#5: The George Romero Zombie Quadrilogy (1968-2005)
The fact that I have no idea how to pronounce “quadrilogy” certainly wasn’t going to stop me from whipping out a two dollar word in order to cheat all four of The Mighty George Romero’s epic zombie films onto this here countdown. And now, to the all-important instructions…
1. You gotta find a guilt-free day, and by that I mean a day where you can justify and live with the selfish decision to take the phone off the hook, close the curtains, lock the doors, give real life the high hard middle finger, and plant yourself in front of the television for ten-hours of hardcore movie watching (or as it’s known at my house: Every Day).
2. This day should be scheduled as close to Halloween as possible and preferably take place when weather conditions outside are at their worst (those of you living in Los Angeles should wait for smog alerts or a race riot).
3. To keep interruptions to a minimum, plenty of refreshments should be close by and the catheter inserted thusly.
You can’t watch just one George Romero zombie movie. It’s Halloween. It’s George Romero. It’s zombies. Yes, there’s the risk of an Awesome Overdose (especially at the sight of Dennis Hopper) but that’s why you have emergency procedures in place; someone trained to yell “CLEAR!” and kill the Bliss Buzz by reciting George Clooney’s Oscar acceptance speech. But you have to give yourself this one full day to be completely immersed into the uniquely horrifying experience of living in Romero’s cleverly constructed and always entertaining zombie apocalypse, a world where the flesh-hungry dead walk the earth, anti-heroes become heroes, and there’s enough blood and guts to make Quincy vomit.
Back in May I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (at least for ex-bill collectors) to meet and speak with Mr. Romero aka THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE – and in the article that followed I wrote pretty extensively about my long-held and undying affection for Night of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Land of the Dead, so I’m going to punt a bit and send you over there for specifics on the man, his legacy and the four films — which are each absolutely perfect for Halloween viewing either one at a time or all at once . Smart, clever, scary, gloriously gory (Tom Savini For President!), intense; and rich in story, character and theme.
Bub gets ready for his close up.
Best of all they do work as a series, as companions to one another. Romero might have had to scramble all over the world over the course of decades to put his masterwork together, but he always did so with what came before in mind. Especially when it came to his zombies, who evolve throughout the series. And here’s what I love mostest about each one:
Night of the Living Dead (1968): The one that changed everything. Oh, there were zombies before Romero, but until this masterpiece came along, scary movies were like the Dumbo ride at Disneyland: safe for all ages. “Night” introduced a completely new concept to moviegoers: absolute, grip your armrests, get me outta here, terror. The special sauce, however, will always be that no matter where you watch this black and white beauty, you feel like you’re at the drive-in. Extra bonus points if you can enjoy this with an Elvira Mistress of the Dark intro and outro.
Dawn of the Dead (1978): After the intensely terrifying sequence involving the blocking of the doors with semi-trailers, Romero’s thematic genius kicks in with a long stretch of conspicuous consumerism as our protagonists engage in the real-life wish-fulfillment of helping themselves to anything and everything they want in a shopping mall they have all to themselves. Both they and we forget all about the hordes of flesh-eaters milling about outside, and both they and we will pay a price to our nervous system when reality comes crashing in.
Day of the Dead (1985): There isn’t even a close second place to make-up artist Tom Savini’s in-camera gore effects. I have no idea what someone’s insides look like as they slowly fall out of a torso and slap to the floor, but thanks to Savini I think I do. Romero’s theme here is science versus the military but it’s much more complicated than the liberal filmmaker is given credit for. This is the only movie I know of that presents us with a strong, female protagonist – but one so strong she emasculates her boyfriend with tragic results. By contrast, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley feels a little one-dimensional.
Land of the Dead (2004): Let’s see, a very few elite live high on the hog who serve as insect overlords to those not deemed as worthy enough to enter their precious little gated community. That’s Romero’s classical liberalism shining through in a terrific story that could just as easily have been called Land of the Deadly Hope and Change. The bottom line to you Land-haters, however, is that The All-Time Mightiest of the Mighties, Dennis Hopper ,plays the villain rendering your lame little fanboy complaints meaningless.