I spent that night aimlessly wondering around the house, occasionally sneaking off to one of the back bedrooms to watch a little Halloween 2 on a tiny, 3rd hand black and white tv. By the time my parents had finally fallen asleep in front of the tv and my brothers were occupying themselves with the Nintendo Halloween 2 was almost over and I'd only seen about half of it.
I sat on the edge of the bed, pretty annoyed and started flipping channels, right in time to see a car driving up a country road and the title Night Of The Living Dead flash across the screen. What the hell, I thought. It's not like I don't like black and white movies, just wanted to see one of the slasher films I've been reading about in my friend's copies of Fangoria.
Black and white horror movies are supposed to have cheesy over acting, off screen kills, no blood, and a happy ending. This director apparently didn't know anything about making a black and white horror film; the actors seemed like real people in a documentary, kills were on screen, there was blood and gore, and a happy ending? HA!
Night Of The Living Dead rattled me and left me breathing hard on the edge of the bed. Over the course of the credits with the montage of grainy black and white photos it sunk in that I just saw
Director George Romero had already scared the shit out of me more than a few times with his tv series Tales From The Darkside, but I wasn't aware of directors names, besides Spielberg and Lucas. I actually didn't focus on Romero's name for a few more years until an issue of Fangoria hit the stands with some kind of special feature on '78's Dawn Of The Dead, Night's sequel. My heart raced looking at all those blood splattered pictures and the excellent writing really had me jumping out of my skin to find this movie! And to find out there was a third? I was in ecstacy.
Romero's other films, like Creepshow, The Dark Half, The Crazies, Martin, etc. were films I enjoyed but the Dead films spoke to me on a visceral level. It was disappointing to get all the way through the
Land Of The Dead was released in 2005, a year after Zack Snyder's better than it should be remake of Dawn. In Land the dead seem a bit more manageable, almost like homeless people and the living are getting on with their lives the best they can. Starring John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Simon Baker, and Asia Argento (Argento's father Dario produced Dawn and Day and made Two Evil Eyes with Romero), Land deals directly and sometimes heavy handedly with class. Reviews were mixed, as were my emotions. By the time Land came out I'd changed. I'm jaded, I've seen it all. Over the years I've plowed through so many zombie movies, comics, novels. I have zombie toys on my shelf, zombie t shirts. And as good a film as I think Land is, it wasn't the film that transported me back to my youth where things were still new and exciting and I was still discovering the world. I guess that's asking a lot of any film.
Watching Dawn Of The Dead was a life changing event and definitely helped shape me as an artist. I'm forever indebted to George Romero for what he taught me about storytelling and pushing the limits.