Narrative Ideology, Subtext and the Remake Phenomena in George A. Romero’s Trilogy of the Dead

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Out with the Old…
Mainstream cinema is always, in some form, a reflection of the time or place it was made in. This reflection can be present within the filmic language in numerous ways; ideologically, technologically, geographically, culturally, ethically etc. It is because of this that non-contemporary films sometimes struggle to find a new audience within contemporary culture. As time passes, culture changes, and as a result films can quickly become out dated. Screen writer Charles Mortiz explains that narrative characters who share the same values and moral structure as their audience are more likable and sympathetic (2008). Consequently if the cultural context the film was created in is not present within an audience a films potential impact can be lost and it can fade into obscurity or worse; be scrutinized. An extreme example is Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1934); a film which supported the Nazi ideologies of the time which, in both western and modern German culture, are out dated and frowned upon. The cultural context that Riefenstahl’s film was created in no longer exists and as a result Triumph of the Will is considered German Ideology propaganda film, instead of a classic piece of cinema.

Attack of the Remake!

Perhaps loss of cultural context is the reason that the ‘Hollywood Remake’ is has become more and more prevalent in mainstream cinema. The ability for a studio to remake a movie allows a simple retelling of a story updated for modern audiences. It’s seems there are countless example of this, particularly in the Horror genre. Some noteworthy examples of non-contemporary western films that have been remade include; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Remake 2003), Amityville Horror (1979, Remake 2005), Prom Night (1980, Remake 2008), Friday the 13th (1980, Remake: 2009), When A Stranger Calls(1979, Remake 2006), The Omen (1976, Remake 2006), My Bloody Valentine(1981, Remake 2009), The Last House on the Left (1972, Remake 2009) and there are plenty more just waiting to be given the green light.

Turning Japanese, Spanish, Swedish, and everywhere else.

Production companies sometimes feel that foreign films that present a different culture can alienate a western audience, and consequently are often remade with geographical adjustments, including; The Ring (Originally Ringu (Japan) 1998, Remake 2002), The Grudge (Originally Ju-on (Japan) 2002, Remade in 2004), Pulse (Originally Kairo (Japan) 2001, Remade in 2006), Quarantine(Originally Rec (Spain) 2007, Remade in 2008) and The Eye (Originally Gin Gwai (Japan), Remade in 2008). But when a story is re-told, does it distort the film makers original message? To effectively answer the posed question, I will compare several non-contemporary films to their modern remakes. As I have already mentioned the staggering number of horror remakes available I will refine my comparison to the sub-genre of Zombie movies. To refine my comparison further I will only compare the original two films in the ‘Trilogy of the Dead’ series created by George A. Romero with their contemporary remakes. [pic]

Why Romero?

The reason I have selected Romero is because he essentially created the modern zombie movie (Paffenroth, 2006). Contemporary Zombie films like Danny Boyle’s28 Days Later, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Capcom’s Resident Evil video game & film franchise all draw influence from the formula Romero created. Additionally, Romero is has been praised for his bleak critiques of western culture present within his films (Williams, 2003). Romero’s Trilogy of the Dead has recently expanded to include six films. I will however, only refer to the original trilogy of films as the most recent three films have not been remade.

Romero’s Zombies…

Before I compare these films I should first define the common plot continuity and themes Romero has included in his trilogy and the ‘rules’ that apply within said films. Each entry to the...
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