Happy Birthday George!

In honor of the Godfather of zombie films, Mr. George A. Romero, who turns 72 today, I have decided to countdown a list of my favorite horror creations which feature the walking dead.

1.) Dawn of the Dead

This satire on consumerism in America is the film that helped to kickstart my love affair with zombies. When I first saw this at a young age, I remember feeling physically sick and scared because it seemed so real. The scene where the black guy in the projects takes a chomp out of the lady’s neck ALWAYS did and always will scare the hell out of me, mostly in part because I lived in the projects at the time, and I imagined that a similar scenario could happen (I was young and stupid).  Upon viewing the movie at an older age, where I could get a better understanding of its awesomeness, I fell completely in love.
The film follows a group of people who seek refuge at a shopping mall during a zombie apocalypse. Things are fine and dandy at first until the individuals slowly lose their cool, being attacked and turned a long the way. The film spawned one of my favorite movie lines of all time: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”
2.) Night of the Living Dead
 This bad boy is responsible for all of the zombie films that we currently have today. The 1968 black-and-white horror classic, which was made for a mere $114,000, broke cinematic barriers and sent shockwaves throughout the world. During the time of its initial release, the MPAA rating system wasn’t set up yet, resulting in unsuspecting groups of families going to see the film together. Audiences were stunned at the gore and violence, which was really quite simple, and some were so terrified by the film’s images that they began vomiting outside their car windows!
The movie’s plot is simple: A young woman and her brother are attacked by a zombie while visiting their father’s grave. The helpless young woman becomes separated from her brother and seeks refuge in an abandoned farm house, which is already housed by more people. Together, the group fight over what to do while simultaneously trying to survive the hoards of the living dead. The Romero classic also includes another one of my other favorite quotes: “They’re coming to get you Barbara!” And don’t tell me you don’t want to say this line to every Barbara that you ever meet.
3.) The Return of the Living Dead
This 1985 classic took a different approach to the zombie story by making it funny and over-the-top ridiculous. This horror comedy is the zombie film that introduced audiences to the idea that zombies ate braaaains, which is a phrase that the undead creatures repeated throughout the film. The death metal and punk rock induced movie follows two men working at a storage facility who accidentally expose toxic gases into the atmosphere. The gas makes its way into a nearby cemetery, awaking numerous brain hungry corpses who terrorize the town and a group of people stuck in a mortuary. The film was funny, goofy, and gory; the perfect combination for a horror film.
4.) Shaun of the Dead
 So many people try to make a horror parody and almost all of them fail miserably–except Shaun of the Dead. This British import is a refreshing and hilarious take on the zombie genre that brilliantly pays homage to Romero classics like Dawn of the Dead. The film follows an unmotivated man, Shaun, who has a dead-end job and has just been dumped by his girlfriend. One morning, Shaun and his best friend, Ed, are thrust into a post-apocalyptic world and they, along with their gathered friends and family, seek refuge in their favorite venue: the Winchester Pub. The movie is packed with smart and intelligent humor and it includes one awesome scene involving a Queen song. Don’t. Stop. Me. Now.
5.)The Walking Dead

Based on the bestselling graphic novel series created by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead follows a group of people who band together after an unexplained zombie apocalypse occurs. The AMC drama, which was originally directed by the phenomenal Frank Darabont, effortlessly showcases how humans react when they are put into a dire situation. The audience gets to see the monsters that people can become when their world is turned upside down and they are faced with a lawless new society. The show is backed by an amazing cast and even greater storylines. Sure, at times the zombie drama can be slow; however, its pace helps the audience to really get to know what the characters are going through and when the action does pick up, it’s usually monumental (the barn scene from the mid-season finale, anyone?).

My list of favorite zombie productions is short and sweet and there are so many other great zombie creations out there. George A. Romero is a revolutionary who paved the way for gore in cinema and not only did the man succeed in terrifying us with his post apocalyptic worlds, he simultaneously commented on society as well.

On the outside, Romero’s films seem like typical horror movies but when you really look at their core, one can see the deeper messages that he embeds into his stories. Happy birthday George! I love and admire you more than you will ever know!


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