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Sell-Out or Not: George A. Romero

Feb. 25, 2013by: Jake Dee

Ready to decide who's a SELLOUT OR NOT? Last time out, the majority of you felt that our inaugural defendant - John Carpenter - has NOT become a sell-out over the years. This column, not unlike the last, will unofficially indict either an actor, director, producer, writer - basically anyone who at one time or another held clout in the genre world - only to ultimately kowtow to the powers that be and give in to commerce over artistic integrity. We'll present the case before you, weigh the pros and cons of the career decisions made, and leave it up to YOU, THE READER, to decide if the person under the hot interrogation lamp is indeed a Sellout Or Not. It's entirely your call!

THE POTENTIAL CULPRIT: GEORGE A. ROMERO

SELL-OUT FLICKS:NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake, DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, DAY OF THE DEAD remake, THE CRAZIES remake, DIARY OF THE DEAD, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

There's no denying the magnificent influence George A. Romero has had on the horror film genre. Let's be honest, is there a single person more responsible for the increasing popularity of the zombie film subset in the last 45 years? Hell no. Dude's the OG. The progenitor! Thing is, after finding great success by chewing up the zombie turf in the late 60s, 70s and 80s, Romero took about two decades between 1985-2005 to branch out with non-zombie fare. MONKEY SHINES, TWO EVIL EYES, THE DARK HALF and BRUISER were among the films made during this period...none of which ascend to the quality level of his early "Of the Dead" trilogy. Then, perhaps as a sad way of clinging to past glory (and making a little dough at the same time), Romero retreated back into the territory he singlehandedly defined...giving us the substandard DIARY OF THE DEAD and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

Moreover, since 1990, Romero has seemed to have zero qualms letting other filmmakers redo his original films. Remakes of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD ('90), DAWN OF THE DEAD ('04), DAY OF THE DEAD ('08) and THE CRAZIES ('10) have all been released in the successive 20 odd years. Of course, none of these remakes really do justice to the originals (save for DAWN perhaps), at the same time, Romero's original zombie continuations (DIARY, SURVIVAL) have gotten worse and worse. In fact, one could argue the remakes of his classics are better than Romero's last two originals. Sad, I know, but true. It stands to reason then that we plop George under the hot lamp and ask, is Romero a sell-out or not? Has he overstayed his welcome in the zombie genre, desperately clinging to his main identifier?

THE GOOD STUFF: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, MARTIN, CREEPSHOW, LAND OF THE DEAD.

Directing is often a young man's game, so we shouldn't be too surprised or upset that Romero's early work still remains superior to the latter part of his resume. Still though, it's tough to overlook the fact GR has clearly gone to the well far too often. I mean, I enjoyed LAND OF THE DEAD well enough (which he made at 65 years old), but DIARY and SURVIVAL? Simply atrocious! Embarrassingly so. So far behind him seem the days of MARTIN (perhaps his best film) and CREEPSHOW, movies outside his original "Of the Dead" series that hold up just as well, if not better. MARTIN is one of the all time best character-driven vampire films ever made, CREEPSHOW still holding as one of the preeminent horror anthologies. Of course, Romero's aforementioned zombie trilogy not only holds up superbly, it's forever changed the landscape of American horror. Question then becomes, does that legacy supersede any notion of being a sellout? In other words, given his undisputed impact on zombie cinema, has Mr. Romero earned the right to kick back and reap the sweet fruit of what he's sewn?

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK, SELL-OUT OR NOT?

So, given the case before you, do you think George A. Romero is a sellout or not? I realize it's a tough call given all he's contributed to the genre, but the fact is he has continued to cash in on the zombie craze for the last 20 years plus, yet has really only directed one decent feature in that time span. One might easily equate selling out with overstaying his welcome in the genre that, let's face it, gets trampled more and more with each passing year, despite remaining popular. It'd be one thing if he were sticking around and doing exemplary work, but given the subpar track-record of late, his reticence to leave zombies alone seems like a sad, effete way of hanging on to the halcyon days. Throw in George's seeming willingness to allow his films to be remade, getting paid handsomely in the process, and we have a solid case to be made. Of course, it's all up to you!

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2:33PM on 02/27/2013

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Good points all of you. To me Romero hasn't sold out as much as simply held on too long, which you can't really fault a guy for. Add in declining quality of films and a bad combo is born.
Good points all of you. To me Romero hasn't sold out as much as simply held on too long, which you can't really fault a guy for. Add in declining quality of films and a bad combo is born.
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8:04PM on 02/26/2013
there's actually a good reason why he allowed NOTLD to be remade, the original film had NO copyright date, which meant people could legally make almost the exact same film without Romero being able to do anything about it, so he allowed the remake to secure a copyright to prevent anything like that from happening without him getting paid.

Anyways I liked the remakes of both DOTD and NOTLD, Survival, Diary and Land and The Crazies, didn't care much for Bruiser though, I don't really see him
there's actually a good reason why he allowed NOTLD to be remade, the original film had NO copyright date, which meant people could legally make almost the exact same film without Romero being able to do anything about it, so he allowed the remake to secure a copyright to prevent anything like that from happening without him getting paid.

Anyways I liked the remakes of both DOTD and NOTLD, Survival, Diary and Land and The Crazies, didn't care much for Bruiser though, I don't really see him as a sellout.
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2:08AM on 02/26/2013

Future sell-out.

Sam Raimi. He's been a legit sell out. Whether it forcing his own remake of "Evil Dead" down our throats over the sequel he long promised us, or cramming in so much CG into his movies where his fanbase fell in love with him due to his use of practicals, I feel like the guy has completely lost touch with who he used to be as a film maker.
Sam Raimi. He's been a legit sell out. Whether it forcing his own remake of "Evil Dead" down our throats over the sequel he long promised us, or cramming in so much CG into his movies where his fanbase fell in love with him due to his use of practicals, I feel like the guy has completely lost touch with who he used to be as a film maker.
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8:27PM on 02/25/2013

Sell-Out?? No.. Shitty Film maker?? Yes!

I Love the original Dawn of the Dead. It's one of the all time horror greats. I really like the original Night of the Living Dead. It has influenced so many! I think Martin is pretty good. Creepshow has it's moments and then there's............. Nothing. I mean let's face it. Unlike the Great Dawn of the Dead, Had it not been for Savini nobody would care about that film. Land, Diary, Survival, The Crazies, Season of the Witch.... All Shit. SHIT!!!!! It makes my dick hurt that people actually
I Love the original Dawn of the Dead. It's one of the all time horror greats. I really like the original Night of the Living Dead. It has influenced so many! I think Martin is pretty good. Creepshow has it's moments and then there's............. Nothing. I mean let's face it. Unlike the Great Dawn of the Dead, Had it not been for Savini nobody would care about that film. Land, Diary, Survival, The Crazies, Season of the Witch.... All Shit. SHIT!!!!! It makes my dick hurt that people actually give soe sort of cred to Land of the dead. Had Brett Ratner made the same film people would shit all over that shit! I think Romero got lucky and struck gold twice. He was able to make some OK films. I will forever Love him for doing Dawn and Night but I can't forgive his other shit.
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5:34PM on 02/25/2013
Why all the hate on NOTLD '90?
Personally, I feel it's on par with the original. Romero himself wrote both and in the remake made, what I feel to be, better character choices.
Lets also not forget all the wonderful genre actors: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, William Butler, Tom Towles, and Bill Moseley. Couple them with some really polished practical FX and some decent direction from Tom Savini and you've got a film I'll watch a dozen times before Snyder's lukewarm Day remake.
Just my 2
Why all the hate on NOTLD '90?
Personally, I feel it's on par with the original. Romero himself wrote both and in the remake made, what I feel to be, better character choices.
Lets also not forget all the wonderful genre actors: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, William Butler, Tom Towles, and Bill Moseley. Couple them with some really polished practical FX and some decent direction from Tom Savini and you've got a film I'll watch a dozen times before Snyder's lukewarm Day remake.
Just my 2 bits...
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10:46AM on 02/25/2013
I don't think Romero is a sellout. For the sake of comparison, let's compare him with John Carpenter. Both Carpenter and Romero have something in common - their later films don't perform so well (critically and financially). However, Romero still insists on making Zombie movie so I don't think he's a sellout.
I don't think Romero is a sellout. For the sake of comparison, let's compare him with John Carpenter. Both Carpenter and Romero have something in common - their later films don't perform so well (critically and financially). However, Romero still insists on making Zombie movie so I don't think he's a sellout.
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10:04AM on 02/25/2013
I don't see how making more zombie films would make him a sellout. If that's what he wants to do, and he's doing it no matter what anybody thinks, (including us horror fans), doesn't that make him NOT a sellout?
Also, these columns are going to get old really fast if every one of them poses the idea that letting your films be remade makes you a sellout. As I understand it, everything a director does under a studio is basically work-for-hire. The studio owns it, so Romero and Carpenter
I don't see how making more zombie films would make him a sellout. If that's what he wants to do, and he's doing it no matter what anybody thinks, (including us horror fans), doesn't that make him NOT a sellout?
Also, these columns are going to get old really fast if every one of them poses the idea that letting your films be remade makes you a sellout. As I understand it, everything a director does under a studio is basically work-for-hire. The studio owns it, so Romero and Carpenter probably don't have a whole lot of say in whether or not their shit is redone.
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9:50AM on 02/25/2013

Another Waste of Time

Like the previous installment of this pointless (and derivative) new column, stupidity reigns. George A. Romero as a sell-out? Are you serious? A) Do you have any idea of the countless high-profile studio film projects this guy was at one-point attached to, but willfully left when he wasn't granted creative control? B) Do you realize that ...OF THE DEAD films are simply the ONLY films Romero can get funded because he's been so typecast that he cannot even get an original horror film funded
Like the previous installment of this pointless (and derivative) new column, stupidity reigns. George A. Romero as a sell-out? Are you serious? A) Do you have any idea of the countless high-profile studio film projects this guy was at one-point attached to, but willfully left when he wasn't granted creative control? B) Do you realize that ...OF THE DEAD films are simply the ONLY films Romero can get funded because he's been so typecast that he cannot even get an original horror film funded today? It's typical for these masters of horror to get trapped within the genre (like Carpenter), and as a result, their passion is eventually going to wane when they've been forced to do the same thing for over thirty years. It has nothing to do with their age as you (and most people) try to conclude. C) While Romero wrote the screenplay for and produced the first remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, it was primarily an attempt to make some money off of the title that he created, but lost the rights to public domain after a naive lapse in judgement. While it pales in comparison to his original classic, he still injected some interesting (and at times, better) elements into it, such as the transformation of Barbara, rather than making her a catatonic. Reflection of the times. Aside from the NIGHT remake, Romero had no part in the remakes of his DEAD films, and has been outspoken that he doesn't particularly love any of them, including DAWN OF THE DEAD. And by the way, who the hell even remembers the direct-to-video DAY OF THE DEAD remake? No one, deservedly so.

Romero made the lackluster DIARY OF THE DEAD and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD only out of necessity because they're all he can get funded. I think he's constantly chasing a chance to do something different, thinking, "If this one takes off, they'll let me do my thing," but sadly it never comes because Hollywood doesn't want someone like him branching out, they just want the same damn thing over and over again. To fault him for that and the remakes he had no control over only proves how ignorant this column is.

Who's the next installment of this column gonna accuse of selling out, Don Coscarelli? The guy who turned down a studio deal alongside Steven Spielberg in order to do indie films his own way? Pointless.
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