Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
For the longest time, George Romero was the king of zombie movies. Thanks to the innovation that was Night of the Living Dead, zombies became all the rage, and the filmmaker has had a niche in the undead horror thriller world for decades now. Following the original film’s release in 1968, Romero made Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, and more recently he’s followed those up with Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. But now even the king of zombie movies is having trouble getting them made.
In a recent interview, George Romero reveals that he’s been having trouble getting financing for the kind of zombie movies he wants to make, and he puts the blame on World War Z and The Walking Dead. Find out more below.
Here’s why George Romero blames The Walking Dead and World War Z for his filmmaking troubles:
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.'”
Romero recounts to IndieWire how the success of Diary of the Dead in 2007 caught him off guard, and it resulted in the quick turnaround to get Survival of the Dead off the ground in 2009, though he might not have had a fully formed idea to make it work. He explains that there was supposed to be another movie that would follow, but it didn’t happen:
I had a sequel. I was ready to shoot. In 2007, Diary of the Dead all of a sudden made money. I was blindsided by that. One of the producers said, ‘Let’s make another one quick.’ I didn’t know what else I could talk about. Diary of the Dead talked about how social media is haunting us today. I didn’t have anything else to talk about. So I decided to go back to the original premise of misunderstanding and people not being able to see each other’s point of view. I said I’ll do this one as a western and the next one as a noir. So did the western, nobody liked it, and the other one fell away. Then, all of a sudden, here came The Walking Dead. So you couldn’t [have] 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.
Indeed, The Walking Dead debuted in 2010, and the zombie business really hasn’t been the same ever since. It’s not as if the show has the same nonstop, big-budget action that a movie like World War Z does, but it does have a massive fan base now and brings the action when it’s called for. The AMC series isn’t perfect, but it has plenty of character development that doesn’t always rely on expensive hordes of zombies. That’s why there was so much emotional outcry after the seventh season premiere killed off two key characters, and it wasn’t even at the hands of the undead.
While I think Romero is justifiably frustrated at the state of film financing today, I don’t think he can really blame The Walking Dead and World War Z as the scapegoats. It doesn’t really help that Romero’s recent zombie movies haven’t been all that engaging. Nowadays most zombie movies are mashing up genres and doing more innovative things. Movies like Warm Bodies and Maggie have taken fresh approaches to the genre.
So while Romero is still trying to cover up his thematic messages with zombie action, he doesn’t seem to realize that it’s not that easy anymore. But again, I don’t think it’s because the scale of zombie action has escalated. Maybe people just don’t want to see straight-up zombie action anymore, but a fresh take on the subgenre. Plus, let’s not forget that even proven blockbuster filmmakers are having trouble getting projects off the ground. It’s just not easy to get financing for a movie in general right now.
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