Few directors in any genre draw as loyal, faithful and loving a crowd as the maestro of the undead, George Romero. And they turned out in droves - the big names, the bloodied faces, and everyone in between - at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian on Wednesday night for a sold-out preview of his latest chapter of zombie lore, Diary of the Dead.
Of course, it just wouldn't be a Romero event if there weren't assorted audience members in touch with their reanimated side milling about; when the will-call line began to fill with mortal pallor and a variety of gaping body traumas, the zombie horde - staff members from nearby EI School of Professional Makeup, decked out in their finest work before staggering over for the screening - were quickly rounded up by the publicity team for a photo op with the man himself.
Got tickets... want brains.
The godfather, and his crew
Also on hand to cheer the director on were his longtime FX guru, Greg Nicotero; fellow auteur (and fresh off his own zombie epic, Planet Terror) Robert Rodriguez; director Mick Garris and his wife, Cynthia; and Romero's Creepshow leading lady, the still-stunning Adrienne Barbeau, among others.
(l-r) Nicotero, Romero, Rodriguez
Romero's affection for this particular project - a return of sorts to his lo-fi roots with the seminal Night of the Living Dead, shot for just a few million beans which is a huge scale-back from his previous effort, Land of the Dead - was apparent as he introduced the film. And the rapturous applause which greeted him continued throughout the screening, punctuating each and every virtuoso kill-shot in this latest feature, a mock first-person account of an undead invasion from the perspective of a group of film students. Leave it to Uncle George to take every first-person event flick from Blair Witch through Cloverfield and school 'em on how it's done.
Q&Aing with Landis (right)
Afterward, a brief but, as could be expected, thoroughly entertaining Q&A was moderated by John Landis, who asked Romero to expand on his inspirations - chiefly the immediacy, and often times misinformative nature, of the blogosphere and viral video age - as well as field his cues from the audience ("This is a film geek crowd, what's the film where....Medium Cool! That's it!"), and press the man of the hour to give us some hints on what the next chapter in his ongoing oeuvre might be. Whatever the trajectory, maybe he might work Facebook into the mix next time. ("Helicopter Zombie and Krishna Zombie are now friends...")
All photos by Nicole Campos.