So last night the wife and I caught up with Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD, which was authentic in that it really did seem like it was edited by a pretentious college student, what with the monotone over-dramatic voiceover and really awkward pacing (particularly towards the beginning with its long takes full of dead space). Like so many of you we wanted to love it – and like so many of you we thought it was something of a sad effort. For all its faults, the earlier LAND OF THE DEAD at least remembered that it was supposed to be an entertainment and not just an overwrought message in oozing, bloody clothing.
This got me to thinking about the blessing and the curse of having ONE REALLY GREAT IDEA. George Romero had ONE REALLY GREAT IDEA (let’s acronym this…ORGI – oh, lovely) 40 years ago which he exploited brilliantly for a couple of films before rather completely dropping the creative ball. The rise of fanboy culture and home video along with Romero’s dogged determination to keep exploiting his ORGI has kept his career alive all this time. His place in film history is firmly established, and rightly so; the influence his ORGI had on the filmmakers of succeeding generations is undeniable, as are the countless hours of joy and terror he’s brought horror fans (albeit mostly from endless viewings of NIGHT and DAWN).
But what is it like to BE George Romero and have a ZOMBIE label pasted on your forehead for decades on end, never finding that next killer concept to show that you’re more than a pony with one (really great) trick? Is it a slow creative death in which you are forever stuck in a “sophomore slump” and become so wrapped up in a single concept that you end up angrily shaking your stick at the young whippersnappers and their “fast” zombies? Is it a happy place where you can look back and celebrate your influence with your army of fans – and hopefully earn a few bucks along the way? In short – does having ORGI lead to a satisfying life, creative and otherwise? Or are you akin to a fading child star, riding that early wave of success until your surfboard dissolves and you are swallowed by the ocean of time, or perhaps an awful metaphor?
I’m not in a position to know, and most likely neither are you. Romero has achieved where so many others have not, and deserves our love. But anyone who has ever dreamed of creative success should probably also fear the ORGI.