George A. Romero, director of the classic Night of the Living Dead, says shows like The Walking Dead have kept him from finding funds for new zombie films.

The modern zombie phenomenon, whether is The Walking Dead, Z Nation, or another show or movie, owes its success to one man. In 1968, George A. Romero created the zombie genre with the film Night of the Living Dead.

Over the years, Romero was responsible for writing and directing many other horror classics. But he always returned to the zombie genre.

The most recent of his zombie films was 2009’s Survival of the Dead. Now, Romero says he can’t make zombie movies anymore. All of Romero’s zombie films were low-to-modestly budgeted. Romero blames The Walking Dead for changing the market for such films.

Making Zombies on an Independent Budget

Night of the Living Dead posterImage Credit: wrongsideoftheart.com

In a new interview with IndieWire, Romero was asked if he struggles to find financing for his zombie films:

“Oh, completely. Man. Listen. I did Land of the Dead, which was the biggest zombie film I had ever made. I don’t think it needed to be that big. That money went largely to the cast. They were great, but I don’t think that money needed to be spent. Dennis Hopper’s cigar budget cost more than the entire production of Night of the Living Dead. That’s the way it is.

“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.’

Well, at least Romero isn’t blaming just The Walking Dead. It seems a bit unfair, though. World War Z and The Walking Dead are worlds apart in terms of story and scale. Not to mention, the “zombies” in World War Z defy the conventional stereotype in numerous ways.

A Lack of Substance?

Romero goes on to describe the status of his follow-up to Survival of the Dead:

“I had a sequel. I was ready to shoot. In 2007, Diary of the Dead all of a sudden made money. I was blind-sighted by that. One of the producers said, ‘Let’s make another one quick.’ I didn’t know what else I could talk about. Diary of the Dead talked about how social media is haunting us today. I didn’t have anything else to talk about. So I decided to go back to the original premise of misunderstanding and people not being able to see each other’s point of view. I said I’ll do this one as a western and the next one as a noir. So did the western, nobody liked it, and the other one fell away. Then, all of a sudden, here came The Walking Dead. So you couldn’t a zombie film that had any sort of substance. It had to be a zombie film with just zombies wreaking havoc. That’s not what I’m about.”

Now that argument just doesn’t make any sense. The Walking Dead is, hands down, the most substantive zombie story on film. Maybe Romero is saying he can’t make a zombie film with substance because it would then be compared to The Walking Dead?

At any rate, even though he may have created the zombie genre, George A. Romero is clearly not a fan of what’s become of it.