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!

On opening night, which I’m told is traditionally slower than Saturdays, I was able to get a quick chat with Gaylin Ross, the strong female lead in the film. She told me she was a big fan of Sigourney Weaver of ALIEN fame and Linda Hamilton from TERMINATOR. I found her to be very pleasant and asked if she had a favorite version of the film. Per IMDB…

There are three main versions of the film. The U.S. Theatrical Version, which George A. Romero considers his definitive cut of the film, runs 127 minutes and was the version released in American theaters in 1979. It contains a mix of both Goblin’s soundtrack and several library tracks. Dario Argento’s cut, released in Italy under the title ZOMBI, and also known as the European Version, runs 118 minutes. It removes several scenes, mostly anything humorous, emphasizing the horror and action, and has more extensive use of the Goblin music; it runs 118 minutes. The Extended Version or Cannes Film Festival Version runs 139 minutes (this version was erroneously called the ‘director’s cut’ when Elite Entertainment released it on laserdisc). It was assembled to premiere at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival and is something of a work print. It contains many extended scenes and the soundtrack is almost entirely library tracks.

Ross seemed genuinely surprised that there were multiple prints but said she’d stand by the US theatrical version. She was a very sweet lady and still looks great!

I made my way to Ken Foree, still towering at 6’ 5,” the man is as confident and strong looking as was back in 1978!! Ken was so nice and outgoing and really eager to talk about the film! The first question I asked was regarding stories I’d heard about his character shooting two children zombies in the film. Was it true he received a lot of flak for that? He said YES! So we had an animated discussion about how ludicrous that was and I mentioned how they had cut that scene from the theatrical prints later on.

Just a week prior to the DOTD, we heard the sad news that George Romero was not well and could not attend. As crushing as that was, I’m glad I went to DOTD and I’m sure I speak for all that fans when I say that I wish him well and a speedy recovery.

David Emge also cancelled his appearance so DOTD offered a refund for the photo or a free admission pass for a future event. I heard some people took the refund but I had no intention of missing out on a photo with the other three! What scared me was the rule that if you miss your time you LOSE your slot so, needless to say, I was one of the first 10 people or so. This gave me time to think of something funny to say. I watched those in front of me walk up awkwardly, not follow directions from the photographer, or fumble with their event goods. NOT me! When my big moment arrived I I walked up confidently, looked them in the eye, and said, “Hi to the actors before taking my place DEAD center. I said to them, “Guys, I don’t dream big, but this was my dream and thank you for making it come true!” We all smiled and the picture was snapped!

Thank you Dave Fuentes, David Albaugh and Days of the Dead! I WILL be back next year!

~Jason Schoolcraft      

Coming Up…the 2017 Indianapolis Days of the Dead costume contest!

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