I can still remember the first time I saw a Romero film. I was around a friend’s house for an all night gaming session (I believe we were playing Halo on the first Xbox on LAN), when said friend produced a disc from a sleeve. It was Dawn of the Dead. It took one swift look to know we wanted to watch it: zombies, gore and a high age rating.
We sat and watched it with mouths agape. It lived up to everything the blurb had promised. We laughed at the over the top gore, cheering every time a zombie was eviscerated. As a group of teenage boys, how could we not fall in love with the idea of holding up in a shopping mall and defending it against undead hordes?
The next day, once I had recovered from a lack of sleep, I headed out in search of more. I found a box set – the Trilogy of the Dead. I ended watching all three back to back – and it was glorious.
Watching these in my younger (I am still young FYI, I think) years it was all about the action and terror. Those nail-biting moments when the undead are clawing at the doors and windows, smashing through and grabbing the unsuspecting victim who stood too close. These were the moments when my heart pounded and a smile found my lips.
The thing with Romero was that his films weren’t just about zombies. They were a large, and terrifying, feature to be sure, but they were a conduit to a commentary on society as a whole.
I like to think of Romero films (specifically the Trilogy of the Dead) to be like wine. When you’re younger, you see it at a basic level – a quick way to get drunk in wine’s case, or a good way to scare the bejesus out of you if you’re watching the film. However, when you get older you develop an appreciation of the deeper aspects.
I’m sure this has been stated ad nauseum – but in the wake of his death I don’t think it can be said enough. George A. Romero birthed the modern zombie genre as we see it today – even with its bloated Hollywood versions (World War Z, The Walking Dead), which Romero was said to have disliked. He spoke in interviews of there needing to be more to the picture than just people killing zombies – and his films proved just that.
So tonight I will raise a cup of gore and these humble words to the visionary man – a master storyteller who brought fear and thoughtfulness to so many people.