Dean of the Dead; to Romero, Social Criticism Is the End, Horror the Means

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Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

George A. Romero has created a monster.

The man who gave us "Night of the Living Dead" and, well, the whole zombie genre, routinely meets young filmmakers who press homemade DVDs into his hands.

"Every one of them is a zombie movie," Mr. Romero says. "To that extent, I feel, 'What have I done?' These amateur productions feature random gore and violence ... and not much else

"They're easy to do," he says of the zombie movie conventions. "Get some neighbors, some ketchup. But what's your reason for doing it?"

It's a far cry from Mr. Romero's films, with their embedded social criticism. "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) mocked consumerism, for example, as thousands of zombies descended on a suburban mall.

The horror auteur returns to his zombie canvas with "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead," a new film that reboots his own franchise.

It's the first night when the dead begin to stir, and a troupe of film students is there to capture it all. That means a "Blair Witch" meets "Cloverfield" approach in which student cameras serve as our point of view.

Mr. Romero says his "Dead" franchise grew a little too big with the well-received "Land of the Dead" (2005).

"This was a franchise that had grown out of the simplest of seeds," he says. "I wanted to go back to that."

Mr. Romero opted for the video-cam format to tell a bigger story of our media-saturated age.

News outlets trivialize important themes while zooming in on fluff such as whether Britney Spears put a seat belt on her son, he says.

If Adolf Hitler were around today, he would have his own blog, he says. "It's a dangerous time, and a dangerous medium," he says of the Internet.

Mr. Romero touches on dark, depressing themes in his work. …