Oct 15th, 2010. Besides being an icon, George Romero is one hell of a nice guy. I’ll never forget being a young teen and hearing “They’re coming to get you Barbara” for the first time. It’s not that it scared me as much as made me excited. The hauntingly slow way in which the zombies brought death to their victims captivated me. George Romero’s Dead films are certainly one of the greatest catalysts in my ever growing fascination with all things creepy, so to him, I am forever grateful. The following is an interview I conducted in George’s hotel room prior to his appearance at the 2010 Rock And Shock Fest in Worcester, MA.
The George Romero Interview
GR: (Laughing)Well, when I’m not writing, it’s pretty mundane I guess. We have animals and like to travel a lot. I listen to classical music and watch old movies.
TIS: What scares you the most in life?
GR: People (laughter).
TIS: Anything particular besides the obvious?
GR: We just don’t seem to learn, you know? We’re not getting it and things just keep getting worse. When we made the first film we were pissed of that peace and love hadn’t worked. We’d hoped things were maybe changing for the better, but it’s been downhill ever since.
TIS: You’ve made movies outside of the horror genre such as There’s Always Vanilla and Knightriders which haven’t received the popularity your Dead films have. Is there a particular genre of film you’re yet to explore which you think has a chance to do as well as the Dead films?
GR: Oh sure, all of ‘em (laughing). I don’t think of myself as a genre filmmaker, so much as just a filmmaker. I’d love to try anything, you know?
GR: I guess if I had to say what my hearts desire would be, I’d love to make a really old fashioned jungle adventure film, like the stuff that I grew up on. Going down the Amazon in a little schooner, ducking poison darts.
TIS: Haha, that sounds fun. I’ve read that you believe the creepiest horror movies are the lower budget films, which I definitely agree with. Can you tell me your thoughts on that?
GR: I think it’s because they are made independently, and so somebody is at the helm instead of a committee, and I think that’s probably the biggest principle. I mean, you don’t need to spend a lot of money, unless you’re doing something that really requires a lot of special effects. Usually though, it’s effects for the sake of effects, and they forget to make the movie that goes along with them.
TIS: A very good call. You are currently writing a Dead novel. Can you tell me about that?
GR: Well I’m in the process, but it’s a long process because I’m still working on other things. I’m writing a screenplay right now for a non-zombie horror film. I’m also working on a video game with a business partner, and a few other things.
TIS: Are you at liberty to talk about the non-zombie horror film?
GR: It’s sort of a one trick pony, so I can’t say much. It’s definitely a scare show, and I think the first time I’ve ever tried to be scary or make a film that may actually scare people. Most of the Dead films I’ve done over the years are more of a comic book style, and not particularly designed to get under your skin. So I’d like to try and do that, to make a scary movie which actually lives up to my reputation.
TIS: It’s obvious to anyone who watches your films that you incorporate underlying social commentary in the story lines. Is there anything you anticipate covering in future Dead films.
GR: Not yet. It’s something I’m definitely not looking forward to. If I make another dead film, or two, they’ll continue from the last one which was a spin off from Diary of the Dead. I have two more story ideas, which involve characters from Diary. So if I was asked to make another Dead film, I don’t think I would rush into it, but I would definitely like to do these two. I’d like to have this little collection of films that are all sort of tied together.
TIS: That’s sounds great.
GR: Yeah, Steve King has written a dozen novels about this little town of Castle Rock, and it’s great to have that mythology. I’ve never been able to do that with the Dead films because the first four are owned and controlled by different people, so I’ve never been able to reuse characters for certain story points.
I’m sort of enamored by that idea. I have an idea for the other two stories, and how they would fit together with some sort of cohesive relationship. I’d like to play around with different genres within the genre. One as almost a western and the other with a noir-ish feel. That would be my way of getting into other genres. I don’t know if that’s going to happen though. It entirely depends on how much Survival of the Dead makes, so we’ll have to wait and see.
TIS: Are those zombies in 28 Days Later, and if not, what the hell are they?
GR: (laughing) I don’t think they’re zombies, not my zombies at least, but you know, the very original zombies, the voodoo guys in the Caribbean are not dead, so I thought I was doing something different. I never actually called them zombies in the first film, because I didn’t think they were.
Real traditional zombies, Serpent in the Rainbow zombies, are not dead. They just guzzle this cocktail that Bokur’s brewed up, which put them into some kind of suspended animation. So I don’t know if the guys in 28 Days Later are zombies or not.
I think what happened is video games sort of warped the whole genre a bit. I also think video games are responsible for the popularity of zombies, much more than film. The zombies started to move fast, because you had to move fast in those games, so then filmmakers said, well if they’re moving fast, they really shouldn’t be dead, so we’ll give them a virus, we’ll give ‘em a rage bug. So the whole thing is sort of warped out a little bit (laughing).
TIS: Well thank you so much for your time.
GR: My pleasure, thank you.