Thursday, July 15, 2010

Romero Remakes

I may be wrong, but George A. Romero has top prize for the most remakes; Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead (twice), Day of the Dead and, most recently, The Crazies. Ironically, he has preached his frustration of having become typecast as a horror film director, regardless of the fact that his movies have clearly transcended the bounds of genre cinema. All of his zombie pictures are overt in political theme and social commentary. He has stated that his texts were never meant as grand critiques, perfectly demonstrating the legitimacy of psychoanalytic film theory. He is irrefutability the best horror director that has ever lived, and his films have been remade in the hopes of finding new audiences with similar fears located within the modern zeitgeist. These remakes illustrate that Romero has accomplished his directorial duty with perfection. Rather than attempting to create new narratives, studios rehash the plots of a master. Romero is to horror film what Shakespeare has become to the romantic comedy.

However, when placing the remakes into a ring with the originals, the remakes have proven far superior. Beginning with Night of the Living Dead, although I can respect the low-budget and creativity, I am probably one of the few viewers who prefers the 1990 remake. While such admittance is perhaps based upon the nostalgia of an early seedling of cinematic love, it was nevertheless one of the few horror films I could endure without retreating to my parents bedroom upon the rolling credits. The remake maintains all of the same plot elements, though punches them with better acting, better camera work and realistic gore. Even the concluding montage is far superior, which includes an assemblage of photographs involving the redneck hunters; an ending that directs the viewer into a subjective choice between a joyously tragic or tragically joyous conclusion.

I would discuss the Night of the Living Dead 3D remake, but thirty minutes of torture was more than enough and I never finished the visual garbage.

Dawn of the Dead is both the greatest remake and one of the greatest horror films ever made. Unfortunately, the blue faces and bright red blood of the original have created barriers preventing the procurement of new and modern audiences. Although the original’s opening scene at the television station is one of the most exciting hooks into a story, the remake’s focus on suburban living shifts away from the cliché “first kill” dominant in horror films and into a rising action that is absolutely terrifying in the basis of my personal suburban reality. Most impressive and, yet again receiving top honors, is the introductory title sequence rolling credits alongside Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around.” This song is like going to the hottest strip club in Vegas the hour before you get laid. I don’t think anybody would move an inch after getting beaten with this type of artistry.

Finally, The Crazies was unequivocally the greatest remake when pitted against the original; it’s like the sexuality of Ingrid Bergman from 1950 against today’s Megan Fox. Yet again. Romero’s original perfectly captured the social sentiment at the peak of Vietnam America. Allegorical images drawn directly from the time period include the Buddhist, Thic Quang Duc, who sets himself on fire amidst the militant chaos. However, the tragically low production quality and uninspired script forced this movie into the back of the line of respectable 1970s dystopic texts. THX1138, Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes amongst many others were far superior, subsequently positioning The Crazies into obscurity until it was resurrected last year. Though once again, it seemed that in the current era of political division and economic/political uncertainty studios have welcomed a revival of its premise. Though where Romero got it wrong, director Breck Eisner and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre created a terrifically realistic portrayal of a small-town pandemic. The remake almost functions as a deconstruction of modern day horror, tricking the audience into believing a cliché pop out, overabundant gore or even certain character developments are going to occur before unleashing countless surprises with new ideas and techniques. It is shot beautifully, and avoids the quick cut, Mtv Editing that dominates and is destroying the genre today.

Where’s Day of the Dead? Well considering it has a 1.6 star suggestive rating for me on Netflix and a 4.3 on imdb, it’s not anywhere near my must-see priorities list. Regardless of whether its decent or not, I rest assured that it fails when placed against the texts above.

In this modern day of cinema, in which new genres are sparse and the horror genre specifically has appeared to plateau and regressed into an endless spew of dystopic narratives, it is clear that instead of inventing new styles future horror directors need to punch up and fix what was lacking in prior texts. I hate that the last ten years of pop cinema has been devoted exclusively to remakes, sequels, prequels and biopics. It is evident that when money can be easily made through recreating a once popular story, there is no incentive to try new ideas. Regardless, The Crazies, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead illustrate that it is possible to vamp up texts that have become relatively antiquated. I would say this should be done to all future horror remakes, but it seems like that cup is becoming empty (you know its getting bad when Prom Night gets remade). Instead of remaking movies, there should be a focus on recreating scenes that focus upon perfecting past stories or scenes, but didn’t quite hit the mark. People criticize Tarantino for being a thief of film, but to discover these influences requires horrendously boreful research. He doesn’t steal, he amends; all writers and directors need to do the same. Technique is dead, Kubrick/Boyle/Fincher/Welles have all collectively killed it through pushing technique to the utter brink of originality. There must be a regression into great scenes and overall narratives. Use what has been done in the past and ask what can be done to make it better. There is so much invested in remaking entire texts, how about instead we take what didn’t quite work before and repair it? Dawn of the Dead did exactly that; it was phenomenally mature in understanding what was appropriate to maintain and reinvent, while avoiding sensationalized gore like all other horror films were doing.

It’s not that Romero was a bad director, it was that his movies have become such powerful relics in the history of horror and cinema as a whole that individuals respect their need to be retold with modern techniques. Like stories passed down in past ages, the remakes of Romero’s are far greater than any statue could award or recognize. This man has had more of his films remade than any other director. That is an honor I think very few will ever come close to achieving. It proves that contrary to most others, Romero got it right.