Zombies On Parade: "George A. Romero's Survival Of The Dead"
"My routine: make a movie about a human condition and use the dead to tell the story." So said legendary filmmaker George A. Romero after the midnight premiere Saturday night of his latest zombie opus, "Survival Of the Dead."
Prior to the screening, Romero has walked the red carpet followed by a small cadre of fans dressed in zombie outfits with bloody makeup. The atmosphere inside the theater was one of warmth and community, as hardcore genre fans are very much a tribe unto themselves. Romero has a special place in the hearts of those in the audience Saturday, not only for his groundbreaking films such as "Night of The Living Dead" and "Dawn Of The Dead," but also because he has lived in Toronto for the past four years and recently became a Canadian citizen.
If only "Survival" had the same energy and punky spirit as his last film, "Diary of the Dead," which also screened at TIFF. Romero's latest effort seems flat and disjointed, as he tries to cram together generic imagery from the Western, a fisherman's fable, an army story, missing money, twin sisters and, naturally, zombies. The film's best moment is its very last shot, as two figures face off for a final duel against a bright moon. They both pull the trigger on their guns only to hear the hammers click against an empty chamber, a sound Romero repeats against a black screen.
Romero's zombie films are well-known for their elements of social commentary, and he was asked what this film specifically had on its mind. "Some of the films have been really specific," he said, "but this one is more general. It's about war, it's about tribalism, and how people can't forget those they label enemies even in the face of a huge, species-eradicating event."
Considered somewhat oracular with regards to zombie mythology, Romero was asked for his thoughts on the recent surge in "fast zombies," movies with undead that move at startling speeds. (There are circles in which this is considered a great controversy, as the immediate shouts from the audience proved.) "Zombies cannot run," Romero emphatically replied. "They can't run.
Asked -- by someone dressed as a zombie -- to do his own best zombie impression, Romero, 69, responded, "I'm at the age where all I have to do is walk down the street."
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: Romero poses with some zombie fans. / Associated Press