San Antonio cinema fans champing at the bit for a shot at their very own Alamo Drafthouse may have to wait a little while longer (the most optimistic target dates for the new theater's opening have already passed), but this weekend the Drafthouse will be a bit closer than usual. The proprietors of the Austin location have put together an event so bone-chilling it cannot be held within the capital's city limits - meaning that the drive time from SA is ever-so-slightly shorter than it usually is for Alamo happenings.
Apropos of nothing, save perhaps the appearance of the recent (better than it had any right to be) Dawn of the Dead remake, the Drafthouse is bringing horror movie legend George Romero to Texas, where he will no doubt leave giddy gore-hounds in his wake.
Romero is the man who gave us Night of the Living Dead, of course, and set all sorts of new standards for monster movies. Alamo programmers are right to note, for instance, the extent to which Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later borrowed from Romero's Day of the Dead, which made human soldiers as much of a threat as flesh-eating zombies. 28 Days even replicated the nearly sympathetic zombie who had been captured to serve as a guinea pig for experiments. What 28 Days didn't copy is Romero's very weird sense of humor - and that makes the two movies altogether different.
Night of the Living Dead was exceptionally paranoid and overtly gruesome: It had a black hero and a whole lot of white villains; and it was made with a technical crudeness that amplified the film's nightmarish realism and showed others that homemade genre flicks were possible. He also scared the bejeezus out of a lot of people, many of whom continue to adore him for it.
The Alamo's all-night tribute will include four of the maestro's features, two from the Dead trilogy - the aforementioned Night of the Living Dead, which should be a rare treat on a big screen, and Day of the Dead, its second sequel (after Dawn, which isn't playing here) - and two that are fairly obscure.
Martin features a teenager who responds to adolescent angst by convincing himself he's a vampire; with shades of Nicolas Cage in Vampire's Kiss, it focuses on psychological thrills. The Crazies is a cult entry even for a George Romero movie. Another exploration of the contagion theme, it plays up the science angle and (like the Dead movies) milks a lot of tension out of volatile interpersonal dynamics.
| Roadshow of the Living Dead,
Featuring George Romero
Abandoned cotton gin
Hwy 21 at U.S. 183
Romero will be there in person, answering questions from the crowd after the first film and "signing autographs like a madman." Attendees of other Alamo events will note that Q&As at these affairs tend to be a good deal more friendly than those at other venues. It's not as if George Romero were showing up at a suburban Barnes & Noble to autograph an autobiography, after all. The people in this crowd will have traveled well out of their way to attend and can be counted on to have obsessive, loving questions for their hero.
For the truly devoted fan, the organizers are presenting the kind of opportunity usually reserved for patrons of museums and political parties: They've sold a mere dozen tickets to an exclusive luncheon with the director at an Austin steakhouse before the Roadshow. Those lucky dozen will be able to satisfy their hunger for flesh while picking the master's brains - and they'll receive a commemorative T-shirt, too. •