George A. Romero is the father of the zombie genre — his 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead was the first zombie movie ever, and it set out many of the rules still used by many movies and TV shows to this day. Subsequent Romero films like 1978’s Dawn of the Dead and 1985’s Day of the Dead are considered some of the best zombie apocalypse movies ever made.
But the latest batch of zombie films he made in the 2000s received way less accolades, and it’s Romero’s position that The Walking Dead is to blame. In the past, he’s called the show “a soap opera with an occasional zombie.” Now he’s accusing it of dumbing down the genre and getting rid of all the social commentary he feels should be at the heart of any story involving the undead returning to devour the living.
“All of a sudden, here came The Walking Dead,” he told Indiewire in a recent interview. “So you couldn’t a zombie film that had any sort of substance. It had to be a zombie film with just zombies wreaking havoc. That’s not what I’m about.”
“Now, because of World War Z and The Walking Dead, I can’t pitch a modest little zombie film, which is meant to be sociopolitical. I used to be able to pitch them on the basis of the zombie action, and I could hide the message inside that. Now, you can’t. The moment you mention the word zombie, it’s got to be, ‘Hey, Brad Pitt paid $400 million to do that.'”
Just to make sure George’s message isn’t lost, Night of the Living Dead was about the collapse of the family unit, Dawn of the Dead was a commentary on consumerism, and Day of the Dead critiqued our modern inability to communicate with each other. Land of the Dead touched on inequality between the rich and the poor, Diary of the Dead ripped into social media, and Survival of the Dead went back to how we just can’t seem to get along anymore.
But if you ask us, none of Romero’s recent movies have done a particularly good job of examining those concepts or providing quality zombie horde scares. At least World War Z and The Walking Dead deliver on the horde part, and we’d argue The Walking Dead‘s themes and ideas can be pretty thought provoking even if they aren’t loaded with heavy-handed social commentary.
But maybe we’re wrong and George A. Romero is right. He’s hardly the first grandfather of horror to critique The Walking Dead. John Carpenter recently called the show a rip-off of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. And now Romero is saying they didn’t even rip it off properly. Damn. That’s gotta hurt more than a Negan baseball bat to the head.