George A. Romero and the lack of meaning.

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Went to see the amazing George A. Romero speak at a TIFF Halloween double feature (A conversation with George followed by a screening of his 1982 collaboration with Stephen King “Creepshow”).

The conversation with Romero and TIFF programmer Colin Geddes was fine, though a little unsatisfying because Geddes was (I think) hyper-conscious of the fact that Romero has talked about his filmography so many times previously and also due to the relative Romero-nerdom present who had watched all of the Romero movies WITH commentary tracks. For example, when Romero came on stage, someone started cheering with a round of “BRAIIIINS,” to which MULTIPLE people corrected (loudly) “Romero zombies never said BRAINS” and “You are thinking of RETURN of the Living Dead, which is not a Romero movie” and “Shut up, you are embarassing yourself” and finally “NERDS!”(from me).

Thus, the hardcore fans got hard hitting topics like how Romero scored his films and… uhh… other topics. The Q+A was mostly fluff, standard Q+A fare with some insight (most interesting for me was that Romero was originally going to be in charge of the Resident Evil franchise) when someone stood up and asked what Romero thought of The Walking Dead.

The room noticably bristled at this question. Clearly, these were hardcore zombie fans whom I guarantee watch that show. But the elephant in the room had been addressed. That is, a lot of people were making a lot of money off of Romero’s universe. The Walking Dead is set in a post-Romero Zombie apocalypse that Romero himself wasn’t invited to be involved in.  A few audible gasps and oohs and silence on stage. Romero shifted in his seat a few times. The room got a little chilly.

Finally: “It pisses me off”

Which was then followed by a leveling of all of the modern zombie-dom. Romero’s take on The Walking Dead is that it is a gore-filled soap-opera, and most modern zombie fare is dull in that it lacks any social critique or meaning.

I livened up at this discussion. My favourite zombie film is Dawn of the Dead, set in a suburban shopping mall, and thought the movie is obstensibly about the dreaded “zombie apocalypse”, it actually works really nicely as a biting social critique of modern consumer culture.

I’ve watched a few zombie films since I really got into the Romero films as a teenager, and I find most of them extremely boring precisely because these films are all about the gore and they forget to say anything. I suffer through The Walking Dead for some reason and am bored to tears half the time because it is exatly as Romero says – a gory soap opera.

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