Zombies existed before George Romero, of course. They just didn't have quite the same appetite for destruction. Or for human flesh, as the case may be.
Earlier horror classics like 1932's White Zombie, 1943's I Walked with a Zombie, and 1966's The Plague of the Zombies all featured shuffling members of the undead, but their purpose was to serve the human masters who (usually through voodoo) had managed to awaken them from their eternal slumber. But Romero, a Pittsburgh filmmaker who had grown tired of making commercials and industrial films, changed all that with the release of his 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. With one film, the status of the movie zombie was changed forever: From A (1980's Alien Dead) to Z (2000's Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddon), it's hard to find a post-Night zombie flick that doesn't feature these fearsome creatures munching down on readily available humans.
Night of the Living Dead will forever remain Romero's most famous endeavor; it's like Orson Welles' Citizen Kane in that its maker would never surpass his debut feature. But that's not to say he hasn't spent the last 41 years helming a number of interesting works, including several more in the zombie genre. To that end, The Light Factory and Reel Soul Cinema are honoring the man with American Zombie: George A. Romero's Film Revolution, a three-day event that will be held in Charlotte this Friday (Feb. 20) through Sunday. Romero himself will be on hand for the festivities, which will include film screenings, a tribute, a seminar with the filmmaker, a party and more. For complete details, call 704-333-9755 or go to www.zombiestakecharlotte.com.
But first, check out CL's own package deal on the event, including brief reviews of the films to be screened, a one-on-one interview (conducted by Marty Kelso) with Romero, a look at the five finalists in the American Zombie Horror Film Contest (which was co-sponsored by CL), and Romero-related trivia. Then get busy securing those tickets for this weekend's event. As Tom Petty notes in his song "Zombie Zoo," "Somewhere beyond the pavement, You'll find the living dead." And for three days only, you'll find them on the streets of downtown Charlotte.