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George A. Romero

Table of Contents

George A. Romero was one of the most influential horror filmmakers of all time. Often referred to as the “Godfather of the Modern Zombie Film”, Romero pioneered and popularized the concept of zombies as reanimated, flesh-eating corpses in modern cinema.

Early Life and Influences

George-Romero

Childhood and Formative Experiences

George Andrew Romero was born on February 4, 1940 in New York City. From a young age, he was fascinated by horror and sci-fi stories. As a child, he enjoyed frightening stories on the radio and loved watching old horror movies. He was particularly inspired by the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

Romero cited influences from filmmakers like Michael Powell and Akira Kurosawa. He admired their ability to use cinema to make social commentary. This had a big impact on his desire to embed social messages in his own horror films.

Education and Entry into Filmmaking

Romero attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, studying graphic art, design, and theatre production. After graduation in 1960, he stayed in Pittsburgh and formed a production company called Latent Image. They mostly created commercials and short films for local clients.

In the mid-1960s, Romero and friends raised funds to produce a full length feature film, which would become the seminal Night of the Living Dead. This kicked off his legendary career as a horror auteur.

Night of the Living Dead: Creation of the Modern Zombie

Writing the Script and Casting

In 1967, George Romero began co-writing a script with John Russo titled Night of the Flesh Eaters, a horror film featuring dead bodies arising to attack the living. With a budget of only $114,000, production started in 1967 through a newly formed company called Image Ten.

Night of the Living Dead featured a cast of unknown actors, including a masterful lead performance from Duane Jones. The cast gave the film an authentic, gritty feel that heightened the horror.

Innovation in Style and Substance

What set Night of the Living Dead apart was both its stylistic innovation and underlying social commentary. Filmed on black-and-white film stock, it made evocative use of editing and lighting to create mood and tension.

Under the horror was a subversive message about race, morality and the Vietnam War. This caused great controversy but cemented Romero as more than just a genre filmmaker. He proved that horror could effectively tackle contemporary social issues.

Evolution of Romero’s Zombie Films

George-Romero

Dawn of the Dead

A decade after Night, Romero revisited the zombie genre in 1978 with Dawn of the Dead. With a much bigger budget, Romero introduced color photography and special effects by horror SFX master Tom Savini.

Dawn amplified the social commentary, using its zombies and shopping mall locale as criticism of runaway consumerism in American culture. It fast became an international horror classic, giving rise to an entire subgenre of European zombie films in the 1980s.

Day of the Dead and Beyond

Romero completed his original undead trilogy with 1985’s Day of the Dead, this time tackling themes of militarism and governmental ethics in the face of an apocalypse.

He continued to write and direct both zombie and non-zombie films over the following decades. His legacy and influence was firmly cemented, with countless horror filmmakers around the world considering him a master of politically-conscious horror cinema.

Romero’s Creative Legacy

Father of the Modern Zombie

It’s no exaggeration to describe George Romero as the progenitor of zombies as we know them today. Prior to Night of the Living Dead, the concept of zombies or the “undead” referred mostly to creatures of Haitian voodoo folklore.

Romero took this basic concept – the dead arising to walk the earth – and built a modern horror iconography around it. Reanimated corpses that feed on human flesh. Infectious agents that turn victims into undead. Apocalyptic scenarios where society crumbles under the weight of zombies.

Without Romero, today’s endless march of zombie films, shows, and games simply wouldn’t exist.

Use of Horror as Social Commentary

Romero was one of the first commercial filmmakers to successfully marry gory horror thrills with incisive social criticism of issues like racism, consumerism, and government overreach. In doing so, he raised the bar for what entertainment horror cinema could accomplish.

Because of Romero’s seminal Dead films, horror was validated as a genre that could thoughtfully reflect contemporary societal fears – not just exploit them shallowly for cheap scares and entertainment.

In summary, George A. Romero exerted an indelible influence on the modern horror genre through his imaginative and socially-conscious zombie films. Starting with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, he introduced key elements of zombie iconography that all modern iterations are built upon. Moreover, his body of work demonstrated that horror entertainment could deliver more than just visceral thrills – it could thoughtfully examine complex social themes haunting modern civilization. As the universally-acknowledged “Godfather of the Modern Zombie”, Romero’s chilling, insightful visions of the undead will undoubtedly stalk our collective nightmares forever.

George Romero’s Filmography

La notte dei morti viventi (Night of the Living Dead) (1968)

  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Plot: A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse.
  • Reception: Considered a classic of the horror genre, “Night of the Living Dead” garnered critical acclaim for its unsettling atmosphere and social commentary on race relations in America.

There’s Always Vanilla (1971)

  • Genre: Drama, Romance
  • Plot: A young man returns to his hometown and becomes involved in a tumultuous romantic relationship while navigating personal struggles.
  • Reception: Received mixed reviews, with some praising its intimate portrayal of characters and others criticizing its pacing and narrative structure.

La stagione della strega (Season of the Witch) (1972)

  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Plot: A suburban housewife becomes embroiled in witchcraft and murder as she becomes increasingly disillusioned with her mundane life.
  • Reception: Despite its initial lukewarm reception, it has gained a cult following due to its atmospheric storytelling and exploration of female empowerment.

La città verrà distrutta all’alba (The Crazies) (1973)

  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Plot: Chaos erupts when a biological weapon accidentally contaminates a small town, turning its residents into homicidal maniacs.
  • Reception: Initially met with mixed reviews, the film has since been recognized for its chilling depiction of societal breakdown and government paranoia.

The Amusement Park (1975)

  • Genre: Horror, Drama
  • Plot: An elderly man experiences a nightmarish journey through an amusement park that serves as an allegory for the mistreatment of the elderly in society.
  • Reception: Initially shelved for years, it was rediscovered and praised for its surreal yet poignant exploration of ageism and societal neglect.

Wampyr (Martin) (1977)

  • Genre: Horror, Drama
  • Plot: A young man believes he is a vampire, leading to a series of disturbing and tragic events in his life.
  • Reception: Regarded as a thought-provoking take on the vampire mythos, it received positive reviews for its psychological depth and social commentary.

Zombi (Dawn of the Dead) (1978)

  • Genre: Horror, Action
  • Plot: Survivors of a zombie apocalypse seek refuge in a shopping mall while battling both the undead and their own dwindling humanity.
  • Reception: Widely acclaimed for its social satire and intense gore, “Dawn of the Dead” is considered a landmark in the zombie subgenre.

Knightriders – I cavalieri (Knightriders) (1981)

  • Genre: Drama, Action
  • Plot: A modern-day motorcycle troupe led by a charismatic leader stages jousting tournaments, grappling with the pressures of commercialization and personal integrity.
  • Reception: Garnered mixed to positive reviews, with praise for its unique premise and performances, but criticism for its length and pacing.

Creepshow (1982)

  • Genre: Horror, Anthology
  • Plot: A horror anthology featuring five tales of terror, encompassing everything from vengeful corpses to monstrous creatures.
  • Reception: Met with widespread acclaim for its homage to classic EC horror comics, blending humor, scares, and inventive storytelling.

Il giorno degli zombi (Day of the Dead) (1985)

  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Plot: In an underground bunker, scientists and military personnel clash as they struggle to survive in a world overrun by zombies.
  • Reception: Initially received mixed reviews, it has since gained recognition for its dark, claustrophobic setting and commentary on human nature during crises.

Monkey Shines – Esperimento nel terrore (Monkey Shines) (1988)

  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Plot: A quadriplegic man forms a bond with a highly intelligent capuchin monkey trained to assist him, but the animal’s behavior takes a menacing turn.
  • Reception: Divisive at the time of release, the film has since gained a cult following for its unconventional premise and effective suspense.

Fatti nella villa del signor Valdemar, episodio di Due occhi diabolici (Two Evil Eyes) (1990)

  • Genre: Horror, Anthology
  • Plot: Two separate stories, one based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” and the other on “The Black Cat.”
  • Reception: Received mixed to positive reviews, with praise for its stylish visuals and faithfulness to Poe’s source material, but criticism for uneven pacing.

La metà oscura (The Dark Half) (1993)

  • Genre: Horror, Mystery
  • Plot: A writer’s pseudonym comes to life as a physical embodiment, wreaking havoc on his life and those around him.
  • Reception: Met with mixed reviews, it was noted for its atmospheric tension and compelling lead performance, yet criticized for deviations from the source material.

Bruiser – La vendetta non ha volto (Bruiser) (2000)

  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Plot: A man wakes up one day to find his face replaced by a featureless mask, driving him to seek revenge against those who have wronged him.
  • Reception: Received generally mixed reviews, with praise for its visual style and critique for its uneven pacing and underdeveloped characters.

La terra dei morti viventi (Land of the Dead) (2005)

  • Genre: Horror, Action
  • Plot: In a post-apocalyptic world, survivors inhabit a fortified city, but tensions rise as the undead evolve and become more intelligent.
  • Reception: Met with mixed to positive reviews, it was commended for its social commentary and innovative take on the zombie genre, although some found fault with its pacing.

Le cronache dei morti viventi (Diary of the Dead) (2007)

  • Genre: Horror, Found Footage
  • Plot: A group of college students document their experiences as they attempt to survive a zombie uprising.
  • Reception: Received mixed reviews, with some praising its fresh approach to the found footage format and others criticizing its characters and storytelling.

Survival of the Dead – L’isola dei sopravvissuti (Survival of the Dead) (2009)

  • Genre: Horror, Western
  • Plot: On an isolated island, two feuding families find themselves in conflict over how to deal with the reanimated corpses plaguing their community.
  • Reception: Met with mixed reviews, it received praise for its unique setting and themes, but criticism for its pacing and lack of character development.
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