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Sell-Out or Not: George A. Romero

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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