I actually postponed a previously scheduled Thrillville gig (Comic Book Superhero Nite @ Forbidden Island, now on for June 10), so I could attend a special screening of George A. Romero's latest zombie epic, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, with The Man in himself in person for a post-flick Q&A, at the airport-like Metreon in San Francisco. While I was rather disappointed in the latest DEAD entry (you can read my full take on it here), I wanted to see George up close and personal, since he is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, and can be easily forgiven a single misfire, especially considering a lustrous career that spearheaded the Modern Horror genre with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD way back in '68, still the Daddy of All Zombie Movies, then perfecting the mythology with the Mother Of All Zombie Movies, DAWN OF THE DEAD, ten years later. His apex was 1985's DAY OF THE DEAD, in my humble opinion; and then after a 20 year hiatus he roared back with the under-rated climax to the initial series, LAND OF THE DEAD (2005). Rather than wait another 20 years, he immediately returned to his indie roots and rebooted his own mythology with the unique, innovative and controversial DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007). I was really looking forward to the followup, and while it didn't live up to my personal expectations (it does at least look a lot better on the big screen, so definitely try to check out in a theater if you get the chance, goes in wide release May 28), I was jazzed to hear George say he plans two more spin-offs of DIARY, following different characters to different places (good; warring Irish clans on an island off the coast of Delaware - ?? - didn't really grab me in this one.)
George was typically gregarious and laid back during the Q&A, with one little kid asking him, "When the zombies have eaten all the people, will they eat each other?" George admitted that was a good question, but said he doubted it. He often deferred the geekier questions to Max Brooks, explaining "he takes this stuff a lot more seriously than I do." He went to say that there were "millions of unanswered questions" in his zombie universe, like "do they take a shit? That's one I've been pondering lately." He also explained that, by this point, the zombies are basically the undead equivalent of Wile E. Coyote, "just there to be damaged; you put a grenade in one's mouth and just wait for it explode." This attitude explains a lot about the direction he's decided to take with the series. After an audience member brought it up, George revealed a little about the progress of the zombie novel he's been commissioned to write, but after 150 pages, admitted he feels somewhat challenged coming up with original material that hasn't already been done to death, as it were. He also said he hates working on a deadline, and I thought, that would make a perfect title for a Romero zombie novel: DEADLINE. After the Q&A, I ignored the calls to remain seated by theater staff, broke ranks like a rogue zombie, and walked up to George for a handshake, introducing myself and thanking him. for everything He was very gracious. I wanted to try to get a photo with him, but they hustled him out of there like he was Mick Jagger being mobbed by groupies, so I didn't get a chance. But it was an honor just to meet him, however briefly. He's a great man.
But I really should've given him my idea for the next installment: MISTER ED OF THE DEAD, since George has already (inadvertently?) set up the premise.
Not to give too much away, but in SURVIVAL, the zombies actually bite then chow down on a horse. I know George is a fellow animal lover, so this seemed like a curious choice, but who am I to question the man who defined the genre? The problem was, as soon as the doomed beast showed up on screen, I knew of his fate and said to my friends, "Hey, it's Mr. Ed of the Dead!" From there on it was a schoolboy gigglefest, doing impressions: "Willllburrrr....don't let them eat me, Willlburrrr....god damn, that sumbitch just bit me, Willlburrr.....don't let that happen to me, Willlburrr....I'm going to try not to come back, Willlburrr.....I'm going to try...."
We mentally concocted a short film, editing scenes from the television series with various DEAD films, ending with the inexplicable equestrian carnage at the finale of SURVIVAL. Imagine Mr. Ed in his barn, watching television, then cutting to the broadcasts of the original outbreak from NIGHT, then Wilbur coming in and Ed saying, "The shit's really hittin' the fan out there, Willllburrr..." Then cut to a shot of a zombie biting a horse: "They eat horses, don't they, Willburrr?"
The possibilities are endless. George, you heard it here first. Go for it. Just keep makin' those DEAD films, man. Of course, of course.