Friday, August 27, 2010

Faded Gories

I love George Romero. That's why it pains me to put on my big boy pants and realize that his best films are behind him.
We recently rented Survival of the Dead, the latest of the dead series. While it was not nearly as disappointing (and dull) as Diary of the Dead (a DVD I bought unseen and truly regret), it still wilted on the vine.

The story was ok, it just plodded along very obviously. Zombies looked more funny than scary and seemed to be present only for the perfunctory head shot or the clever kill. The "living" characters were not engaging and there's your
stopping point. We have to care about the characters (and the acting has to be passable as well. Sorry.). Not real bad, but nowhere near previous glories. Or should I say, gories???

What hath gone wronge with the king of the Zombies?

The problem is that Romero made three films, now considered to be the "Dead Trilogy" by the 1,756 avid zombites at Home Page of the Dead, early in his career: Night of the Living Dead ('68), Dawn of the Dead ('78) and Day of the Dead ('82). If you go to the link I provided in this paragraph, you will read in the forums grown men argue (sometimes to the threat of bodily harm) the merits and demerits of these films. One dude even bragged that he watched Dawn over a hundred times, had a Dawn birthday cake, numerous versions of the same film on VHS, T-shirts, and once finished an argument with, "No way, dude. I know this movie." In short, they are obsessed and passionate about these movies. Considering the current rage for zombie films, they are not alone. AMC, right? Right.But despite their absurd devotion, one thing is evident: these early crude horror classics struck a nerve with a helluva lot of people.
Tell us whye, oh great master.
The Dead Triology occupy a unique place in horror history. While George Romero may not have made the first zombie movie, he created the modern version of the zombie. Since then, many have copied him and there have been many sins committed in this genre; the horrid The Return of the Living Dead series to be sure. But when these films first played in theaters, no one could have calculated the effect. Roger Ebert writes of the initial impact of Night: "The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying."
Amen to that, Roger. When I saw Night on local late night TV, it freaked me out. Ditto when I was in college and saw Dawn in the theater. It was simply shocking for its time. And there's another point, my friends.
We are so jaded, so inundated with violence that almost nothing on film can scare us. So while Romero continues to make social commentary within his story lines and his beloved walking dead are merely perfunctory gore, his films have lost any hope of scaring anybody. Rumor has it that he wants to shoot two more. I'll stick with my DVD copies of his best. Diary was my last purchase.
Yesterday, at the local Blockbuster, I was turning in Survival and the cute girl behind the counter asked me if I liked it.
"Not really."
"Yeah," she ruminated for a second, "I think I'm done with zombies."
"Maybe so." I had to agree. It's been a bummer.
Maybe AMC can do something that will thrill. I'm hoping.

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