The Films of George A. Romero
Night of the Living Dead
There's Always Vanilla
Season of the Witch
The Crazies (February 21/10)
An uncommonly interminable piece of work, The Crazies details the chaos that ensues after a deadly virus is accidentally unleashed on a small town - with the movie subsequently following a small group of survivors as they attempt to escape the military's trigger-happy clutches. George A. Romero's stunning incompetence is in evidence right from the word go, as the filmmaker launches directly into the storyline with nary a whiff of context or character development - thus ensuring that the viewer's ongoing efforts at working up sympathy for the protagonists' increasingly perilous plight fall flat on an all-too-consistent basis. The film's myriad of problems are exacerbated by Romero's pervasively amateurish directorial sensibilities, with the shot-on-the-cheap visuals, aggressively obnoxious score, and eye-rollingly dated editorial choices ranking high on The Crazies' list of hopelessly inept elements. There's consequently little doubt that the movie's disjointed and flat-out nonsensical atmosphere instantly transforms it into a seemingly insurmountable endurance test, and it's certainly not difficult to envision even the most ardent Romero fan throwing their arms up in frustration - with the curious lack of violence and gore essentially perpetuating the vibe of superfluousness that's been hard-wired into every aspect of the proceedings. The end result is a thoroughly unpleasant cinematic experience that would've undoubtedly ended any other filmmaker's career, with Romero's unwarranted longevity surely due to his ongoing successes within the zombie genre.
no stars out of
O.J. Simpson: Juice on the Loose
Dawn of the Dead
Day of the Living Dead
Monkey Shines (December 31/13)
Monkey Shines follows athlete Allan Mann (Jason Beghe) as he's confined to a wheelchair after a tragic accident, with the film detailing Allan's efforts at coping with his newfound disability and, eventually, his relationship with his helper monkey, Ella (Boo). It's rather interesting to note that for the majority of its (overlong) running time, Monkey Shines plays like a straight drama that's devoted primarily to Allan's slow recovery - as filmmaker George A. Romero, working from his own screenplay, spends an almost inordinate amount of time exploring the minutia of the central character's post-accident existence. And although Romero does test the viewer's patience with his decision to stress uninvolving subplots - eg Allan's increasingly strained relationship with his domineering mother (Joyce Van Patten's Dorothy) - Monkey Shines benefits substantially from its emphasis on Ella's initial arrival at Allan's house and his subsequent attempts at forming a bond with the intelligent primate (ie there's an inherently engrossing quality to such sequences). The creeping inclusion of questionable horror elements - eg Allan's psychic link with Ella is beyond stupid - ensures that the viewer's interest begins to dwindle significantly as the movie passes the one-hour mark, although, to be fair, there's little doubt that the film's climactic Ella-terrorizes-Allan stretch fares a whole lot better than one might've anticipated. By the time the hilarious yet memorable Carrie-esque final shocker rolls around, Monkey Shines has established itself as a passable horror effort that could've used a few more passes through the editing bay (ie 113 minutes is just absurd, clearly).
The Dark Half
Bruiser (May 3/03)
Bruiser's a bit of an oddity. It marks George A. Romero's first film in nearly a decade, so presumably he spent a lot of time fine-tuning the script. But even if one is willing to go with the film's outlandish premise, Romero's flaccid direction and stilted dialogue ends up souring whatever positive impact the film might've had. Jason Flemyng stars as Henry Creedlow, a semi-successful but wholly unassuming man with a decent job at a magazine called Bruiser. Henry's accepted the fact that he's a nice guy and a pushover; his wife, Janine (Nina Garbiras), has not. She's having an affair with Henry's boss, the slightly insane Milo (Peter Stormare). After making a mask out of clay at a friends house one night, Henry wakes up the following morning to find that said mask has replaced his face. He doesn't question this; instead, he uses his newfound anonymity to get revenge on the various folks in his life that have wronged him. Bruiser is clearly meant to operate as both a social satire and horror flick, but it's effective in neither realm. The film's premise is inherently a silly one, so Romero would've had to do a lot of legwork to convince the viewer of its validity. The transformation of Henry into "faceless" (as the press dubs him) is so poorly done - Henry hardly even questions the fact that he no longer has a face - that the remainder of the movie suffers because of it. Aside from a brief sequence in which he tries to pull the mask off, Henry accepts this bizarre turn of events and immediately becomes an entirely different person. Within minutes of making the discovery, he kills his maid for stealing from him; this is the same guy who saw his wife making out with another man but didn't say anything. Obviously, the whole point of the movie is that now that Henry's essentially had his identity removed, he can finally do everything he's always wanted to. But since he was such a mild-mannered man to begin with, his immediate transformation doesn't ring true at all. There's not much subtlety in Romero's script, and the broad strokes with which he's painted the central character applies to the supporting cast as well. The best example of this is Stormare's Milo, an absurdly over-the-top concoction that no doubt represents what Romero perceives to be the worst excesses of success. As a result, the character is hardly believable and Stormare's ridiculous histrionics are more distracting than anything else. Then again, it's not like any of the other figures in the film are grounded in reality, so in the grand scheme of things, Stormare's performance works. But it's a shame that Romero's taken the easy way out in developing the various story arcs, since he's populated the film with quite a few talented actors. As for the horror aspect of the film, it's virtually non-existent. Once Henry becomes "faceless," the film essentially turns into a slasher movie as he stalks his victims and dispatches them in semi-creative ways. But even this portion of the movie has been done better before, and since we don't have anything invested in any of the characters, it's impossible to care or feel sorry for Henry's prey. Unless you're a die hard Romero fan, it's unlikely Bruiser will have much of an impact. Even his much maligned adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Half was more effective than this, and just goes to show that a nifty premise isn't enough to sustain a 100-minute movie.
Land of the Dead
Diary of the Dead & Survival of the Dead
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