Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Memoriam: George A. Romero

In my youth, I didn't really take notice of who directed a film I rented from Easy Video or Blockbuster. I just cared if it was scary or gory as hell and fun. There was one movie that made me stop and take notice of who directed it. It was a film I had heard of when watching the Horror Hall of Fame on channel 9 one night. Night of the Living Dead.  The director? George A. Romero. This was about the same time that I started collecting Fangoria and Gorezone to get the backstory on the movies I loved. As you might imagine, his name popped up a lot, particularly in reference to a Dead trilogy. So yeah, I had to rent them.

As you might have imagined, my preteen mind was blown by what I saw. Zombies were everywhere and the gore was absolutely divine as they munched their way through the heroes and villains of the films. All from the same director! This man was clearly a genius and I needed to see the other films that he made.

I wasn't disappointed.

In fact, one was a staple on the cable networks already and I didn't even know it, as it was overshadowed by the other name involved, Stephen King. Yes, the movie I'm talking about was the awesome anthology film Creepshow. Oddly enough, my favorite segment actually didn't features zombies, but the werewolf-like creature from "The Crate" segment. That didn't matter though as I loved the whole thing to pieces.

Once I knew that, of course I had to view it again with the knowledge that the director who so impressed me was the one who brought these wonderful visions to life. Then I found others. Two Evil Eyes. Knightriders. The Crazies. I even tracked down Season of the Witch when it played on Sci-Fi one afternoon. All of it was great. But really, for me, what it all came down to was zombies. I absolutely loved zombies and he was the reason.

This started a whole new obsession where I began tracking down other zombie films I read about in the pages of magazines and later, on the internet., that continues to this day. But I never forgot the greatness of that trilogy that inspired it all. And it did more than just inform what I watched, but what I wrote. Without NOTLD, I wouldn't have discovered Richard Matheson and his writings. More than that, I learned how to try to instill my own horror with a message of sorts, shallow as it may be, and to, no matter the budget, make the best damn work that I could.

No matter the subject matter, Romero left his stamp on the film that made it indelibly his. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite, but one of the films that I keep coming back to when I need inspiration is Martin. This almost dreamlike tale of a young man who believes himself to be vampire is a haunting tale and despite the atrocities that he commits, we feel for Martin and his affliction, be it supernatural or mental. It takes a master's hand to evoke that kind of emotion and Romero had that in spades.

I didn't get to see many of him films in theaters. In fact, I've only seen one. Land of the Dead. Some panned it but I thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen in theaters. This was a continuation of the series I had grown up watching again and again. And there it was, on the big screen, with me, my brother and my friends experiencing it. It was amazing. Plus it had Asia Carrera, but that's a story for another day. I even watched the follow up films that essentially rebooted the series and enjoyed them as well.

It's sad that I won't get to see another new Romero movie in a career that is full of fantastic films, but I'm glad he made them and gave so much enjoyment and inspiration to me and other horror fans out there.

Rest in Piece, George. Thank you for all of the great movies and my condolences to your family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if/when you'd post something about Romero, as I know how much his work meant to your work. While I never had your zeal for zombie movies in general, I always admired his style and was sad to hear he passed.

This is an awesome ode to a great filmmaker.