Last week saw the release of Gimme the Loot, the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner by Adam Leon, which sees two graffiti artists seek revenge after their replica of the…
One of the best bets in Toronto this Halloween is Living Dread: The Cinema of George A. Romero, a retrospective of some of the horror master’s best work, screening at TIFF Bell Lightbox. I first encountered Romero’s films when, as a scaredy-cat first year university student, I cowered through a screening of Night of the Living Dead in film class. As I worked up my courage and appetite for scary films over the years, I sought out Romero’s other work. I saw many of his films for the first time on VHS and am pretty excited for this chance to see them on film.
On October 31st, the retrospective kicks off with In Conversation With… George A. Romero at 7:00 pm. The legendary maverick will be sitting down with TIFF International Programmer (and Midnight Madness master) Colin Geddes to discuss his decades-long career outside the mainstream Hollywood system, and some of the groundbreaking and genre-defining films he’s directed. If you’ve got trick or treating plans, wrap up early and come out for this. Romero may have become a Torontonian in recent years, but this kind of in-depth conversation is still a pretty rare thing to witness.
The conversation is followed by a 9:30 pm screening of Creepshow, perhaps the perfect Romero film to watch on Halloween. A collaboration between horror giants Romero and Stephen King, Creepshow is one of the better horror anthologies out there. Plus, if you haven’t seen it, think of it as your chance to get scared out of your wits by the likes of Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson. How often does that come along?
Over the next few days following Halloween, several of Romero’s films will be screened. On Thursday November 1, at 6:30 pm, Romero will be back to introduce a screening of Martin, which he has named as his personal favourite among his own films. It’ll be especially interesting to hear what Romero has to say about the superbly tender and ambiguous take on the vampire film now, over 35 years since it was made. Martin will be followed by The Crazies at 9:30 pm.
On Friday November 2 at 7:00 pm, one of my personal favourites will be screening, Monkey Shines. The disturbing film about a paralyzed former athlete and his telepathic helper monkey is not only scary, but also wildly fun. When I first saw this film (it was a random VHS rental, years ago, which I picked because the image on the box was so irresistable. It’s not one of Romero’s better known films, but trust me on this one point: it features the best sex scene featuring a paraplegic that you’re likely to see onscreen anytime soon.
Arguably the most unmissable event of the retrospective will be the triple bill of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead that will be screening back to back on Saturday November 3rd, starting at 5:00 pm.
The opportunity to see the full original Living Dead trilogy on the big screen does not come very often. In fact, the majority of the films being screened as part of this retrospective are very rarely screened and in some cases haven’t played in Toronto in over 20 years. Of course, you can walk down to your local video store and rent most of these titles with ease, but getting the opportunity to see them projected on the big screen (and all on actual film, for those cinephiles among you who care about that sort of thing) is pretty special.
And, as if all that Romero wasn’t enough, the retrospective will be capped off with an opportunity to see a film especially curated by the man himself. Romero has selected Michael Powell’s notorious and sleazy Peeping Tom, which he will be personally introducing at the screening on Sunday November 4 at 7:30 pm. In his note about this Carte Blanche selection, Romero says ”I feel that I have a special relationship with Peeping Tom because when Night of the Living Dead hit screens it, too, was reviled. Both Powell and I owe a great deal to the home-video market for bringing our films back from the dead.”
Romero’s films have always been more than just scary. He imbues his work with the kind of subtle but powerful social commentary that only the very best horror films contain. Living Dread gives fans a chance to see how Romero’s message has evolved over the years as well as offering a glimpse into the mind of a man who launched a thousand zombies. For more information and tickets to the retrospective, check the TIFF site.
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