Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Connoiseur's Guide to Carnivorous Cadavers (or He Rambles On Again)



I already know what you're going to say, so just say it and get it over with.

What the heck are you talking about now? Why must you torture us with this nostalgic cinematic minutia?

Answer: because I must!

Let me say this, not as disclaimer, but as something to keep in mind as you read this: there are people who are even worse about this than me. In fact, it is almost a cult.

FACT: There is a fairly strong cult-like following of the horror movie subgenre-zombie movies. So strong that Hollywood and other less powerful filmakers have taken notice and subsequently, films of this genre have been to sprout all over.

I saw Night of the Living Dead (1968) when I was kid living in rural Pennsylvania on the late-night Chiller Theatre on channel 11 out of Pittsburgh. I have blogged about this before, so I skip those details, but imagine a ten or eleven year-old watching this stuff. I was scared out of my mind. This was commercial TV in the 60's, so no ratings for TV programs back then. What would this film get now: an R? PG13?

Romero and company not only created a NEW genre of horror film, but they broke new ground both artistically and the whole gore-violence thing. The premiere was met by outrage, controversy and conversely with undying, unconditional love by the new fan base that Romero had now created.

The real point of this was that this film, the genesis of all zombie films, was made by hometown (Pittsburgh) hero George A. Romero. The film was not only produced by Romero, but shot around Pennsylvania as well, making it a true homestate project and elevating Romero's status among his fans. In fact, people make trips to see the graveyard which opens the film and post their pictures online. It is now a cult.

Then Romero released Dawn of the Dead (1978) which I saw with a few of my college friends. Back then, Dawn freaked me out. We all just spoke in broken phrases on our way back to our dorms. Today it looks a bit comical and low budget, but like Night, it broke new ground in the gore department and truly sealed Romero's status as a cult figure, an icon of international stature. In fact, people take trips to the Monroeville Mall, still in existance, as some kind of baptismal journey-wanting to be just a little closer to the magic of film and history. Long before this cult status, this mall is part of my personal history and was just as surprised as anyone that people would actually view it as such a cult landmark.

YES, you read that correctly-international stature. Romero now has four films in the zombie genre with the last being Land of the Dead in 2005 and since that first film in 1968, each new generation has discovered these films and claims them as their own. Not just in America, but Germany, UK and Italy, there are fanatical followings. Italy's Dario Argento was involved with the making of Dawn and even cut his own version of the film which was revered by the lucky few to get a copy of it (Anchor Bay released a definite FOUR DISC version of this movie because of all the versions floating around.). Italy also has director Luigi Fulci who has come out with his own set of zombie films-all of which owe great debt to Romero.

PART TWO: You must believe

Yes, I include myself among those who call themselves fans of Romero films and all things zombie, BUT you have to go here to really understand the absolute fanaticism that is out there for this stuff:

There you will find forums that have virulent debates over the origin of the outerspace virus that caused the outbreak of the living dead. Heated arguments over the detailed knowledge of Dawn of the Dead, the value of the new movie versus the older ones and on and on and on until you log out for fear that you may lose your mind or otherwise permanently lose all sense of reality. The information is vast, mostly accurate and highly subjective because these people are real fans: fanatics of highest order.

There is one point they can ALL agree upon though: They all love George Romero.

And his flesh-eating zombies.

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