George A. Romero to be honored with cast and crew screening of his 2009 film Survival of the Dead
Last week we lost the legendary writer, producer and director George A. Romero, the sweet, brilliant and humble indie auteur who defined the zombie genre twice, first with the groundbreaking 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and its bloody successor, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. But on August 6th, seminal Toronto repertory theater The Royal will honor the legacy of Toronto resident Romero with a special screening of his 2009 film — his final feature — Survival of the Dead.
This event screening will also feature special appearances by a wealth of cast and crew from the film, including cinematographer Adam Swica, actor Eric Woolfe, costume designer Alex Kavanagh (who will bring many of the original costumes from the film) and many, many more to be announced, who will share stories of working with Romero. This will be a celebration of the master’s legacy and tribute to this, his most misunderstood movie…
Romero once remarked that Survival of the Dead was the most “melancholy” of his movies, something that seemed odd considering the Toronto-shot 6th “Dead” picture is, on the surface, such a frothy romp. But, as the film has aged and the world of the living dead Romero invented has irrevocably evolved, we can see exactly what he meant. It’s not the film that’s melancholy per se… it was Romero himself.
An avid lover of classic American cinema, Romero frequently told tales of his youth, spending much of that time sitting in dark movie houses in New York, thrilling to whatever films he could lock his eyeballs onto. And though he helped invent the template for the more graphic and unsparing contemporary American horror film, the almost gentle Survival of the Dead sees the then nearly 70-year-old auteur in the Autumn of his life, pining for those days when films were more elemental and innocent, when it seemed the world itself was also just a bit sweeter.
Survival of the Dead is, in effect, a revisit to one of Romero‘s favourite films, the 1958 William Wyler-directed, Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston-starring western The Big Country, with its warring clans, austere and scenic vistas and more romantic and often even whimsical tone. Some fans of the filmmaker’s previous, considerably more nihilistic and angry, zombie films were somewhat taken aback by Survival of the Dead upon release. But Survival is a glimpse into a heart of a filmmaker who had already said what he needed to say about the world, about the terrible ways in which human beings treat each other, about the failings of society. Instead, with this earthy, gorgeously made zombie oater, we find Romero lamenting the old guard, not raging against the world but dialing back the clock to a simpler time, one that may have only existed in dreams, in films, but nevertheless was real.
Survival of the Dead is the perfect epitaph for one of the smartest, boldest and truest independent filmmakers in history. It will endure, like the shambling cannibal cowboy corpses that serve as the Greek Chorus of the film.
The screening is at 8pm, but The Royal will roll out a wild Romero trailer reel starting at 7pm. There will also be an after party, location TBD. See you there!