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I Heart the Walking Dead.   —   Horror Movies

Last night I met George A. Romero. He was at the New York Big Apple Comic Con as a guest star, participating in a discussion panel followed by a Q&A and signings. For those of you who don't know, George A. Romero is the godfather of the zombie film. This is the guy who put zombies on the map with his 1968 low budget film called Night of the Living Dead. Night of the Living Dead wasn't only an important and revolutionizing film for zombies as a monster in movies, but it would also prove to transfigure the horror-movie genre. George A. Romero would go on to make three more zombie movies over the course of the next 35 years, all of them a part of an overall story arch, all of them each compounding Romero as a horror-movie household name.

The discussion panel was being held in the basement of the Penn Plaza building on 7th Avenue and 33rd St. It was hot and crowded and when looking around the room you could see just how far the Romero fan stretched in 'type'. From your goth kids to your horror geeks to the brave little boy who sat in a room full of zombie-loving adults, they were all there, including me. The host of the evening started things off with a couple of general questions about how George got started in the business and how the idea of Night was created. All of George's answers where accompanied by a relaxed grin and an honest enthusiasm. His demeanor and political ideas seemed very much from a man who is a product of the 60's and in every sentence he spoke the words "hey man" (think Cheech and Chong). When the panel opened up to audience Q&A Mr. Romero was attentive and gave lengthy responses, a show of a respect to his fans and an interest to communicate the topics that were being discussed. Many directors get a bad rap for being arrogant and snobby but George A. Romero made his effort to show that he was neither of those things.

Days before the event I had planned my question to ask, not wanting to be at a loss for words when the moment presented itself, and my question was going to be, "Why do you choose to use slow-moving zombies in your films, and what is your opinion of the more recent fast-moving zombies?" This question is one that I never got to ask because Romero answered it earlier in the panel when he made the comment, "Fast zombies suck man". He followed this up with, "I always joke that my guys would take out a library card before they'd apply for a gym membership". At that point in the evening it wasn't difficult for me to think of another question to ask seeing as I had about five of them elbowing each other for the spotlight, so I decided to go with the one I found most important to his films. When my turn finally came I asked, "Every time I watch one of your movies the question I find myself asking most is, 'Why do these zombies exist?', the reason as to why the dead now walk is never explained in any of the films and I was wondering, is the answer a deeply guarded secret, or do you even have an answer?" To which he promptly replied, "I don't know, man". He went into some detail explaining that in the first film some of the characters were discussing their ideas as to the reasons why the dead were returning to life, one of the theories was that radioactive fallout from a returning space probe was the cause, another could-be reason was a virus. George said that many ideas as to the 'why' were thrown into this scene but in the end, when they had to cut some scenes, only one remained. He said that the next thing he knew, TV Guide was printing a synopsis of the movie saying that the space probe was the reason that the dead now walked, and George said that when he read this he said, "no man" that it wasn't supposed to be the reason, that it was only written in as something someone says in the movie, they actually only kept the scene because it was shot in Washington, DC and he thought the political message was too strong for it to be cut. He said that in fact there is no reason, that [in the film] it's just happening and the people are just being forced to deal with it. He ended this with saying, "So, what's the reason? Hey, I don't care man".

After the Q&A finished everyone headed up to the second level of the Penn Plaza building to stand in line for an autograph. I purchased a Night of the Living Dead poster for George to sign and after enduring five minutes of standing in line next to a very frightening Romero fan that kept staring at me in the I-want-to-lick-your-face kind of way, I was finally next in line, standing in front of George A. Romero himself. He looked up at me, smiled and said, "Hey, I know you, you're the one who asked about why zombies exist." I said, "Yes Sir, it's an honor to meet you, I'm a big fan", we shook hands and he asked to whom could he make out the autograph. I said that I'd prefer just his autograph, my name wasn't needed, and he said, "Okay, but what's your name anyways, just so I know?" And so I told him, while blushing like a schoolgirl. As I was walking away I looked down at the poster and saw that he'd written, "Stay Scared" and I thought to myself, you can bet on it George, sure thing man.

Posted 4.2.2006 11:45:57 PM

This Guy wrote:
That's awesome. Congratulations. I love his movies.

Great question by the way.
Posted 4/5/2006 12:55:15 PM
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