bigger and less cheap looking. The movie was remade in 2010 by director Breck Eisner. I’d like to imagine that that movie, at least in terms of how it looks, is what Romero would have done had he had the money.

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14-Bruiser: Bruiser was Romero’s return to directing after a seven year hiatus where he, according to various things I’ve read over the years, tried to get various movies made, including an adaptation of Resident Evil, The Mummy, and various Stephen King adaptations, none of them successful (Romero apparently did get paid as a script doctor of sorts during this hiatus, too). A sort of revenge horror movie, Bruiser is all about a guy (Henry Creedlow, played by Jason Flemyng) who, after being treated like absolute shit by the people in his life and the world at large, wakes up one morning without a face (his face has been “replaced” by a white mask that Creedlow can’t remove). Creedlow’s new identity then sort of allows him to take out all of the people that have made his life miserable. I’ve always considered this Romero’s attempt at making a slasher movie as the story does contain some slasher type elements but it’s not quite a full on “traditional” slasher. The white mask on Flemyng’s face is weird as hell to look at, and it’s fun to see Romero try to cut loose with a revenge story. The problem with Bruiser, though, is that it doesn’t go far enough. It is violent enough, it isn’t mean enough, it feels like Romero is holding back instead of going for the audience’s throat. The movie does have a nice soundtrack featuring The Misfits and some good performances (the great Tom Atkins is in it as a cop investigating Creedlow’s crimes, and Peter Stormare is absolutely unhinged as Milo, Creedlow’s boss), so it’s not a total loss. It should have been much more, though. Did anyone out there have a hard time finding this movie in video stores back in the fall of 2001? I know I did.

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13- Two Evil Eyes: Two Evil Eyes is a two part anthology movie with stories based on the works of Edgar Alan Poe. Originally set to be a four part anthology with segments directed by Romero, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, and maybe Stephen King or Wes Craven (I’ve seen speculation about both and I have no idea if there is any truth to that speculation), the eventual Two Evil Eyes was directed by Romero and Argento, with Romero adapting the Poe story “The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar” and Argento doing “The Black Cat.” Romero’s segment, featuring good performances by Adrienne Barbeau and Ramy Zada (the great Tom Atkins also pops in), isn’t as lively as Argento’s segment and, as such, falls kind of flat. It’s still worth checking out, though, because “Valdemar” is Romero at his peak anti-capitalist messaging and that’s always fascinating to see. And “The Black Cat” has Harvey Keitel as a batshit photographer and one of the most disgusting dead body sequences of the 1990’s. If you see the documentary on the Blue Underground DVD release of the movie you will find out that Romero wasn’t happy with how his segment turned out (I remember Romero saying he wasn’t happy with the sound mix on his segment). You should also track down the Roy Frumkes documentary Document of the Dead to see some terrific behind-the-scenes footage on how super difficult it was to get a big make up special effect to work. Fascinating stuff.

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Next time # 12-#9!

Zombies! More zombies! A big hooha experiment! And even more zombies!

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