George Romero Says World War Z Killed the Zombie Film

By  · Published on November 2nd, 2016

Oh, and here’s a list of zombie movies made and released since Brad Pitt killed the zombie movie.

No matter what else happens in his career, George Romero’s filmography already features more horror classics than most genre directors can even dream of making. His original “Dead” trilogy – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead – as well as the likes of Martin and Creepshow mean his star is secure on the horror walk of fame.

The last eleven years have only seen three films from Romero – Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead – with the most recent in 2009, and all three are extensions of his “dead” films. So what’s he been up to since that last film? Per an interview over at Indiewire, he’s been struggling to find financing for yet another movie about the living dead.

It’s an at times depressing read as he despairs the lack of opportunity available to him, but rather than blame piracy or declining DVD sales like some filmmakers have – I’m looking at you Uwe Boll – he points a finger at a very specific target.

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.”

We’ll ignore the fact that World War Z came four years after Romero’s last film and instead agree that the idea that modestly budgeted horror films are harder to come by these days is a fair one, but he goes on to say that you can no longer produce “a zombie film that had any sort of substance. It had to be a zombie film with just zombies wreaking havoc.”

With all due respect to Mr. Romero, I’m going to call a wee bit of bullshit here. The substance in his original trilogy is clear with ideas of waning human interaction, consumerism, and the military complex, but let’s not pretend there’s a lot of depth to his last three zombie efforts. Pitt’s film and AMC’s popular series have at least as much subtext and commentary as the likes of Survival of the Dead… if not more.

As for having killed the modest zombie film, below is a pretty thorough list of zombie movies made since World War Z. None of them are budgeted anywhere near the price of that blockbuster, and more than a few of them have “sociopolitical” thoughts bouncing around in their undead heads.

Bigfoot vs Zombies, The Burning Dead, Burying the Ex, Cell, The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, Cooties, Dead 7, The Dead and the Damned 2, Dead Within, Dead Snow 2: Dead vs Red, Deadman Inferno, Ebola Zombies, The Girl with All the Gifts, Goal of the Dead, JeruZalem, Life After Beth, Maggie, MILFs vs Zombies, Navy SEALs vs Zombies, Ojuju, Pandemic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Pro Wrestlers vs Zombies, REC 4: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, The Rezort, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Seoul Station, Summer Camp, Train to Busan, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, White Zombie, Zombeavers, Zombie Dollz, Zombie Isle, Zombieworld, Zoombies

Sure, some of these are absolute garbage that couldn’t have cost more than five bucks to make, but there’s substance to be found in some of the others. Cell, Deadman Inferno, The Girl with All the Gifts, Maggie, The Rezort, Seoul Station, and Train to Busan all pair the zombie carnage with commentary on modern society in some shape or form. Hell, even Zombeavers suggests humanity’s disregard for nature is destined to bite us on our collective asses. And I haven’t seen MILFs vs Zombies, so let’s not discount the possibility it has some relevant thoughts on May-December romances.

I don’t know what Romero’s next script is about (aside from zombies), and I have no idea what size budget he’s looking to secure, but if it’s along the lines of his last film (reportedly $4 million) then I refuse to believe it’s impossible to find financing. Kickstarter is a viable option, but he nixes the idea in the interview. “I’m an old guy that is stuck with tradition,” he says, “and if none of the traditional people want to give me the money to make a movie, then maybe there’s a reason for that.”

I would disagree, but it’s his call. Instead, my only advice – advice admittedly from a film fan and not a filmmaker – would be to maybe give the zombie idea a rest for now. Maybe turn his attention towards a new horror anthology? They’re hot right now, he made one of the best with Creepshow, and Stephen King still has a bunch of short stories just waiting to find new life onscreen.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.