Horror legend George A. Romero sparked the zombie movie craze with his 1968 classic "Night of the Living Dead." But, as he tells Indiewire in an extensive interview on the occasion of the Museum of Modern Art's screening of a 4K restoration of the film, the legendary director has an uneasy relationship with the genre he helped popularize.
The 68 year-old Romero talked openly about the social and cultural implications of his film, how they tie into today's political climate, the way viewers have interpreted and misinterpreted his work and how the success of "The Walking Dead" and "World War Z" has made his vision for the genre less commercially viable. Romero explained that "Night of the Living Dead" is a film more about miscommunication than zombies.
“[P]eople who, even when faced with impossible and improbable situations, still argue among themselves about petty things rather than facing the problem," the director said. "I find that this is still going on today." He also discounts the theory that it is a film about racism. “[I]t accidentally became a racial film because of Duane Jones’ character. There’s nothing in the dialogue or anywhere else that says this film is about race." He does not, however, reject this interpretation, and added, "[B]ut that’s what made it become important, I guess."
He went on to state that the current popularity of the genre makes it impossible to make a low-budget horror movie in the manner he prefers. "Now, because of 'World War Z' and 'The Walking Dead,' I can't pitch a modest little zombie film, which is meant to be sociopolitical. I used to be able to pitch them on the basis of the zombie action, and I could hide the message inside that." He lamented that, "[t]he moment you mention the word 'zombie,' it’s got to be, 'Hey, Brad Pitt paid $400 million to do that.'"
Romero also claimed that “The Walking Dead” makes it impossible to make a zombie movie that has "any sort of substance… just zombies wreaking havoc," and added, "That’s not what I’m about."
The interview then turned to current events, and Romero explains that he did not move to Canada -- where he's lived for 12 years -- for political reasons, but that he is disgusted and disappointed at "Trump mania" and the current election. “[T]hey're actually attacking press people. This whole rhetoric about the fucking nasty press being almost as bad as Hillary [Clinton]. Crooked Hillary! Crooked press! Jesus Christ, it’' unbelievable.”
The 4K restoration of "Night of the Living Dead" will screen in New York City this Saturday, Nov. 5, as part of “To Save and Project: The 14th MoMa International Festival of Film Preservation.”