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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Top 20 Romero Zombie Moments

In honor of The Vault of Horror's 1st birthday today, I'm revisiting one of my old favorite stomping grounds--a series that's near and dear to my heart, and probably more responsible than anything else for my being the died-in-the-wool horror fan I am today: George Romero's "Living Dead" films.

So let's cut through all the preliminary b.s., shall we? Join in The Vault's anniversary celebration, sit back and enjoy as I present to you the most memorable moments of all the Living Dead movies.

20. The Doctor Is Out (of His Mind)
Day of the Dead
Sarah's visit to Dr. Logan's grisly lab is one of Day's most unsettling scenes. When one of the good doctor's zombie experiments breaks free of its bonds, she looks on in disgust as the poor devil literally spills his rotting guts all over the lab floor.

19. The Dead Pool
Diary of the Dead
The most maligned of Romero's series nevertheless produced the bizarre and unforgettable image of a horde of ghouls wandering around the bottom of an indoor swimming pool completely filled with water. Right after eating, you'd think they'd be worried about cramps...

18. Down Goes Cooper!
Night of the Living Dead
Perhaps no other character in the history of cinema deserved a few good fist-pounds to the cranium like that ultimate tool, Mr. Cooper. After the cowardly wretch weasels out of letting Ben back into the house, our protagonist lets him have it, causing chocolate syr--er, blood--to flow from his nose.

17. And So It Begins
Diary of the Dead
For decades, fans wondered about what the very start of the zombie uprising was like, and in this year's fifth installment, we finally got to see it. Even more gratifying was the fact that it was a local news crew that was among the first victims.

16. Hell on Earth, Meet Hell on Wheels
Land of the Dead
The awesome Dead Reckoning was the visual centerpiece of Land of the Dead (in fact, it was also the original title). And the first time it really unloads on an unsuspecting village of undead pedestrians is quite a sight to see. Hopefully, the zombie marching band survived. I love those guys.

15. Amish Ass-Kicker
Diary of the Dead
Who knew that Mennonites could be so bad-ass? And a hearing-impaired one, at that. Simply put, Samuel rules. Such a shame he got wasted so soon.

14. I Talked with a Zombie
Day of the Dead
Recalling the epiphanic apes of Kubrick's 2001, Bub's poignant phone call to his Aunt Alicia is the first (and only) time a Romero zombie ever speaks.

13. Insert Lame Head Pun Here
Dawn of the Dead
Prior to 1978, you just didn't see people's skulls exploding in movies. But thanks to Dawn of the Dead, George Romero, and that crazy SWAT guy with the shotgun, cinematic history was made. Orson Welles, eat your heart out.

12. Suffer the Little Children
Dawn of the Dead
Ah yes, the infamous zombie kid massacre. Ken
Foree was quite reluctant to shoot the scene in which he mows down the undead tykes at the gas station, and it's undeniably one of the series most gut-wrenching moments. Worst of all, they were Tom Savini's niece and nephew!

11. Here's Johnny!
Night of the Living Dead
Barbara spends the majority of NOTLD whining for her lost brother Johnny, and in the climactic scene, she finally gets her wish. Too bad he isn't quite the way she remembered him. He's coming to get you, Barbara!

10. Duck, You Bloodsucker!
Dawn of the Dead
For all of Savini's makeup mastery, you knew something was up when this zombie shows up in the helicopter scene with a suspiciously flat head. And sure enough, the former human being walks right into the rotor blades, doing Roger's work for him.

9. Ain't No River Wide Enough...
Land of the Dead
Proving he still had it in him, Romero managed to produce this truly iconic image--one of the series' most indelible--of the flesh-eater army crossing into Fiddler's Green. Obviously, Big Daddy and his gang had seen Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2.

8. Urban Decay
Day of the Dead
Sarah and her crew descend on a seemingly abandoned Florida town in search of possible survivors, only to rile up a veritable zombie Thanksgiving Day parade. Fortunately, they managed to lift out of there before they wound up playing the part of the turkeys.

7. Karen Kills Her Mommy
Night of the Living Dead
A nightmarish scene that works for so many reasons. The ominous lighting. The repulsively realistic sound editing. The nifty nod to Hitchcock's Psycho. One of the moments that literally helped usher in the modern age of horror.

6. Family Food
Dawn of the Dead
Savini's first volley of graphic gore. When audiences first watched Dawn of the Dead, and within the initial ten minutes witnessed a husband explicitly chowing down on his screaming wife, they knew this was not their father's horror movie.

5. First Floor: Ladies' Underwear, Glassware, Undead Cannibals...
Who among us didn't cringe in terror as poor, hapless Flyboy tried his best to scramble out of that elevator, only to have it fill up with J.C. Penney's-browsing zombies? Watching Steven turn to the blue side makes for a very tough scene to get through.

4. The Music of the Night
Night of the Living Dead
Many might disagree with my ranking this moment so high, but the shot in which Barbara ponders the music box has been cited by many--including Romero himself--as one of the best in the movie. Remembered by anyone who sees it, it represents a single oasis of calm in a world gone completely insane.

3. Cold-Blooded Killer
Day of the Dead
You can keep Darth Vader destroying the Emperor--my top jump-up-and-cheer moment is this one right here. Bub becomes the first zombie hero by taking up arms to put down his evil air-breathing oppressor Cap. Rhodes. Who's a pile of walking pus now??

2. Another One for the Fire
Night of the Living Dead
In the ultimate bummer ending, Ben survives a harrowing night battling zombies, only to wake up the next morning and take one in the head from the local good ol' boy militia. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

And speaking of getting out of bed... here's your number-one Romero Zombie Moment:

1. Roger Rising
Dawn of the Dead
Roger tries not to come back, but not hard enough--giving new meaning to the film's title. This simple, yet awe-inspiring bit of film-making produces the single defining moment and image in George Romero's landmark series.

And there you have it, Vault Dwellers. I hope you've enjoyed the list, just as I hope you've enjoyed the past year of The Vault of Horror. I plan for it to be the first of many.


Richard Crawford said...

Outstanding list. I think you've captured just about the best moments from each film, though I think Captain Rhodes's final words and his death are the most grisly moments for me, surpassing even Roger's resurrection.

Oh, another moment I'd add: the scene from Diary of the Dead (am I the only person in the world who enjoyed that movie?) where what's-her-name comes across her parents feasting. "Mommy? Daddy?" Talk about your ouch moments.

B-Sol said...

No, you're not the only one. I thought Diary of the Dead was terrific.

gord said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gord said...

I thought it said Day of the Dead and typed yes, it's my favourite. Then I realised it said Diary. Yikes, that was a close one...

That aside, while I own Diary I only saw it once when it was in theaters. I bought the DVD for the special features and haven't revisited the film. For me, aside from the teacher the cast was too unlikeable and the acting wasn't so hot.

That aside, happy birthday Vault of Horror and its dwellers.

gord said...

Also, I can't believe Peter's triumphant turn-around/escape from the mall at the end of Dawn didn't make the list.

A) awful/cheesy music? Check
B) zombies climbing ladders? Check
C) sudden, heretofore mentioned/used zombie ass kicking karate skills (including some hilarious jump kicks)? Check

It's just too perfect.

And might I add, it is a conscious decision of Romero's to make a black man the hero of everyone of his zombie films? (save for Diary, that I remember)

B-Sol said...

It's funny you should mention that scene Gord, because it came within a hair of making the list, only to get edged out by Flyboy in the elevator. And I don't think Romero consciously created a black hero in the first movie, but he did do so in the next three. As for Diary, I think the only reason you liked the professor so much was that he was a Brit :-)

Gary D Macabre said...

Great list Brian, congrats on the anniversary. For me racing about a mall in a VW rabbit shooting zombies as you go is a top 20 and I think zombies ripping apart the Biker in Dawn might even make top 10.

Richard, I think Diary was given worse reviews than it deserved, and likely for the reasons Gord mentions. The fact the video shtick was used to such acclaim with Cloverfield, using the same concept so soon, Romero was setting himself up for copycat criticism as well.

Gord, I understand where you're coming from, but I can't entirely agree that the apathy about the characters was detrimental to the film. In fact I think Romero actually shot it that way on purpose for effect and as a part of his social commentary. I expand on this somewhat on my recent Post Mortem over at Blogue Macabre.

Unknown said...

Great list! I have to agree with Richard, though; if "Choke on it!" doesn't make the list, it at least deserves an honorary mention!

gord said...

@ Gary, I'm afraid I don't buy your premise for why the characters were unlikeable and had below average acting abilities/charisma. Not liking someone is not akin to being apathetic and disconnected, it just means you don't like them.

You can't create a commentary on an issue if it's already heavily weighted and the outcome is decided before the 'subjects' get to make up their minds.

I think the message you speak of was strong in the characters and themes of the movie, but in terms of breaking the 4th wall and turning the viewers thoughts into a part of the commentary, I really can't agree.

Zachary Kelley said...

Great Post, and happy birthday Vault of Horror. You don't look a day over 8 months.

Gary D Macabre said...

Gord, I speak more of the audience's disassociation from the characters and their own distant relationships rather than the narrative commentary, which I though could have been left out, and the actors shortcomings. Like I said we may not entirely agree, but I do partially agree with you. Not Romero's best but better than Land in my eyes.

Pierre Fournier said...

Happy First Anniversary, B-Sol. Looking forward to celebrate many more birthdays with you.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday and great list! For me the one scene that I remember in Dawn that didn't make it is when Fran is in JC Penny's waiting on the guys and the glass doors are locked. She sits by the glass as a little zombie boy in baseball getup complete with cap and glove comes up and then slides down on the other side of the door beside her. The sadness, the defeat, the whole "what the hell happened" look in Fran's eyes as she puts her hand to the glass is just perfect.

B-Sol said...

That really is a great one, Absinthe, and another moment that was given serious consideration. She really seemed to feel sorry for the kid, who obviously had a little zombie crush on her. Dawn seems to have the most memorable moments of the series, so I had to cut a few really good ones.

Wes Fierce said...

Happy Birthday VOH! Even with the downsides of Diary, it still turned out fantastic and it should be kept in mind that it was made on a much smaller scale than the likes of its predecessors (to any naysayers out there) :P

CRwM said...

Happy B-day!

Great list, though is Diary really supposed to represent the beginning of the whole "of the Dead" epic?

Given NOTLD take place in '68, I assumed Diary was a reboot or do-over or re-imagining or whatever the industry buzzword is for starting over is.

B-Sol said...

Well, Romero has always ignored that kind of period setting stuff. They are all supposed to take place contemporarily. Thats why Dawn of the Dead is set just a few days/weeks after Night, yet its clearly not the 1960s anymore. You just have to ignore that stuff.

AndyDecker said...

Happy B-day, VoH!

Pretty good list, even if I am a list-hater *g

Dawn is still such a good, timeless movie. It is sad that none of the actors had a good career. Foree deserved so much more than being mostly a day player.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with the "Roger Rising" pick. By far one of the best moments in the series. The subtle, creepy undertones and cabin fever made these moments all the more tense...even claustrophobic.

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