How I Joined the Zombie Insistence
I didn’t grow up with zombies on my brain (pun totally intended) or a massive collection of George Romero films situated below my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trade paperbacks. For as long as I can remember, vampires have been my choice of undead entity. In fact, I’ve only ever watched one classic zombie movie, and this was back when my Dad brought home a VHS copy of the original Night of the Living Dead from our local PathMark since it only cost $2. I’ve never seen Evil Dead in its entirety. I only watched Zombieland and Resident Evil (gulp!) because they seemed entertaining and had neat special effects. I saw Shaun of the Dead in theaters and found it humorous, but in retrospect I think that was due mainly to the British accents (life is just funnier in cockney!)
However, I have since gained a much deeper appreciation of zombie fiction in many of its forms, from the grotesquely horrific to the absurdly ridiculous, and this is all because of a little independently produced feature-length film which goes by the name of Blaming George Romero, written and produced by, and starring friend and fellow filmmaker Sam Platizky and directed by Robert Lise, who stars in the film as well. This tremendously funny zombie comedy about a group of college kids convinced that the “zombacalypse” has finally arrived thoroughly disemboweled me the first time I watched it – That’s how dang hard I laughed.
Blaming George Romero – Horrifyingly funny!
Blaming George Romero screened at the inaugural Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City last Sunday, and it still made me laugh just as hard with all its Kevin Smith-esque dialogues and references (esoteric at times to a newb like me) to classic zombie films from the 1960s to the 1980s. But laughs and homages aside, Blaming George Romero is at its essence a heartfelt coming of age tale about friendship, forgiveness, and yes, surviving a zombie apocalypse.
What strikes me time and again is how well told the story is, a true testament to the prospering talent that Sam nurtures with every script he pens. Before Blaming George Romero, I’d read a draft of another feature-length zombie film he’d written, this one a period piece taking place during World War II, and although it was a well-done first draft, it tended more towards a serious work of horror or drama, where after seeing his leap in quality with Blaming George Romero, Sam’s forte lies in comic drama.
Any decent storyteller can make you cry; a good one can even make you laugh before you cry, but a great storyteller will make you laugh until you cry, then make you realize you’re crying for a different reason. And that’s what makes Blaming George Romero an A+ piece of cinema in my book––the funny parts are hilarious, but there are genuine moments of emotion given empathic shape by the truly gifted cast of actors Sam and Robert surround themselves with, namely Sam’s brother Isaac, Dan Gregory and Loarina Gonzalez. It doesn’t make you cry, of course, but it does something more pertinent: It makes you feel something real and familiar and touches you deep inside.
This Jersey boy has got the goods, that’s for sure. And he’s not stopping here! A few weeks back I attended a test screening of Sam’s second zomb-com Red Scare, a farcical romp around Cold War America while the Russians develop a super weapon – comme zombies! – and are trying to destroy the American way of life. I’m also a proud funder of Red Scare from back when Sam and company raised a slick $7,645 on IndieGoGo. Be on the lookout, as I’m sure Red Scare is bound to be a festival favorite in 2012.
Red Scare: The next installment of zomb-com goodness.
But no matter what comes next for Sam and the gang, Blaming George Romero will always hold a special place in my heart. After all, it’s the film that moved me towards aa newfound respect for zombie fiction, filmic and otherwise, and that’s probably because it’s technically not a zombie film (and that’s all I’ll say about that – if you wanna know more, snag yourself a copy or find a screening near you!) It was my gateway into a new world, and since seeing Blaming George Romero, I’ve watched a couple other indie zombie films like Death of the Dead directed by Gary King, and I’ve become a fan of both the comic series and TV show The Walking Dead. I’m even a part of the IndieGoGo team for Metronome Pictures’ upcoming zomb-com web series Deader Days. Who’d have thought?!
And what’s more, just the other day while driving in my car I got an idea for my very first horror story (not about zombies, but I’d probably never have entertained that notion unless I’d been surrounding myself with innovative stories about the undead.) I’m not certain if it’ll be a film or a script for my very first graphic novel, but rest assured, it’ll be something in the months ahead.
So Sam Platizky, I blame you and I thank you for Blaming George Romero, Red Scare, and all that comes next, zombie related or not. Much the same way that George Romero introduced depth and various social themes into the zombie genre, the same can be said about Sam in how he blends comedy with moments of true poignancy, which is something I rarely find in many DIY indie films today which tend to favor images over story; that kind of craftsmanship can only start on the page and work its way up to the screen.
John Trigonis is a filmmaker, writer, poet, and educator. Keep up with him by visiting his website: http://JohnTrigonis.com