Saturday, September 12, 2009

TIFF 2009: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968); George Romero at Yonge-Dundas Square

To Toronto's famed Yonge-Dundas Square, where director George A. Romero, in town to pimp the latest entry in his deathless zombie franchise, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (of course I've got tickets!), expresses his somewhat puzzled gratitude to the throngs of walking dead Canadians (is there any other kind?) who got all dolled up in their nearly departed finery and participated in this afternoon's Zombie Walk, subtitled the "Special Director's Cut Edition" because it shuffled its rotten feet for a good three hours from Alexandra Park to the square. The Master was pleased, if a little incredulous at the whole affair.

Romero was joined by TIFF Midnight Madness honcho Colin Geddes, who further invited a sincere if somewhat clueless city councilor up on the YD Stage to present the director with a "very special award" that recognized both his contribution to the horror pantheon as well as his relatively new status as an authentic Canadian citizen. The trophy, natch, was a model of the CN Tower clutched by a severed hand.

The evidence (click each photo for a larger, downloadable version):

It stands to reason than an evening such as this wouldn't be complete without a free public screening of the movie that started it all . . .

That image on the bottom makes it look like they were presenting some worn-out old public domain VHS tape, but rest assured the film was spun from the excellent Elite DVD. Rex never said he was a night photographer, just an espionage master.

The official Toronto Zombie Walk will be held October 24th.


Cal said...

"The trophy, natch, was a model of the CN Tower clutched by a severed hand" - that made me laugh!

Looks like a great evening, and the open air screening is probably the best way of recreating the drive-in roots of the film.

Wish I'd have been there!

Rex Saigon said...

I hadn't planned on staying to watch it, but the environment just felt right (cool summer night, clear skies, appreciative crowd), so I ended up watching the whole thing! That movie STILL has the power, and I don't know how many times I've seen it already. LOL

The rest of the week they're showing movies with "music" themes, followed by classic silents with live musical accompaniment, all free! Today was WOODSTOCK (stayed for about an hour), which is too long to allow for a silent film followup, but tomorrow is STOP MAKING SENSE, chased by an oldie called THE BUSHER, Tuesday is MONTEREY POP with the silent ROBIN HOOD, Wednesday is THE LAST WALTZ and TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE, and so on. This is the first year they've done this and it seems to be a popular attraction as you can come and go as you please.

Back to zombie films. Romero's latest, however, was a rather average affair. SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD feels as though he and his fellow screenwriter hadn't fully though out their subtext before shooting. It's there, but it needed to be explored in more depth. Makes me wonder if he isn't just coasting at this point (and at his age). I thought DIARY, despite its weak points, still managed to say something about the world as we currently know it (the whole media/internet/self-involved generation angle). You keep waiting for SURVIVAL to DO something with the little ideas it's toying with, but it keeps holding back. The gory bits are still fun, and Romero comes up with a couple of new ways to kill zombies! Plus, the film moves at a speedy pace, although not quite fast enough to stop you from giving it a fish-eye once in a while. It also has an amusing performance (by Canada's own Kenneth Welsh) as the cantankerous and cunning leader of one of the island clans.