7.2 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
7.0 Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
6.7 The Crazies (1973)
6.7 Martin (1977)
6.7 Knightriders (1981)
6.9 Creepshow (1982)
6.8 Day of the Dead (1985)
6.0 The Dark Half (1993)
7.0 Land of the Dead (2005)
4.0 Survival of the Dead (2009)
George Romero (USA, 1940), the son of a Lithuanian father and a Cuban mother,
debuted with a classic of horror cinema,
Night Of The Living Dead (1968), which he concocted with a group of friends, all of them amateurs, with an original screenplay influenced by Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend" (1954) and by Ubaldo Ragona's film "The Last Man on Earth" (1964).
Barbara locks herself in and then takes a look around. Soon she realizes that the house was raided by some manic killer who left behind only horribly maimed corpses. The zombie is still haunting her, but a black man saves her. Barbara is in shock and does not answer his questions. In the meantime, more zombies have assembled outside and the black man has to crush their heads to stop them. But more and more zombies appear, each walking in a slow but determined manner. They remain outside in the dark, staring and groaning. The black man barricades every window and every door and tells Barbara that the zombies appeared from nowhere and seem unstoppable. They are only afraid of fire.
The radio broadcasts emergency bulletins about a wave of mass murders and acts of cannibalism. A man (Cooper) and a young man were hiding in the basement, with their respective wives, and they argue that the basement is a safer place. The black man thinks he has closed all openings, but arms soon appear from the windows. They don't feel pain, so they just keep coming, no matter what. And there seem to be ever more of them. Cooper's daughter has been bitten by the zombies and is being watched by her mother in the basement. Cooper is frantically complaining about everything, whereas his wife, obviously not in love with him, seems indifferent to their destiny.
Television broadcasts interviews and commentaries about the cannibal zombies. Experts argue whether the phenomenon is caused by a mysterious cosmic radiation.
The nice young man volunteers to leave the house on a truck and go look for help. His sweet, lovely and beautiful wife won't let him leave alone. But the attempt fails, as they accidentally set fire to the truck and the zombies close in on it. The truck is burning while the crowd of monsters slowly approaches it. From the house the others can see the cannibals consuming their horrid meal, walking around in their emotionless trance with limbs and bones and organs and intestines, that used to be the two nice lovers.
Inside the house, the adults are still arguing. The black man is still in control and is waiting for the next tv news. Barbara scorns them all. Downstairs the girl who was bitten is still sick.
On television they hear more silly interviews with the authorities. Then the electricity goes off and they are left in the dark. The zombies are coming. They start banging on the door and hammering at the walls with everything they have. Their hands appear through every hole they make, trying to grasp human flesh. The black man is the only one that fights them. Cooper panicks, takes the gun and tries to run away, but the black guy stops him and wounds him.
Cooper walks downstairs and falls next to the bed, where is daughter lies. In the meantime, the arms of the zombies have grabbed the woman. Hundreds of arms extend inside the house. Barbara runs to help her, but is in turn trapped by the zombies. The mother walks downstairs and finds her daughter patiently and quietly eating her father: she has become a zombie too. The child grabs a shovel and methodically crushes her mother's head blow after blow, blood spilling on the walls. Upstairs the black is still fighting against the tentacles that are slowly demolishing the house. The prisoners are over-run, zombies enter from every window and door. The only survivor, the black, runs downstairs while the zombies enter the house by the dozens and follow him. While they start hammering at the basement door, the guy sees the dead father and the dead mother rise and has to shoot them both in the head.
Morning, the sun rises, birds chirp, quiet. A helicopter, police eveywhere. A posse led by the sheriff is moving in the fields. They are shooting in the head every zombie they meet. One of them shoots the black guy, who had come to the window to figure out if finally someone was coming to save him. Photographs of the police entering the house and finding all the maimed bodies.
In terms of tension and terror, and creation of a parallel universe of non-emotion, this is one of the greatest films ever made. The radio and the television are co-protagonist. Their chronicles set the pace for the movie. What generates the terror is not so much the gorey scenes of killings and cannibalism, but the relentless pace of the zombies and their ever growing crowd, and the way everybody slowly becomes a zombie.
There's Always Vanilla (1971)
Jack's Wife/ Season of the Witch (1972)
The Crazies (1973) is a political thriller before it is a horror movie (or a sci-fi movie of sorts) because it depicts the US government as the "alien". People go crazy after a biological incident unleashes a lethal virus and the government decides to quarantine the location and plans to exterminate them. The heroes are ordinary folks who are running away from the government and kill soldiers.
The Amusement Park (1975)
The vampire movie Martin (1977) was a sensitive departure from the stereotypes of the genre, displaying Romero's unique vision of horror.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978) is the worthy sequel. The film employs a more neurotic (and lot bloodier) and less psychedelic style, but fundamentally repeats the same trick. However, it dilutes the tension in scenes that borrow from James Bond and Mad Max. The television as a medium to spread panic is not used to the same effect, it is a mere voice in the desert. It also feels like a comedy, a parody of the zombie genre. The man who should be the center of the action, Steven, is a stereotypical American asshole.
The soldiers have surrounded the house where a Puertorican gang is hiding. After a bloody shootout and tear gas bombs, the soldiers enter the building and arrest everybody. They are searching for zombies and find them. Man completely covered with blood and maimed who crawl and walk and try to bite them. The soldiers can only shoot them in the head, but a young soldier just doesn't have the stomach. He meets a black soldier who comforts him.
In the meantime the soldiers are over-run by a crowd of zombies that seem to come out of every door. in the basement the two soldiers find a community of zombies who are quietly eating body parts. The black soldier starts shooting at them, one by one, right in the head. They hardly move to defend themselves. The younger one eventually joins him. They esterminate all of them.
The woman and her boyfriend (Steven) are trying to leave in a helicopter, but a gang of deserters stops them. The young and black soldiers arrive in a car, free them and together the four take off in the helicopter.
From the air they can see that armies of zombies are advancing everywhere, while soldiers control the roads and volunteers enroll to shoot the zombies, an easy job since zombies don't defend themselves.
Every time the helicopter stops they are attacked by dead bodies.
The four fugitives notice intense zombie activity in a shopping mall and decide to check it out. The two soldiers enter the mall while Steven and the girl are barricaded in a basement room. The two soldiers rob the stores by outrunning the zombies. Steven joins them and the woman, left alone, is about to be overrun by a zombie who found her. The men have decided to stay at the mall, because there they have everything they need. Then the two soldiers and Steven venture outside to get two trucks. Far from being terrified, the soldiers make fun of the zombies. The young trooper, Roger, has the time of his life driving over the zombies with his truck. But eventually the zombies bit him. A few days and even Roger turns into a zombie, and it is his buddy Peter that has to shoot him in the head. Other than that, their life has become a routine: they go "shopping" in the mall, live in their little bunker. Eventually even the tv goes blank: there are no broadcasts anymore.
One day they make radio contact with a (Mad Max-style) gang of punk motorbikers. The punks reach the mall and enjoy massacring zombies. Then they turn to looting the mall. Steven does not resist and starts shooting them to defend "his" mall. That starts a war. Steven and Peter win and the gangsters ride back on their bikes, leaving behind a few of their partners to be devoured alive by the zombies. Steven is also cornered in an elevator and mauled alive.
Steven, turned zombie, leads the army of dead bodies towards the hideout. Peter shoots his head and then the two survivors manage to elope on the helicopter.
Day of the Dead (1985) continues his zombie saga, increasing the hopelessness of the few human survivors, but also introducing glimpses of humanity in the zombies.
Monkey Shines (1988), based on Michael Stewart's novel (1983), is about a crippled man who vicariously becomes a serial killer via a monkey made intelligent by an old friend, a mad Frankenstein-style scientist. The monkey is metaphorically the inner beast of the powerless and humiliated cripple, or a Mr Hyde to the cripple's Dr Jekyll. The film has a happy ending, thus flirting with mainstream Hollywood.
Two Evil Eyes (1990)
The Dark Half (1993) is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, one of the best King adaptations.
Jacaranda Joe (1994)
Land of the Dead (2005) is set in a post-apocalyptic medieval world run by warlords, in which humans have learned to coexist with zombies, and the zombies are simply another "race", and a race capable of fighting for its own rights.
Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009) are trivial zombie movies, not worthy of the first four.
Iron City Asskickers (2021)