The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue)

Resplendent in Newspeak and Doublethink.

“Choke on ‘em! CHOKE ON ‘EM!!!”

Oh, for those halcyon days of my youth when I watched ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ for the very first time. It would undoubtedly have been a Saturday night/Sunday morning affair but I can’t remember whether it was on BBC2 or C4. It was certainly not my first horror movie, but it was the one that changed everything I thought about the genre. Until then, I had been exposed to classic Universal creature-features and Hammer, which had kept me engrossed and entertained. I had also been used to watching the ‘slashers’ that had spread like wildfire since the mid-eighties.  Nothing, however, had captured my imagination like that experience I had in the early hours of that fateful Sunday morning.

What I can recall was how, to coin a phrase, it “blew my mind”. The juxtaposition of 70’s commercialism and greed fitted perfectly in Romero’s vision of a dystopian future, overrun with the walking dead. After all, “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the earth”. It sparked my imagination beyond its boundaries and continues to do so.  I began to imagine what it would be like to face such a world, broken down by something unexplained which had turned the dead into the living once again. I would think about what I would do. Would I fight or run? Would I have a conscience in killing friends or family if they ‘turned’. That’s just how it sparked my imagination*.

‘Dawn Of The Dead’ began my fascination with George A. Romero. I then went back and watched ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ and fell headfirst into its world of claustrophobia and isolation along with paranoia of communism and the space program. It’s finale enthralled and shocked me (a finale which still raise questions to this day), especially after all Ben, it’s protagonist, had been put through. Every time I watch ‘Night’, it still continues to astound me. It is both brilliant and magnificent.

With ‘Day Of The Dead’ I became, to what Romero himself dubbed, a “troll” (those fans who regard ‘Day’ as their favourite). I revel in that tag! Focusing on a real-world 80’s fear of scientific progression coalescing with the advancements in warfare, Romero, in my opinion, produced his most bleak, paranoid and goriest feature in the series. He also gave us the iconic figures of the military nut-job Rhodes and Bub, the first loveable zombie! I can still vividly remember the TV spot for the release of ‘Day’. It unnerved me then and still does every time I see it.

Then, in June 2005, Romero was back with a fourth part of the ‘Dead’ saga with ‘Land Of The Dead’. Trying, in part, to bring to the big screen what he had planned for ‘Day’ (the idea of over and underground camps, isolated from the threat of the dead), he would use capitalism and greed once again as a basis for this fourth part in the saga. Yet, this is where the ‘rot’ (no pun intended) would set in. By now, it had been so long since ‘Day’ that the zombie movie was almost ‘dead’ (pun?), only barely ‘breathing’ (pun!) with Zack Snyder’s ‘reimagining’ of ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ in 2004. ‘Land’ was a reasonable movie. It was still somewhat cannon to the legacy. Most of those who have seen it regard it as a natural ending point.

It wasn’t to be. In 2007 Romero contracted ‘Carpenter’s Fever’.  I’m thinking of adding it to Wikipedia. To define:

“A highly contagious virus, first noted when contracted in 1996 by film-maker John Carpenter whilst making the motion picture ‘Escape From L.A.’.  The infection breaks down the imagination of a once highly regarded and capable genre filmmaker. The individual will lose the ability to make coherent and entertaining motion pictures within their applicable genre. Once contracted, the filmmaker will instead begin to produce sub-standard, flatulent nonsense, to the universal disappointment to all those who have, until contagion, appreciated their body of work.’ There is no know cure at this time.”

Romero had become contagious. He filmed ‘Diary Of The Dead’. An uninspired (read: ‘The Blair Witch Project’), insipid, dreadful mess of a movie that had nothing do to with the established chronology of his past work. With no noticeable plot and little character development (you feel no shock or sadness for anyone who “buys the farm”) it was a shameful piece of work from the master of the zombie genre.

He has shown no signs of recovery with ‘Survival Of The Dead’. It have tried so hard to be fair in my appraisal of this latest effort from someone who I admire so greatly. It pains me to say what I’m about to say. The thought of it almost brings me to tears.

It is an utterly ridiculous, derivative, noxious piece of garbage. There is nothing worthy about it. Lack of a sufficient budget is one thing, but once again Romero delivers a film of such colossal under-development and abysmal characterizations that it now seems fate that he, like Carpenter, will never recover from it.

The day has come for us Romero fans to utter the words we feared. The words we hoped we would never have to say.

“Please, George. Please, STOP.”

I feel like I’ve betrayed him. I’m sorry. When I think back to a ‘Land Of The Dead’ signing when, upon meeting him I went almost catatonic, I never thought I’d be so disappointed.

* Think I’m nuts? Go and read ‘The Zombie Survival Guide’ by Max Brooks. I even have a copy of the thesis ‘When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling Of An Outbreak of Zombie Infection’ published by the University of Ottawa (the maths works by the way).

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March 21, 2010 - Posted by | Film

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