John Russo Reminisces on George Romero & “Night of the Living Dead”

I know I speak for many of my fellow horror fans when I say how saddened we Daves were at the news regarding George Romero’s passing. I had the honor of meeting him twice; once in Indianapolis in 2010 and then the following year with the other Dave in Massachusetts. When the news broke, I wrote on our Facebook page how he was one of the most fan-friendly celebrities you could ever meet; spending as much time as he could with you despite the prodding of his handlers. Romero had been scheduled to attend the convention we’ve been in the midst of covering, Days of the Dead Indianapolis, but his declining health forced his cancellation. The “godfather of zombies” had been slated to do a Q&A panel that Saturday afternoon and many of us wondered how DOTD planned on filling the space. It wasn’t until that morning when we learned there would, indeed, be another panel and that it would feature Romero’s dear friend and Night of the Living Dead co-writer, John A. Russo. The following dialogue is based off the audio recordings taken during that hour…

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Is “Plank Face” Horror or Soft-Core Porn? What’s the Difference!?

I spent our last night at the 2017 Indianapolis Days of the Dead just like I did the first one; taking in another screening at their “48 Hour Independent Film Fest!” This time around I’d be seeing Plank Face, an Independent film created by a group of Indianans who’ve managed to put out several genre movies for the past few years. I got my first taste of them here and would categorize them as “B horror films,” though this is not a criticism. I grew up on a steady stream of low budget films that I loved and will forever cherish. In fact, in my home state of Rhode Island, I work with an Independent movie company called Scorpio Films Releasing and consider several of their films to be the hallmark of my movie library.

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Fans Dressed to Kill at the Indianapolis “Days of the Dead!”

If there was a finale for our weekend at the 2017 Indianapolis Days of the Dead convention, then surely the costume contest was it.  I arrived at the hall early and roughly the same time that many of the contestants did. Just the few I passed on my way in let me know I was in for a treat. Some of the costumes weren’t just creative but downright brave. Case in point, a giant-sized Count Chocula that towered over all of us. As hard as it was for me to maneuver that crowded hallway, I could only imagine how tough it must have been for him.

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A “Dawn of the Dead” Dream Come True! (a.k.a. When there’s no room in Hell,” it’s gonna freeze over!)

I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to attend a Days of the Dead convention in the Midwest, but it happened. I work with the Rhode Island Terror Dave (David Albaugh) and have been to a few east coast horror events but wasn’t very impressed with them. Needless to say, heading out west  to attend one of theirs was never a priority until the other Dave (Dave Fuentes) invited me. Both Daves knew I was a huge fan of Dawn of the Dead and arranged for photo-ops with me and the cast as well as the “godfather of zombies,” himself, George Romero! This left me NO choice but to be there! After securing the time off and getting a great deal on a flight, the wait was on! Thankfully, June 30th came quickly and I was on a 5:55 am flight for a 3-day weekend of HORROR and debauchery!

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“Dawn of the Dead” cast dishes on Zombies, Short People, & George Romero!

The Days of the Dead horror convention opened back up for business at 11 am that Saturday. We arrived shortly after the doors opened and noticed immediately that there were at least twice as many conventioneers as the night before. The Dawn of the Dead panel was slated to feature Ken Foree, David Emge, Gaylen Ross, and Scott H. Reiniger but Emge canceled his appearance Thursday, leaving the other three to answer questions concerning their roles and working with Romero himself. Sadly, Romero, who was slated to attend this event also cancelled due to poor health. The following was transcribed from audio of that panel…

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Not one, but TWO Godzillas Stomp “Days of the Dead” Indianapolis!

How do I love thee, Godzilla? Let me count the ways…

For a monster-loving kid like me growing up in the ‘70s, giant Japanese monsters represented the pinnacle of entertainment. Those glorious films were just about the only thing worth staying inside for back at a time when kids actually wanted to be outdoors. Of all the notable behemoths to have ever graced the silver screen, there were none I revered more than the “King of Monsters” himself, Godzilla. The moment his iconic roar filled my living room I’d be transfixed, especially if he was up against my second favorite kaiju, King Ghidorah (sorry, Gamera, but you were a distant third). Back then it never occurred to me that I was cheering on a guy in a costume as I’d fully embraced the idea of giant monsters roaming the earth and Japan just happening to be the only ones “lucky” enough to see them. Adolescence ushered in the grim reality about “men in rubber suits” and it wouldn’t be until years later that I’d gain a true appreciation for them. The reality is, these folks gave rubber-suited monsters an edge in the personality department that many of the stop-motion ones lacked. This was especially true for those played by the quintessential suit actor himself, Harou Nakajima. Nakajima has the distinction of playing the original Rodan, one of the Gargantuas (which I did a retro piece on last year), and Godzilla from 1954-1972 among others. Needless to say, when I learned that the eighty-eight-year-old legend would be attending Days of the Dead’s 2017 Indianapolis show, I knew I had to be there!

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The Night of the Virgin at Days of the Dead!

Terror from Beyond the Daves welcomes our friend and Cinemaphile, Jason Schoolcraft…

The Night of the Virgin (La noche del virgen) is a 2016 Spanish film I’d read about but didn’t get to finally see until this past weekend’s Days of the Dead convention in Indianapolis. The movie was scheduled to screen on that opening Friday night and, after checking out some of their amazing vendor’s (see Dave’s last post), I eagerly made my way to their make-shift theater to see this. Although there was so much going on at Days of the Dead, I was happily surprised to see a small crowd would be joining me for this show. Originally the director was supposed to introduce the film but didn’t make it. I should also mention that shortly after it began we noticed there were no subtitles and, despite repeated attempts from the organizers, we’d all be seeing the film entirely in Spanish. It wasn’t their fault as the director had gotten stuck in transit and this was the only video file he’d sent them. Although a couple of people understandably walked out, most of us stayed and I was glad to be one of them.

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