Unstoppable as any army of the undead, director George A. Romero continues to put his bloody, decomposing stump, er, stamp on the genre he helped create 39 years ago with the (literally) groundbreaking Night Of The Living Dead. And it's safe to say we can blame him for all the zombie-chomping on Facebook.
Romero's latest, Diary Of The Dead, premieres in the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness program. Romero, who lives in Toronto, is also a special guest at this weekend's Rue Morgue Festival Of Fear.
The fantasmagoric filmmaker screens clips from Diary, discusses his career and answer fans' questions at Speak Of The Dead - An Intimate Evening With George Romero (Sunday, August 26, 9:30 pm, at the Bloor Cinema).
Why are zombies still so popular?
As movie monsters go, zombies are the most human. They were human at one time. So we are confronted with ourselves in a way, which is much more frightening and disturbing.
Diary is your fifth Dead film. What keeps you returning to the series?
The Dead films allow me to talk about things that a drama, say, won't. Dawn Of The Dead, which was set in a shopping mall, is on one level about consumerism; Land Of The Dead is a response to Bush. It would be very hard to get funding for a drama that dealt [directly] with those issues, and audiences might not be as receptive to it. But horror films allow you to put these other layers into the story and be entertaining.
What is Diary Of The Dead about?
It's very much in the vein of what we did with the original Night Of The Living Dead, very gritty and guerrilla-style. It's about a group of film students who are making a horror movie when the dead start rising. There's no conventional camera, so we see the events through their eyes with the camera they're using to make their movie, and then they find another camera, and we use cellphone cameras and security cameras. But not like The Blair Witch Project.
What did you think of the zombie rom-com Shaun Of The Dead and the Dawn Of The Dead remake?
Shaun I thought was absolutely wonderful, brilliant and inventive and showed a real appreciation and respect for the genre. I didn't much care for the Dawn remake. It was a well-made action movie but really wasn't anything like my Dawn Of The Dead.
What are you working on next?
There's a TV series we're developing, and I have an idea for a zombie comedy, a really balls-out kind of movie that should be a lot of fun.
Your life and work are being celebrated at the Festival Of Fear, which gives fans a chance to meet and talk to you. What question are you most sick of hearing from fans?
"What scares you?" Somebody always asks me that.