George A. Romero was a horror movie legend yet that really only tells half the story behind the late, 77-year-old American-born filmmaker’s career.
An inspiration to countless modern day writers and directors from Edgar Wright to Eli Rota, Romero was also a pioneer, confronting issues of race head on in films like Night Of The Living Dead, which centered on African American actor Duane Jones.
A much loved figure in Hollywood, Romero leaves behind a legacy few can match; the undisputed king of the zombie genre, which he popularised across a raft of gory but gleefully insightful films offering deeper comments on issues still relevant today.
He’s also left behind a filmography few can match, with the following seven films ranking among Romero’s best and well worth revisiting or watching for the first time.
Land Of The Dead
Romero’s more recent Living Dead films may not have lived up to the calibre of the original trilogy but they remain head and shoulders above contemporaries like the Resident Evil franchise. This post-acolyptic tale focuses on a world where the living dead have taken over the planet, with the last few humans taking refuge in a walled city. Think Mad Max meets World War Z and you’re pretty close.
Proof that Romero could turn in clever, insightful drama without resorting to the blood and guts of a zombie movie came via this Ed Harris-starring action drama. It focuses on the trials and tribulations of a medieval reenactment troupe and their ongoing struggles at keeping their merry band together in the face of pressure from various outside influences and an increasingly delusional leader. It also features a lot of jousting. On motorbikes.
Day Of The Dead
The third and final of Romero’s original Living Dead trilogy is probably the silliest of the lot but it’s also a whole lot of fun, brimming with original ideas and some very eye-catching deaths that crank the gore factor up to 11. It’s also a clever comment on how a lack of communication in human society can lead to chaos. Made on a dramatically slashed budget of just $3.4 million, it made 10 times that at the box office.
Forget Twilight or Let The Right One In – the ultimate adolescent teenage vampire movie was made back in 1978 with this inspired tale, which represented Romero’s first collaboration with special effects whizz Tom Savini. Initially banned upon release in the UK, Martin focuses on a young man, Martin, who moves to a small Pennsylvania town to live with his bullyish cousin in a bid to curb his blood cravings. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work.
Romero collaborated with Stephen King on this fine horror anthology movie, which King wrote while Romero took on directorial duties. Chronicling six,memorably scary tales, told via an impressive ensemble cast that includes Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen, Ed Harris and Hal Holbrook, it’s as chilling now as it was all those years ago and has inspired countless copycat movies in the years since.
Dawn Of The Dead
While Zack Snyder’s remake, scripted by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, is also well worth watching, Romero’s inspired sequel to the Night of the Living Dead is not only a fine follow up to the original but arguably worthy of mention among the best sequels of all time. Following straight on from the events of the first film, two SWAT team members, a television executive and a traffic reporter seek refuge in a shopping mall. Cue gruesome zombie attacks and biting satire at its best.
Night Of The Living Dead
The film that helped kick-start an entire sub-genre of horror which remains as popular today as it was some 50 years ago, Night of the Living Dead is essential viewing. A landmark film in terms of subject matter and context, it spoke on topics race and gender relations at a time when few were addressing these kinds of considerations in mainstream cinema, let alone horror. A timeless classic, the film was remade by Romero in 1990 but it’s worth seeing the version that started it all.
R.I.P. George A. Romero. You will be truly missed.