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dawn of the tirade

8.8.01

I can think of no better impetus for the rebirth of my Tirades than the news of a remake of Dawn of the Dead. Yes, this modern horror classic -- one of the Four Horsemen of '70s horror (the others being Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Phantasm) -- apparently didn't get it right the first time. George A. Romero didn't make the definitive Dawn of the Dead. It needs to be done over. It needs computer-generated gore -- fuck Tom Savini and his old-school latex splatter. And the man to write it is obviously James Gunn, the screenwriter of the upcoming Scooby-Doo movie and the largely unseen superhero spoof The Specials. That's the man you need to redefine zombie horror! Not some Pittsburgh codger who just happened to do it first! Right?

Romero fans are up in arms about this. Anyone who gives the smallest shit about the integrity of movies should be up in arms about this. They should be storming the castle of Beacon Pictures, the company that's throwing money at this waterhead project, and demanding that whoever made this decision publicly stand up into a whirring helicopter blade for our amusement. At the very least, fans should inundate Beacon with email asking why? why? why? for fuck's sake, why?

We let 'em do it with Psycho. We were asleep at the wheel, and perhaps we were so mesmerized by the awfulness of that idea that we froze into inaction and perhaps even -- I did, anyway -- harbored some curiosity about how Universal would go about remaking Hitchcock's masterpiece. But now they're doing it again! And this time, we need to either act or shut the fuck up. I suggest an email something like this:

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to express my anger, contempt, and disbelief that your company actually has a remake of Dawn of the Dead in development. If the movie is made and released, I plan to avoid it, and I will persuade everyone I know to do likewise. The movie will make no money, it will be universally hated and laughed at, and Beacon Pictures will go down in cinema history as the company that chose to throw money at a remake of a George Romero film, yet did not choose to give Romero himself any money to develop his films.

Do any of you remember Gus Van Sant's Psycho? Do any of you remember the vicious reviews it got? How badly it flopped after a paltry $10 million opening weekend? How about The Haunting, one of the most ridiculed movies in recent memory? Will you learn from these examples? Can you learn?

This remake will not "gain Romero exposure and new fans," if that's what you're thinking. Romero fans will boycott it. The uninitiated might give it a look, and come away thinking that this pale retread is Dawn of the Dead -- and I hardly see how that helps Romero.

And have you forgotten that in 1979, Romero could get away with an unrated horror movie? That was because the grassroots distribution back then was far more friendly to independent horror than it is now, when studios like Dimension dump their teen horror in 2,000 theaters and hope for the best. Back then, horror movies were given time to build word of mouth, rave reviews, a cult. (Drive-in theaters -- near-extinct today -- helped a lot, too.) The point is, how are you going to remake Dawn of the Dead today? Are you going to submit it to the MPAA and then submit to their will? Are you going to cut it to get an R rating? A PG-13 rating? That seems to be the trend today. An R-rated Dawn of the Dead is not Dawn of the Dead.

And no, I haven't forgotten about the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. That remake was slightly better justified, because (A) it originated with Romero; (B) he did it to make some money for the original film's backers, who didn't see a dime from the original's profits; (C) he also did it because someone else was planning a remake and he had to remake it first to lay claim to the rights to the film; (D) he wrote the script and gave it to Savini to direct, thus keeping it "in the family." This new remake, however, originates outside the family, and is grotesquely insulting to a top-notch director who can't even get anyone to release his new film Bruiser.

Please, out of respect for George Romero and everyone who has enjoyed his work over the last 33 years, pull the plug on this insipid remake. Few will go see it, even fewer will like it, and your stockholders will not be happy. May I suggest channeling your energies into something original? Or, dare I say it, even a genuine George Romero project? Or maybe even -- heaven forbid -- the fourth Dead movie?

If you care anything about films; if you care about anything other than the bottom line; if you care anything about the man without whom you would have no Dawn of the Dead to remake; then you will abandon the Dawn remake and go into the Dead business in a different way. Don't give your money to pretenders and remakers; give it to the guy who's earned it. Instead of insulting Romero by redoing his past, contact Romero and finance his future.

Sincerely,

[your name here]

...You think that'll work?

It's up to you, folks.


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