Director John Carpenter remembers filmmaker George A. Romero, who died July 15, as a very gentle person who happened to change film history.
“I first saw ‘Night of the Living Dead’ when it came out in 1968,” Carpenter said. “It gave hope to those of us in film school that it was possible to make a low-budget movie and get it on the big screen.”
The seminal zombie film was “the beginning of modern horror,” Carpenter said. “It was a little influenced by Vietnam, and it had a black hero. That was totally new; it just wasn’t done then. Now it doesn’t seem so shocking.”
The level of explicit gore was also pretty high for the time, the director said.
Carpenter also loved the sequel, “Dawn of the Dead,” which Romero co-wrote with Italian horror auteur Dario Argento.
A few years later, after Carpenter’s “The Thing” was released, the two filmmakers finally met up. “He was extremely gracious,” Carpenter said, and they became friends, talking on the phone and running into each other at genre conventions.
“Each of his ‘Dead’ movies was about more than just horror. There was always something under the surface. He was always trying to deal with certain themes and deepen them. His characters were really edgy,” Carpenter said.
“I cannot tell you the profound impact that movie had. Not just on me but on everyone.”
Argento later asked Carpenter to join him and Romero on an anthology film, “Two Evil Eyes,” but Carpenter was working on another project. The American fright mavens never collaborated, though they talked about writing scripts and the difficulty of raising financing.
Not surprisingly, Carpenter found he and Romero had a lot in common. “He was sort of a guy out of time, kind of a bebop guy from the ’60s. He was so much fun; he loved movies. We hit it off together.”