George A Romero b New York New York February

A key figure in the new wave of horror films in the 1960s and 1970s, George A. Romero brought an entirely new sensibility to the genre, drastically reinterpreting some of its classic monsters and infusing it with a political consciousness and ironic self-awareness, as well as a level of explicit gore that had been largely lacking before. His first film was Night of the Living Dead (1968), which established a new zombie mythology that has spawned an entire subgenre.

Romero made industrial and commercial films in Pittsburgh before directing Night of the Living Dead, which became a cult favorite and one of the first midnight movies. Often serving also as cinematographer, editor, or screenwriter for his films, Romero is clearly an auteur with an original approach to the horror genre. Romero's vision comes through in the offbeat Knightriders (1981), a non-horror film that he wrote, edited, and directed. Its far-fetched story about an itinerant band of motorcyclists who operate a fair like a medieval guild is silly as drama, but makes perfect sense as an auteurist expression ofthe theme ofgroup solidarity against the threat of cultural homogenization—a theme that also runs through his four zombie films.

Romero's earlier horror films, made on minimal budgets, deconstruct many of the conventions of classic horror and examine their ideological assumptions from a more critical and distanced perspective. Martin (1977), for example, is a vampire film without a true vampire. The young man of the title has been warped by Old World superstition, his grandfather raising him to believe that he has been cursed to be a vampire. Forcing transfusion on his victims to fulfill what he believes to be his vampiric fate, Martin has been made monstrous by irrational fear. Hungry Wives (Season of the Witch, 1972), similarly, shows that the very concept of the witch is grounded in patriarchal oppression of women.

Romero's later films, for which he tended to have bigger budgets, have also been less adventurous thematically. Creepshow (1982), written by Stephen King, and Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear (1988) are more conventional and lack the daring of Romero's zombie films, a territory that he has mined for almost forty years. A decade after Night, Dawn of the Dead (1978) was an apocalyptic masterpiece that raised the bar for splatter effects. Romero also combined comedy and horror in a striking blend that introduced a generation of subsequent horror directors, most notable among them Peter Jackson. Land of the Dead (2005) brought the political satire in these films about the American populace as soulless cannibals to the fore.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

Night of the Living Dead (1968), Hungry Wives (Season of the Witch, 1972), The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Knightriders (1981), Day of the Dead (1985), Night of the Living Dead (screenplay, 1990), Land of the Dead (2005)

FURTHER READING

Gagne, Paul R. The Zombies that Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of

George A. Romero. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1987. Romero, George A., and Susanna Sparrow. Dawn of the Dead. New York: St. Martin's, 1978.

Waller, Gregory. The Living and the Undead: From Stoker's Dracula to Romero's Dawn ofthe Dead. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Williams, Tony. The Cinema of George Romero: Knight of the Living Dead. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2003.

Barry Keith Grant extent this use of the subjective camera encourages a seemingly amoral identification on the part of the viewer with the murderer rather than his victims has been a subject of much debate. It was slasher films that to a large extent spurred a censorship debate in Great Britain and prompted the passage of the Video Recordings Bill. By the mid-1980s the slasher film was in decline, but self-conscious postmodern slashers such as Scream

(Craven, 1996) and its sequels, in which the characters are as familiar with the conventions of the genre as the audience, have proved popular.

Horror has been a Hollywood staple since the 1930s, but, in addition to Hammer horror in Great Britain, there are also other national cinemas with rich horror traditions. In Italy, for example, giallo, graphic thrillers and horror films, flourished in the 1950s and 1960s.

George Romero at the time of Dawn of the Dead (1978). ©

united film/courtesy everett collection. reproduced by permission.

George Romero at the time of Dawn of the Dead (1978). ©

united film/courtesy everett collection. reproduced by permission.

Predating slasher films, the giallo ("yellow") takes its name from the color of the covers of pulp detective novels published in Italy in the 1940s and 1950s. The genre includes both police films (giallo-poliziesco) and horror films (giallo-fantastico), featuring an overtly expressionist stylization. The Italian directors Mario Bava (1914-1980), with films such as La Maschera del demonio (Black Sunday, 1960) and Terrore nello spazio (Planet of the Vampires, 1965) and Dario Argento, with such films as L'Ucella dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, 1970), Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975), and Tenebre (Unsane, 1982) have become cult figures.

In Japanese cinema, both horror films, like Kurutta Ippeji (A Page of Madness, 1926), Onibaba (The Demon, 1964), and ghost films, like Kwaidan (Ghost Stories, 1964), and Ugetsu monogatari (Tales ofUgetsu, 1953), were prominent. A new wave of Japanese horror films includes Hideo Nakata's Ringu (Ring, 1998) and Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Dark Water, 2002), both of which were remade, with mixed success, in Hollywood.

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