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George A. Romero Talks Survival of the Dead and More!

George A. RomeroThere are icons of horror. There are even masters of horror. Then there’s George A. Romero. The legendary director changed the landscape of the horror genre single-handedly by infusing social messages with a terrifying exploration of human (and inhuman) nature in his 1968 landmark independent horror classic, Night of the Living Dead.

Now, some 42 years later, Romero is not ready to rest on his laurels just yet. He’s back with his latest zombie flick, Survival of the Dead (reviews here and here), and in honor of its upcoming theatrical release on May 28th, Dread Central sat down with Romero to talk about Survival as well as take a look back with him on some of the key moments in his career.

With his Survival of the Dead, Romero took some liberties with the characters he established in 2007’s Diary of the Dead and continued their storyline into this new installment. According to the writer/director, this wasn’t something he intended when he embarked on this new era of his career.

When we worked on Diary, initially I thought it was a unique story,” explained Romero. “I saw it as sort of a one-shot deal at the time. I wanted to make sure that we did Diary quickly after Land of the Dead because the topic of emerging media was so timely I didn’t have a lot of time to see past that project for what ended up happening in Survival.

Originally, Diary was meant to be an experimental film. I had always in the back of my mind been thinking about doing another Dead film after Diary but thought it would somehow tie into the original series that I directed. But when it made money and there was talk of doing another one, I immediately started figuring out what to do with Survival and what characters I’d like to see again. I’ve never been able to continue storylines before so this was an adventure for me,” Romero added.

When Romero got on board for Diary, it marked the director’s return to independent filmmaking after Universal’s Land of the Dead in 2005. The man who revolutionized independent horror in the sixties spoke about his feelings now that he’s working on his own terms, “I don’t ever want to deal with the studios at all again. For a long time we were developing projects like The Mummy and Goosebumps as well as projects of our own, and nothing ever came out of any of that. I just got fed up with all of it, and I don’t ever see a reason to go back to the studio system.”

Survival of the Dead

With these last two films I kept the creative control so I really feel like I’ve gone back to my roots, and that’s really been a great feeling for me. I get to take these ideas that are just a little ‘off’ and still get to make the films the way I want to make them,” added Romero.

So, does Romero ever tire of zombies since he’s been dealing with the dastardly creatures for over four decades now? Hardly. In fact, the godfather of zombies spoke about how making Survival didn’t even feel like work and that he’s still got plenty of creative ideas for future ‘Deadheads.

Making Survival was seriously like taking a vacation. Even with all the stress, it still felt like it did when I made Night every time I showed up on set,” Romero explained. “What’s interesting, though, is that Survival still felt like a unique experience for me as a director because there were a new set of rules involved and it felt like a really personal project for me because I got to say what I wanted to say with my zombies this time around.

The director added, “You’d think after forty plus years I’d be done with zombies, but I still have a lot of ideas for kills and zombie slayings so fingers crossed I get to use those ideas in the next two films if we get to move on those.

With Romero clearly focused on his directorial future, Dread Central asked him what he felt was the reason that his quintessential zombie classic Night of the Living Dead still remains as the measuring stick for not only horror filmmakers but mainstream directors as well.

I think the reason Night still holds up after all this time is that beyond the zombies, there’s a timeless and terrifying story there. And for the people that aren’t as familiar with the horror genre, I think that the movie is almost a curiosity piece. People weren’t making films like that at the time and certainly not horror films with a message,” said Romero.

Romero added, “What I love most about Night, above any of the other Dead films, is that it’s still effective. It still has the ability to scare you to death and get into your core. That’s why I am still around telling these stories. I can’t get enough!

Magnet has released the film here in the US via VOD, XBOX Live, Playstation Network, and Amazon, and then you can dig on it in theatres as it begins its limited theatrical run on May 28th.

For more information on the movie check out the official Survival of the Dead Facebook page and the official Survival of the DeadMySpace page! If you’re on Twitter, you’ll want to follow @OfficialRomero to stay up-to-date on all things Dead.


Survival of the Dead – Red Band Trailer 2
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  • DavidFullam

    Romero, a God amongst insects.

  • Gus Bjork

    Not to be all picky or anything but ‘the Fifties’ is about a decade early. My dad almost took me to Living Dead when it first came out until my mom talked him down. I still remember him zipping up my little jacket at the front door while they had ‘a discussion’. Feel old enough already without getting another 10 added on.

    • Uncle Creepy

      You are correct sir. I completely missed that while editing.

  • kiddcapone

    I’m sorry…I know DC has more than a vested interest in this flick due to Creepy’s involvement but yikes, I can tell from the trailer the movie sucks balls. USUALLY a trailer is designed to make you want to SEE the flick, they put in the best scenes, and this has the anti-trailer. It makes me never ever ever want to watch this, even if it’s 2am and nothing else but infomercials are on tv.

    Land was shit. Diary was ever worse. And Survival looks like nothing more than another piss poor through-the-motions zombie cash in flick from Romero. His loyal fan base will love it and everyone else will consider it lower than direct-to-video garbage from a pathetic old fart with big goofy glasses who stopped being relevant decades ago.

    Romero made two great zombie movies with Night and Dawn and almost everything else he touched was utter shit. So he’s back to the well again milking the zombe genre until the day he finally keels over. Do your thing George! Stick with what you were good at over 30 fucking years ago…

    • Uncle Creepy

      Actually we have no vested interest in the movie at all. Yes I was in it … but I’m in a lot of things. The fact remains for horror fans a new Romero movie is a big deal and would get just as big a push no matter what the situation.

      • kiddcapone

        It’s not the same. Yes, because of your job in the horror industry you’ve met some people and they gave you a few brief seconds as an extra in obscure shit that mostly didn’t even have character names. I get it. But loving zombie movies and getting an opportunity to play one in a film directed by someone you idolize is a different story. It’s the horror fans wet dream. You have every right to be proud of it…hell, I sure would. Just don’t blow smoke up people’s asses and pretend it doesn’t carry extra weight around here. There’s no way you could possibly write an unbiased review of the film and I highly doubt anyone else on the DC will do so either.

        • Terminal

          Sue me but I tend to agree with kiddcapone. I’d be telling random people on the street I was in a Romero movie, but reviewing the movie you were in takes away your credibility, the site’s credibility, and ruins the potential bias of said review.

          It’s why John Fallon didn’t review “Alone in the Dark” in Arrow in the Head, because he had a hand in production and co-starred.

          It’s like Spielberg directing “Saving Private Ryan” and writing a review for it on Variety. You can’t not read a review for a movie written by someone who was in it or heavily involved in it without thinking “Oh of course they gave it a good review.”

          More power to you Creepy, but I agree with kiddcapone.
          ———-
          “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

          • Uncle Creepy

            Of course you do, Terminal. You’ll agree with any one who has the slightest issue with me or the way I do things. I get that. It’s Kool and the gang.

          • Rottenjesus

            No it’s not! It’s totally Gary Cherone and Van Halen and you fucking know it!

            Terminal’s hate boner for everything on DC is giving us good natured horror whores a black eye. (and not in a good way)

          • kiddcapone

            Just for the record, I don’t have an issue with you or how things are done around here. I get it. I understand. Like I said, Carpenter is my fav. If he gave me a cameo as “unnamed guy on bench” for 2 seconds of screen time I’d be thrilled. The movie could suck ass but I’d be biased because I was in it. Same shit with other projects. You hear more about who from here is working on something than the actual project. His Name Was Jason…DVD special features…Never Sleep Again…and now Survival of the Dead. And yes, the movie was going to get covered, but I think it’s going to get MORE than the usual coverage. And that’s cool…just a shame, if it’s as horrible as it appears and on par with the last 3 decades of garbage George Romero directed.

          • Vanvance1

            I’ll jump in here to say Romero deserves every word of coverage he gets.

            Here’s a man who has contributed hugely to the genre (and pop culture) and continues to fight the good fight as an INDEPENDENT.

            He still has his soul and his integrity. Be it Romero, Carpenter, Coscarelli or some of the new breed who are stepping up (Marshall); I’m happy to see DC supporting them in every way possible.

            These are the guys I want to read about.

          • FireRam

            Can I get a HELL YEAH!

            —————————————————-
            My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius,and I approved this message.

          • Gus Bjork

            Howard Johnson is right!

        • Uncle Creepy

          That’s why I’ve never written a review or conducted a single interview in promotion of it. I don’t do things like that for anything that I personally take part in, and I’m certainly not the type of person to tell anyone what to think or write. People like things? Groovy. If they don’t more power to them. I’d like to direct you to Matt Fini who is on my staff and said publicly that “Survival of the Dead is an embarrassment to the genre.”

          Dig on the comments of this story to see more.

          http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/36667/new-red-band-trailer-survival-dead

          I’m in the movie for all of forty seconds if that. Yes, it’s a wicked part for sure and given the usual Romero zombie onscreen lifespan that’s a pretty long time to “live”, but really — that’s hardly enough reason to sway someone either way. And besides … I would never take anyone’s opinion of the flick personally.

          People have said some pretty heinous things about the movie. I’ve never once defended it or told them that they were wrong. Survival, like most Romero projects is strictly a love it or hate it affair.

    • Cinemascribe

      kiddcapone wrote: “Romero made two great zombie movies with Night and Dawn and almost everything else he touched was utter shit. So he’s back to the well again milking the zombe genre until the day he finally keels over. Do your thing George! Stick with what you were good at over 30 fucking years ago…”

      Creepshow
      Knightriders
      Monkey Shines
      The Dark Half
      Bruiser (weird but cool flick)
      The Crazies
      Martin

      – None of them Dead films, all of them solid pieces of cinema. Hell, Knightriders isn’t even a horror film!

      And although I haven’t seen Survival yet, I thought Diary was his best since Dawn. In an effort to back this up, I’m reposting something I wrote back in February on another website, when I was asked to explain why. I’m doing this to demonstrate that this isn’t rampant fanboyism..I gave this some serious thought:

      Re: Uncle George movies, sequels, prequels, remakes
      « Reply #9 on: February 14, 2010, 02:15:12 AM »

      “Diary is actually my favorite Romero Dead film after the original Dawn. In terms of a “defense”, my take on it was that the layers you felt were missing were actually there to a degree we hadn’t seen since the ’78 shopping mall spectacular, MG. You’re right about the jab Romero took at the media- specifically the wry notion that in an age of government disinformation, Youtube posters and online bloggers might well be our only source of reliable information.

      However, there’s another level I read into it and I think Romero pulled it off deftly. In Dawn he took a shot at our need to act in our capacity as consumers, even in the face of something as horrific as the Zombie Apocalypse. In Diary he takes a similar approach and observes that when a catastrophic event hits, the survivors/witnesses seem to divide into two camps: Those who become proactive (be it by way of seeking shelter, coming up with a plan of escape, fighting back, or preparing for a long period of camping out/survivalist mechanics) and those who become voyeurs and decide to capture everything in the name of some bizarre notion of posterity.There’s a statement going on there about our inexplicable need to document everything, even if the result doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to remind us of what we already know. The reason this worked so well for me is that I can vividly remember the images of the World Trade Center going down on September 11th 2001 being replayed over and over again. It wasn’t enough that the attacks dominated every single aspect of our culture for months…. we had to watch the devastation unfold over and over again. I remember reading an article a week after the attacks which mentioned the fact that the ratings on the networks which replayed the collapsing buildings over and over were higher than those who didn’t, this despite protests from viewers who felt sickened by the repetition of the images. So in essence, a horrifying event unfolded to our shock and dismay, it was plastered on the news for all to see ad nauseam and at the same time people were loudly protesting this decision , they were tuning in in massive numbers. That paradox always stuck with me . Consequently, in Diary, the fact that the one guy won’t stop filming despite everything going on really got under my skin because I could easily imagine that he’s of the same mentality as those viewers who stayed glued to their TV screens to watch the towers fall on an endless loop while all around them others decried the images and said it was time to stop watching. Diary isolates this exact experience, adds real physical danger to the mix and plays it out on a more intimate scale. In my opinion, this is the some of the best social commentary Romero has ever engaged in.

      Aesthetically, I admired that the performances were realistic- no going for the Academy Award here..these characters behaved like real people in a real situation and I enjoyed the “every person” quality ..of all the Romero ghoul flicks, this was the cast I felt came the closest to capturing the flavor of the people boarded up in that farmhouse back in 1968. In fact, if you think about it, these students (and their Professor, who was my favorite character in the movie) were still trapped together in a house..just an RV instead of a building (until the third act anyway). I also appreciated that the final moments of the film tapped into the uncertainty facing the characters in this horrible new world. As was the case with the famous non-ending of Dawn, the fate of our protagonists this time around is left very much in the air..and the final images of the people in the safe room themselves employing the use of the subjective lens quietly suggests that a force even more threatening than the living dead- human madness- may have begun to creep into their equation.

      Just to be clear, I think Day of the Dead is the least of Romero’s Dead movies. It’s an awesome movie in it’s own right and I’d rather watch Day than any non-Romero ghoul epic, but compared to his others I think it’s just a movie about people squabbling and nothing more, albeit a well-executed one (which happens to feature Bub, the best.. zombie.. EVER). I’m aware there’s a growing trend to regard Day as an observation of the breakdown of civility due to human nature, but it’s predecessors and Diary all did basically the same thing and they did it better (Land was more of a comment on social class systems and politics).”

      (I could have edited the part about Day from the repost, but I thought I’d leave it in to further demonstrate that I don’t necessarily put everything Romero does on the highest pedestal)

      —————–
      “I’m saying that I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man…and loved it. But now the dream is over..and the insect is awake.” – Seth Brundle

      • kiddcapone

        “Creepshow
        Knightriders
        Monkey Shines
        The Dark Half
        Bruiser (weird but cool flick)
        The Crazies
        Martin

        – None of them Dead films, all of them solid pieces of cinema. Hell, Knightriders isn’t even a horror film!”

        First off, the only reason Creepshow was amazing is because Stephen King wrote it and was heavily involved. If Romero did it alone, it would have been on par with Creepshow 3. Or more along the lines of The Dark Half which he wrote his own screenplay based on King and the movie sucked balls.

        Monkey Shines, The Dark Half, Martin, and Bruiser were all terrible. I never saw the original Crazies nor Knightriders and don’t ever plan on it.

        Day of the Dead is a horrible movie bailed out by Savini’s amazing F/X work. Without the gore, it’s nothing but ridiculous stereotypical characters yelling at each other. The acting and dialogue is embarrassing. I’ve seen better actors on USA’s Up All Night movies. And he must have hired from the same acting company again when they cast Diary of the Dead. That was even worse.

        I just hope when Romero and his goofy gigantic glasses finally croaks that the …of the Dead bullshit dies with him. If I want to watch cheesy zombie shit, I’ll start watching direct to video flicks. They are on par and actually a lot better….

        • Vanvance1

          You guys are nuts.

          I believe ‘Day of the Dead’ is the best zombie film ever made.

          I also thought Romero did an amazing job with ‘The Dark Half’ far surpassing the dull, drawn out novel.

          In this day and age of shitty horror remakes how can anyone waste their venom on an artist like Romero?

  • Terminal

    Romero still has it as far as I’m concerned. Land was fun, Diary excellent and Survival excellent.
    ———-
    “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

  • Tshoffie

    hopefully his future films will be better because you cant get much lower then diary and Survival of the dead…horrible just plain horrible

  • ffforgottenx

    LOL, I’m watching NOTLD as I read this article. Proof of how much of a mark GAR has left on the genre. Looking forward to his future projects, whichever direction they go.