I feel vindicated.
I grew up on George Romero films, and specifically, I grew up on George Romero zombie films. Everyone else who’s worked in that genre needs to acknowledge how much he set the template that they’ve all followed since. He’s worked multiple variations in style and form as he’s returned to zombies again and again. I’m a fan of “Land Of The Dead,” and when he made “Diary Of The Dead,” I walked into it ready to enjoy it.
Didn’t, though. I hated it. Haaaaaated it.
I thought his use of the found footage gimmick was frustrating, his lead characters were either unbearable or non-existent. At the time, I wrote that the biggest problem with the movie was that we spent the whole film following people I hated as they drove by more interesting movies. There were several scenes that were interesting, provocative, and ultimately frustrating because they suggested much better films than the one I was watching.
When I saw “Survival Of The Dead” at the Toronto Film Festival last year, I almost cheered when I realized about five minutes into the film that Romero was starting from one of those scenes in “Diary” and then following that story instead. And sure enough, it was much more interesting. I liked “Survival.” Didn’t love it, but liked it. I thought it suggested a refreshed Romero, a guy who was enjoying the work again.
It’s a bit of a genre-bender in its own right, a John Ford movie set on an island that’s dealing with the zombie holocaust while also dealing with long-standing tensions between families. The great part of what Romero’s doing with his films right now is that he can tell any kind of story as long as he drops some zombies into it somehow. That’s the point. There are a million different stories in play when the world ends, and just because there are zombies now, that doesn’t mean all of those stories stop or that they all suddenly become the exact same type of story.
Now, in an interview with Devin Faraci, Romero hints that there may be two more films that use moments in “Diary” as jumping-off points. If you’ve seen that film, you’ll probably understand why it’s exciting to hear that he wants to make the black militia movie as one of these two films. That was the subplot that almost everyone thought would have been interesting. Romero says he may also be making a film noir film set in the world, and that’s potentially very cool as well.
If Romero ends up making both of these, then I may actually have to put an asterisk next to my dislike of “Diary” because of all the fascinating movies that resulted from it. That may be one of the few times this has ever happened with a film and its sequels, and that alone makes it really interesting.
“Survival Of The Dead” is in theaters and on VOD May 28.
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