The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square is fast becoming one of our favourite places in London, due to the huge array of films and events that they’re constantly putting on. When we heard they were showing Night of the Living Dead AND that World War Z author Max Brooks was going to be hosting the event, there was no way we were going to miss out.
Max was hanging out in the downstairs bar area when we arrived, so there was time for a quick chat and a cheeky book signing.
Max then kicked things off by introducing Night of the Living Dead, which in an amusingly retro way only took up about half the cinema screen. I’d only actually seen the film once before, so was looking forward to seeing it again.
While it’s clearly dated – it is 45 years old, after all – I was surprised at how easily I was drawn into it; there’s a genuine creeping feel of unease that steadily builds into outright claustrophobia, in spite of the zombies bumbling around like drunks in the first third of film.
There’s plenty of clunky acting (Keith Wayne’s lines drew plenty of laughs from the crowd, for entirely the wrong reasons) and a few wince-inducing moments (Duane Jones slapping Judith O’Dea, the women in general lacking any sort of agency), but overall Night of the Living Dead remains a deeply unsettling film – and Romero still deserves credit for casting a black actor in the lead role.
When the credits had finished rolling, Max Brooks took to the stage and talked about the film and its influence on both the horror genre and subsequently on him as a kid. He’s a hugely entertaining speaker, being both intelligent and possessing a child-like exuberance. Afterwards he took questions from the audience: how much of the World War Z film had he seen, and what did he think? (not much, and not a lot); how did he feel about zombies that run? (zombies don’t run), what did he think of George Romero’s recent films (they’re really good, particularly Diary of the Dead), and so on.
The evening was almost derailed at one point when some douchebag grabbed the mic and – bizarrely – accused Max Brooks of stealing the idea of zombies or something like that; I forget the exact wording as I was too busy being all British; i. e. being mortified at how rude the person was being. I forget what Brooks said in response, but he demolished the guy and made him look like the tool he was, to rapturous applause from everyone else.
It was possibly the highlight of what was a very fun evening.
It remains to be seen whether the World War Z film is any good, but in any case the book is fantastic and definitely worth checking out.