King of the Living Dead
What can I say about George A. Romero that hasn’t already been said? It was this question that made me come to the conclusion that what I want to write isn’t a review of Romero’s body of work, or the importance of his contributions to film in general. I want to craft a tribute to the artist that was integral in forming my filmmaking sensibilities, and the stories that I’ve grown a profound need to tell. While I could ramble for pages and pages, I’ll resist the temptation and keep this entry brief.
George Romero entered my life at an extremely impressionable point, and changed my life’s trajectory, indefinitely. I had already been voraciously consuming horror films from the age of six (if I’m being honest, I think it was even before that) but at least since I could form lasting memories. The films of Polanski, Raimi and Stuart Gordon had already captured my sinister sense of imagination, but it wasn’t until I was thirteen and finally saw the original Night of the Living Dead that I identified with horror on a deeper level.
We all know that Romero was incredibly ahead of his time by tackling race, gender equality, consumerism, the military industrial complex and good old-fashioned inhumanity. Personally, Romero was the first filmmaker who made me consider horror as a legitimate genre that can tackle the same issues as dramatic films, but because of the inherent suspension of disbelief that audiences goes into every horror film with, the catharsis is much more unique. It’s like holding a fun house mirror up the world and recording the warped and often terrifying reflection staring back. It’s this precise sense of dimensionality that I’ve worked tirelessly to infuse into the stories and characters that I wish to create.
As most people do when an idol of theirs passes away, I’ve spent the last few weeks revisiting all of my Romero favourites: Martin, The Crazies, Creepshow, Monkey Shines, just to name a few. While Romero is famous for his Dead films, the one that I’ve always found most poignant as a creator was his adaption of Stephen King’s The Dark Half – the story of an author battling with his destructive alter-ego, who also just so happens to be the most fruitful source of his creativity. What Romero taught me most is to not struggle against my destructive impulses, but to use them as a means to create. To walk hand in hand into that vast and often times terrifying abyss of your mind and understand that darkness is merely the absence of light and that nothingness is a need to create.
Like Edward Furlong’s character says in American History X, “It's always good to end a paper with a quote… If you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong.”
With that in mind, I leave you with my favourite quote from Dr. Logan in Day of the Dead, “Civil behavior is what distinguishes us from the lower forms. It's what enables us to communicate. To go about things in an orderly fashion without attacking each other like beasts in the wild. Civility must be rewarded, Captain. If it isn't rewarded, then there's no use for it.”