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Ranking George A. Romero’s Movies From Worst to Best (#12 – 9)

March 14, 2022 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Night of the Living Dead Image Credit: Image Ten

The George A. Romero Movie Countdown: #12-#9

Am I the only who is surprised at how few big hooha biographies there are of George A. Romero? You can go on Amazon and find some interview books and some career analysis books, but where is that mega biography that looks at everything the writer/director did and didn’t do (you know, the “lost movies” of George A. Romero. I’m shocked we don’t have a book about his Resident Evil script)? Much like his contemporary John Carpenter, while Romero is clearly revered by so many moviemakers the world over and still, to this day, has oodles of rabid fans, there doesn’t seem to be any interest in a full on book about Romero’s career. That just seems odd.

Image Credit: Dodd, Mead & Company

I mean, back in 1987 we did get The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero by Paul R. Gagne, but that book is now so out of print it might as well not even exist. Where is the new book about Romero? Or, hell, where is the updated version of The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh?

And where is the big hooha prestige documentary on Romero’s career? Shouldn’t Shudder or Netflix have already done this by now? Why hasn’t Martin Scorsese done one yet?

I don’t get it. We should already have these things.

Here’s the first part of this list, as it was posted several months ago and you likely don’t remember it:

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

And so, finally, the George A. Romero Movie Countdown list continues. What appears in spots #12 through #9?

The George A. Romero Movie Countdown: #12-#9

Image Credit: Magnolia Home Entertainment

12- Survival of the Dead: There was a point in time where I considered Romero’s last movie as a director, Survival of the Dead, a complete disaster. I didn’t like that it was meant as a quasi-sequel to Diary of the Dead (it takes place in the same zombie apocalypse world and stars a character that we saw briefly in Diary), I didn’t like the western motif that informs the look and plot of the movie, I didn’t like any of the characters, and the whole thing seemed wrong. Was this really the best Romero could do? Why couldn’t we get a “proper” sequel to Diary of the Dead? Or why couldn’t we get a sequel to Land of the Dead? Over the years, though, my opinion has changed on Survival of the Dead, and while I still think it’s the least of the six zombie movies Romero made, it isn’t the disaster I thought it was. It’s actually pretty good. It’s a movie that deals with the “people just can’t get along” idea that runs through all of Romero’s zombie movies in a new way, with it also taking place on an actual island. The acting is generally better than I remember (the accents are a bit much but the performances by everyone except Alan Van Sprang are quite good). And the gore is better and more vicious than I remember. I mean, it’s no Day of the Dead but Survival does get gross and that’s awesome (the fire extinguisher scene is terrific). Survival also ends on one of the weirdest standoffs you will ever see. The ending is a bit of a cartoon, sure, but it fits with the movie and is chock full of humor as it’s so goddamn ridiculous. It’s a shame that Survival is the last Romero movie (and whatever his last movie ended up being was always going to be a shame, regardless of what it was), but at least we got it. And, really, “bad” Romero is always more interesting than good anything else.

Image Credit: Dimension Extreme

11-Diary of the Dead: When I first heard that Romero was going to make a found footage zombie movie I thought he lost his goddamn mind. Why was Romero making a found footage zombie movie instead of a sequel to the awesome Land of the Dead? What happened to Road of the Dead, man? I eventually calmed down and, when I found out that one of my local theaters was showing Diary of the Dead, I made an effort to see it on the big screen. How could I pass up a chance to see another new Romero movie in a movie theater? Diary starts at the very beginning of the zombie apocalypse, focusing on a group of college students making a mummy movie who end up having to band together to survive when they find out what’s happening. They also end up filming all of their various exploits while trying to survive, giving a not that ridiculous reason for the story to be “found footage” (they’re all film students, of course they’re going to film everything). There’s plenty of gore and weird suspense throughout, and the movie ends on a surprising note of “hell, we could actually get a real sequel to this movie one day,” something you just don’t expect out of Romero. We never did get a proper sequel, but it was still a great way to end the movie. It’s also cool how Romero took a filming technique that so few movies actually figured out how to make work and actually made it work. I wish more “found footage” moviemakers out there used Diary of the Dead as their inspiration instead of The Blair Witch Project. Romero knew what he was doing.

How the hell isn’t the dynamite throwing Amish guy not an action figure by now?

Image Credit: Shout! Factory

10-Monkey Shines: Monkey Shines, also known as Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear, was Romero’s first attempt at making a big hooha studio movie. Adapted from a novel by Michael Stewart, it’s a movie about a quadriplegic man named Allan (played by Jason Beghe) who is given an experimental monkey helper to sort of get through his day to day life. The monkey, given injections of human brain tissue and trained by a renowned animal trainer for the handicapped, starts out as a godsend for Allan. But as the story progresses the monkey, Ella, becomes super dangerous and starts killing people out of a kind of jealousy. That’s the basic plot of the movie. The overall plot is way more complicated than that but, again, that’s the basic plot. Monkey Shines is one of Romero’s most deliberate movies. He doesn’t waste time, but he sure as heck takes his time, establishing the various characters and situations, making sure it all makes sense. For the most part, Romero succeeds. The whole “Allan and Ella share a telepathic link” thing is never adequately explained, but at the same time it doesn’t feel out of place or insane. Just about everything in the movie works. Could it be shorter? Would it be better if the movie was quicker and tighter? Probably, but it all works and is fascinating, so it’s okay. Beghe does a great job as Allan, and the rest of the cast is fantastic, too (Stanley Tucci, Stephen Root, and Romero’s then wife Christine Forrest are all in the movie). It’s also amazing how Romero and company managed to get the performance out of the monkey that they do because it was apparently quite challenging (I mean, it’s a real life monkey, you know it’s going to be a pain in the ass to do anything with it before you know anything about the movie). Monkey Shines is also one of Romero’s few chances to do more of a thriller than an out and out horror flick, and I would say that he succeeded in a big way.

Image Credit: Criterion

9-Night of the Living Dead: The original Night of the Living Dead is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and one of the most influential movies ever made, especially within the indie movie world. The story of its creation has been recounted in countless books, articles, and documentaries and is the basic template for all low budget/no budget movies made since writer/director George A. Romero, co-screenwriter John A. Russo, and the other members of Image Ten along with actors Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, and several others, took over that farmhouse in Evans City, Pennsylvania and made movie history in 1968. Now, no one involved with Night of the Living Dead thought they were making a classic horror movie. All involved just wanted to make as good of a movie as they could and, maybe, make a little money so they could then go ahead and make another movie. Unfortunately, no one involved in the movie made the fortune they should have, due to a mistake made by the distributor at the time (the distributor forgot to put the copyright notice on the release prints, essentially putting Night of the Living Dead into public domain as soon as it hit movie screens). And while the public domain situation hurt the ability of Image Ten to make money, it made it easier to get the movie to the masses, especially when home video became important (I believe it also showed up on late night TV quite a bit). VHS, then DVD, and now Blu-ray and streaming, the movie has been everywhere and will likely continue to be everywhere for the foreseeable future. People are still watching it, still being inspired by it, and still being scared by it. Night of the Living Dead is a harsh black and white movie that never lets up in the terror department. It has various technical issues due to its low budget and inexperienced director and crew (yes, Romero and company made commercials and industrial films through their The Latent Image company in Pittsburgh, but making commercials is not the same thing as making a 90 minute feature film), but what it lacks in technical polish it makes up for it in energy and an overwhelming sense of dread. Night of the Living Dead, five plus decades on, is still scary as hell.


Next time # 8-#5!

Unexpected evil! Old people! A collaboration! Sky flowers!


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