Spotlight – George A Romero

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While writing my list of what to cover this Halloween, I noticed that I have started many lists about George A Romeo but couldn’t really narrow it down or beef it up to a decent number, so here’s my last ditch attempt to give some credit to one of the more charismatic American Horror Directors RIP.

05. Monkey Shines (An Experiment in Fear) (1988)

While this isn’t necessarily a horror and doesn’t contain any Zombies, I do find this to be one of Romero’s more powerful thrillers. An athlete; Allan, becomes quadriplegic after a tragic accident, but in his time of need, a good friend who is conducting experiments with monkeys offers Allan a well trained Capuchin named Ella, with a few modifications to his home Ells is able to aid Allen and keeps his company. Ella and Allans’ bond, initially healthy, is soon thrown into overdrive when Allan falls in love. Allan’s underlying rage and Ella’s frustrations soon turns into a rageful psycho trip for the unlikely pair.

Under the surface, Romeo plays with ideas about the connection with humans and animals in nature, gender roles and the inner rage of sudden disability. It’s all very powerful stuff and all bound up in a tiny doll like critter. If this is to your taste then there was a similar Humanize TV movie from Britain released in the same year called First Born, starring Charles Dance.

04.The Crazies (1973)

When an unknown biological weapon is leaked into the water supply for a little town called Evan’s City in Pennsylvania, bouts of insanity startup upset the quiet demeanor of the town. What seems to be a couple of isolated cases turns into murder and rioting, until the military attempts to contain a manmade combat virus that causes death and permanent insanity in those infected, as it overtakes a small Pennsylvania town.

With lots of bouts of rape, murder and mania, it’s easier to see this as a triple bill with Squirm (1976) and Shivers (1975) which also stars Lyn Lowry who’s pixie like features also highlights this chilling violent drama that suggested incest and rape were all on the cards for the insane shit storm created by this strange chemical mix. There was a fairly successful remake in 2010 but somehow it managed to be less shocking than the original, going for gore over taboo.

03. Knightriders (1981)

Not a horror but for me one of Romero’s ultimate movies, Romero’s original cut lasted a staggering 17 hours, but the much shorter release is a triumph as a display of a man and his following staying true to their hearts and morals, or learning the mistakes of not doing so. Ed Harris co stars alongside Tom Savini, as a leader of a medieval reenactment troupe who tour America, however instead of horses the group use motorbikes and live by Arthurian code.
The troupe tackle social issues such as police brutality and gay rights along the way.

Stephen King and his Wife Tabitha have cameos as spectators in the crowd as the group were all working on Creepshow (1982) at the time. It’s a tremendous film that makes me believe there’s a bit of hope out there and good people.

02. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

The movie which changed all the rules. Romeos cult classic black and white zombie movie made waves in the cinemas during the 60’s and is still influencing directors today. The story is fighting and simple, the dead are rising from their graves and are intent on destroying the living. No explanations, just a brutal fight for survival. Which is what a random group of Pennsylvanians find themselves forced into doing. With it’s stark night filming and dire situation it’s hard not to get caught up in the desperation felt by all the souls having to barricade themselves into an old farm house without knowing what’s going on.

For me I was just impressed to see a black man be the star of a horror movie, something Romeo didn’t even think would be the step in pioneering equality in cinema roles and lets face it, that’s how it should be. But with the looming dead ghouls, true bravery and chilling screams as the undead and unknown looms around the tiny farm house it’s still terrifying to this day.

01. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Yet another cult classic, the Dead series while it has some faults here are there is still one of the strongest Zombie series ever, a lot of it’s down to the ideal hideout as shown in Dawn of the Dead, I think we’ve all found out perfect shopping mall that we’ve decided we’ll break into in the event of a zombie apocalypse and it’s all down to this gem.

While the dead are rising from their graves and the newly dead are stalking the streets looking for living flesh to eat, the authorities are losing control and a couple from a local news team end up hooking up with two cops and making a giant mall their new home, but no sanctuary can last forever and who knows.

With a slightly larger budget, and tons of extras willing to help out, for free or a t-shirt and doughnut, Romeo and Savini has a lot of fun with all the extras for this epic ride. Romeo was one of those directors who would work with the same faces if he could and it seemed to build a rapport which really pays off as he liked to allow his actors to ad lib and experiment within his movies which leave us all with chills, thrills, and a bit of laughter and wonderment as Romeo introduced us to a few new ideas about what might happened when the zombies come for us.

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