Thank You, Mr. Romero

Screen cap from Creepshow (dir. George A. Romero, 1982)

The point of this blog post is to announce that we’re working the next Chill 3rd Edition sourcebook, and it’s titled The Undead. I had intended to take this opportunity to talk about using the undead in Chill games and the various ways I’ve done it over the years, to talk about some of my favorite media inspirations for the undead, and give you some excerpts from the outline.

And then, yesterday, George A. Romero passed away, and I’m thinking that it might make more sense to talk about him and what his work meant to me and my conception of horror a little.

I think the first movie I saw that he directed was Creepshow. I don’t remember the first time I saw it (I tend to rewatch movies compulsively), but I do remember having a slumber party with some of my buds when I was in fifth grade or so. We watched Creepshow, and then went upstairs to get snacks, and my dad was up there looking for medicine (he had a really bad cold). I told him to say “I WANT MY CAKE” in a spooky voice, and he did, and I think we all ran right the hell back downstairs.

Somewhere along the way I watched the “of the Dead” trilogy (that is, Night of the Living DeadDawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead). At the time when I was younger, it was just fun to see people getting ripped apart by zombies and zombies getting their heads blown off and so forth. This was pre high school; I didn’t understand the commentary on consumerism that’s rife within Dawn or the race relations issues in Night or the construction of the “ark” (that is, zombies are trapping us but we’re the monsters) in Day. That all came later, as I watched them again, and again, and looked beyond the clown zombies and the funny dialog (“You can be boss down there, I’m boss up here!”).

I did a monolog from Day of the Dead for an acting class when I was in college. I designed four Chill 2nd Edition scenarios based on the vignettes in Creepshow (not “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”; wasn’t sure how to make that one work). I sought out the EC horror comics and saw, again and again, the wronged returning from their graves to wreak vengeance on the living. I thought long and hard about how it was that a group of bikers in Dawn saw people who had plenty of resources and ingenuity and instead of saying “hey, guys, how about you give us some food and we’ll help you clean or move stuff around or hey Bubba here is an EMT and could help with your impending baby issue”, they kicked in the doors, stole the (completely useless) TVs, and made a mess of the place.

I have a lot of thoughts about horror as a genre, and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen some of them. At the end of the day, though, I think my favorite thing about horror is that it shows us situations that reveal us to ourselves. Who are you, when the zombies are shambling toward you? What will you do when the monster in the crate eats your friend? What’s the response to violence and blood?

This is intrinsic to horror, and it’s intrinsic to Chill because of who the characters are: People who, when faced with that question, answered “I will do what I can to help.” Horror is a twisted, gory reflection of our own humanity, and that’s why I love it.

Mr. Romero played a very large part in showing me that, and for that, I thank him.

RIP, sir.

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