About one month ago over on Harry Knowles "Ain't-It-Cool-News" he ran a story about a George A. Romero film fest taking place in Chicago at the Art Institute. The main event of the fest would be the screening of "Bruiser", the new Romero film that exists without a distributor. This might be the only chance one has in seeing this movie in the theater. So I made a post stating that I would be there. I didn't know if I would or not, I just had to post.
Now let me explain something here. I am classic for saying I am going to go to something and then getting sidetracked and forgetting all about it. I get busy doing other stuff and space these things off. So I posted saying I was going, not really knowing if I would or not. The next day I got an email from a gentleman who runs a "Bruiser" site asking me if I would go and write-up a review for him. Now, when I say I am going to do something and I am the only person depending on me, I will often let me down. But if somebody else asks me to do something, I will do my best to make sure I come through. So I told him, Ronnie is his name, that I would go and write something up for him.
Knowing that I have responsibilities here at home (I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter to watch while my wife works), and knowing how much I hate going into the city, I decided to only catch the last night of the fest. This would be the night where Mr. Romero was supposed to do a Q&A with the audience and sign stuff after the main event of the "Bruiser" screening. The other nights were movies I have seen before anyway. Not knowing at that time that the one that I hadn't seen, "Jack's Wife" would be canceled due to no prints being found.
I made plans to make sure that that night I would be free to go down to the pit they call Chicago and do a bit of film viewing. Next thing I needed to do was call one of my friends, Curt, who is an aspiring film maker and ask him to tag along. Without so much as a pause he said "hell yeah".
The day arrived and without a second thought my car started to give me problems. So that caused me to have to rush. But I got out of the house and to the train station on time. Word to all of the people who might choose to visit the city of Chicago. If you have any chance of taking the train into the city and then using the El system (the elevated tracks that run around the city, they also go underground. Our version of the subway), DO! It normally takes us one hour to get to Comisky Park (where the White Sox play) by car, but as of late it has been taking us about 2 1/2 - 3 hours to get there due to the traffic. It sucks. But the trains run almost on time, and they are more relaxing than Chicago traffic. Trust me, there ain't nothing like it. But the reason for my explaining the whole car and rushing around thing is that I also happened to forget to grab my stuff to have signed! I am telling you, I need to be shot somedays.
So Curt and I got to the Art Institute after an interesting ride on the El where Curt was lucky enough to sit next to a gentleman who believed that age does NOT matter when it comes to the opposite sex. To him, it was all about size. You see, as he explained it, if a person of the opposite sex, female in his case, happened to be about his size, which was 5 feet 10 inches, then they were ripe for the picking. He then explained that if the person was 10 years old, but his height, then that is all that mattered. This whole conversation went on while a young lady was sitting not too far from him and he proceeded to make eyes with her. She did appear to be of a legal age, but it was still a bit more disturbing to witness than the bit of film I was on my way to view that night. Public transportation in the big city, gotta love it!
So we get to the Institute and grab our seats. We choose to take the last aisle. From here you get the best view of everything in front of you. Plus you only have to endure annoying people in front of you, not behind you. In my case also I don't have to deal with some little piece of you know what throwing stuff in my hair. It has been known to happen. People. Ha.
We had been sitting for maybe ten minutes when I turned around and saw Mr. Romero standing about 20 feet from me. Now I normally don't get all excited about seeing famous people, and there are few exceptions to this. Those people are as follows: Andy McCoy, guitarist from legendary band Hanoi Rocks; Fish, one time vocalist for Marillion and now solo artist; Joe R. Lansdale, author and from what I can tell the right hand man to God; Dan Simmons, author (but I met him and found him to be, well, not really personable, but still a nice guy) and as I found out this day, George A. Romero.
You see, I like many people in the world had my life changed by each one of these people. Andy showed me the coolest style of music in the world. Fish showed me emotions better than anybody else ever could in music. Joe, well, Joe is just the greatest author. Nobody can tell you a story like he can. Just amazing. Dan showed me that books could be great. He made me want to write. And George. Years ago I bought the premier issue of a magazine called Fangoria. I bought it for the cover of Godzilla. Inside I found an article on a movie called "Dawn Of The Dead". There was a picture of the exploding head scene in the magazine and the caption mentioned how this happens just 10 minutes into the movie. I was amazed.
Fast forward a few years and I find the movie in an early video booth. It was just a booth in the middle of the mall. It was around 1980 or '81. I was 10 or 11. I got my parents to rent it. I had never seen anything like it. I became obsessed with the characters. The took me over. I had always loved Horror, but now it was more than that. It took over a part of my life. And it was all because of George.
So there he stood. I was in shock. I was thrilled like a little kid meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time. My God, I thought, he is real!
Then he walked to the front of the building and stood in the shadows. Another man took the podium and introduced himself as the coordinator for the Art Institute. We had been told as we walked through the doors to hold onto our tickets for a door prize drawing that would be going on. So now he explained the drawing. They had been given DVD's from Anchor Bay entertainment. All of the Romeros and others that they didn't name! Talk about an awesome door prize! I had number 190. I was on the edge of my seat. Curt was on the edge of his seat. They had six. The first couple of people they called didn't even seem to care. They just walked up there and took the bags that Mr. Romero was handing out himself (the man is just way too cool!). Then they called the number that would ring in my head for the rest of the night: 189!!! The person who walked through the doors right in front of me! The positive thing is that person did get excited. At least I lost to a fan. I obviously didn't win. If I had you would have heard my screams over the folk in Japan getting stomped by Godzilla right now.
Then it was time for Mr. Romero to take the stand. He gave us a quick intro to the film telling us it had only been screened once before to a bunch of film students. But we were the first "fans" to see the movie! Then he told us not to expect any great shocks. He said this wasn't traditional Horror. He said it was more of a Parable. But don't expect any true Horror.
Then the film starts. As I state in a review I wrote for a "Bruiser" website, this is a real tough movie to review and describe. Almost every line in the movie is in it for a reason. Everything moves the movie along. I can tell you that within the first 5-10 minutes of the movie we are treated to a head getting run over by a train. I guess Mr. Romero forgot about that scene when he told us all not to expect to see anything shocking. The scene did get quite the rise out of the audience. The rest of the movie held quite a few shocks.
The film is this in a nutshell. It is about a man named Henry Creedlow. Henry is a successful person. He has a beautiful wife, a great house (though under-construction), great friends and a good job. Though nobody really takes him very seriously. I don't want to give anything away since I think that if you can see the movie with as little to go on as I did, you will enjoy it that much more. Let's just say Henry gets fed up with allot of stuff and he looses his identity, literally. He wakes one day to find his face has turned into a blank white mask. The one you see in the promo posters. With the mask comes a short temper which causes Henry to do a few bad things.
Where this movie succeeds is making us feel what everybody goes through. We feel Henrys frustration, from being in his shoes in the past. We understand the other people because we have all treated somebody like nobody at least once in our lives. It is the story of an anti-hero who is all of us. But then the real bad characters are also all of us. We worry for his friend Tom as he struggles to do what is right, but we all know that what is the right thing to do, is not the right thing by law. And we hope for him he makes it through the movie alive.
The film is not without its faults. It could have had a bit of a better ending. But the one it does have does work. It is by no means bad. It also has a few situations that would never happen in the real world. But then, to the best of my knowledge not too many people lose their faces to blank white masks.
All of the cast does exceptional work. Mr. Romero gives us a character this time almost as unlikable as Colonel Rhodes from the film "Day Of The Dead". The character is Henrys boss, Miles (that is the name on the official "Bruiser" site, but is pronounced "Meelo"). The main difference is that at least we are given humorous lines to laugh at with him, unlike Rhodes. Though for my money, Rhodes is still the best.
When the film ended Mr. Romero came back out to field some question. For the most part the questions were all the typical pats on the back for a job well done and a career well done. Though a few questions did bring about a few interesting answers.
When asked how he felt about the state of Horror films of recent years, he says he hasn't liked them too much. He stated that he found "Scary Movie" more entertaining than "Scream".
When asked about what happened with "Day Of The Dead", he elaborated the old tale of not enough money and then being rushed on the final script. The he mentioned how most people feel it to being the worst of the three, but then he said, are you ready for this one kids? He said there are many things about it that make it his favorite of the three! That is right kids, Romero prefers "Day"!!! Talk about feeling the earth move with that statement!
He explained that the character of the boss in "Bruiser" was written out to be played as a rough New York style character. On set though, the actor turned it into what it is. And that was a brilliant move.
He told us where his daughter is in the film. She plays the Go-Go dancer who kicks a football player in the head. Classic. My friend Curt questioned his casting his daughter as a Go-Go dancer. Then I explained the roles Argento gives his daughter, and he just shut-up. Mr. Romero also has his son in the movie as the kid with a flashlight who points it at people and tells them to die. Family.
And then there was the inevitable question of "will there be another dead film?". To which he said that yes, a script has been started and he hopes to do the final film someday.
Also the next film is still supposed to be the Stephen King adaptation for "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon".
The majority of the questions were typical fan-boy types of questions. Then his wife Christine told him the questions were to be over after two more. So Curt and I hauled butt to the lobby so we could get pictures and stuff signed right away.
Earlier in the day I had gone to a Sci-Fi/Horror book store and had picked up a couple of books, "House On The Borderlands" by William Hope Hodgson and "Strangewood" by Christopher Golden. So that was all I had. So when I got up to Mr. Romero all I could do was ask him for a picture and ask him to just sign the back of one of the books. I chose to use the Hodgson. Then I told him he had to do the screen adaptation for it so that the whole autograph would make sense. I have my fingers crossed!
While he signed I asked him about when we could expect the first chapter of "The Death Of Death"? For those not familiar, over on the George Romero website he says he is going to be starting an online novel called "The Death Of Death". It will be the ultimate Zombie story (meaning my book now has to get beefed up, dammit!) . It will be what none of the movies ever could be. It will be posted a chapter or two every week until completion. He asked his wife, Christine, when it would start. She said in about two weeks. Everybody start checking everyday.
After he signed I shook hands with him again and started on my way. But then I realized something, nobody was asking for Christines autograph! My God! This lady was very instrumental in his films! She has memorable parts in his films! From pulling stuff out of her ass in "Dawn" to getting offed by a monkey in "Monkey Shines"! Plus not to mention the behind the scenes role she has played. So I also asked her to sign the Hodgson book. She seemed really thrilled to do so. My night was complete. I may not have gotten my original video version of "Dawn" signed nor my Elite "Night" DVD signed, but I got my picture with the man and I got something signed. Plus in the photo you can see the book in my hand! Proof!
On the way home Curt and I discussed the movie. We discussed his Q&A. We discussed the whole day. The movie was great. The man even greater. George A. Romero is everything this genre needs. He is a man of honor. He is a man of dedication. But above all else, he is a fan and he is one of us. Thank you George for a night I will forever remember.Back to the Spotlight page