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Scores of diehard fans came to demonstrate their undying — or perhaps undead — love and respect for horror filmmaker George Romero during a visitation Monday at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
The creator of such iconic horror classics such as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) died in Toronto last week of lung cancer, 13 years after setting down permanent roots in the city where he made many of his later films.
Leanne MacRae of Georgetown spent hours putting herself and her two young daughters, Miranda and Juliet, in full zombie-mode makeup and costumes to honour the late filmmaker.
“The man was a legend in his time bringing the modern zombie into our lives,” MacRae said.
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But Romero, 77, was praised by fans for the subtext behind his gory films, touching on themes such as rampant consumerism, as well as his personal warmth when meeting admirers.
Aspiring filmmaker Benjamin Turnbull, 26, described Romero as “an important character in independent cinema.”
“He (Romero) played by all his own rules and didn’t bow to the studio pressures,” Turnbull said.
Joan Citulski, 62, who’s been rewatching Romero’s films following his death, described him as “the father of the zombie genre.”
“(His films are) campy and it’s kicky. I love being scared just outrageously,” Citulski said.
Gary Campoverdi, 35, who brought along wife Gennie and son, Branjef, 15, to the visitation, said he saw Night of the Living Dead as a young child with his older sister.
“I remember (the film) vividly. It scared me and freaked me out. I’m here today to pay tribute to somebody who always reminded how it felt to be a kid — scared,” Campoverdi said.
Romero’s penchant for humour was on display inside the funeral centre where fans were able to sign a guest book and offer their condolences to his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter.
One room featured films playing on televisions at either end while another room featured memorabilia from Romero’s long career, including a photo of him sporting vampire fangs with horror author Stephen King, who wrote the screenplay for Creepshow (1982).
Romero’s casket featured two yellow rubber ducks on the closed lid as well as a floral arrangement featuring a skeletal face and a large doll in his likeness.
Gordon Terry, 46, who came from Ithaca, N.Y., said Romero “has been an important part of my life since I was seven.”
“There’s social commentary in his films. They’re mostly not about horror. Horror is not the heart of his films. There definitely was a deeper meaning,” Terry said.
“Without (Romero), it would have been a far less interesting world,” said Darryl Joseph, 41.
“Without the work of George Romero, I would not have met any of the friends I have and I wouldn’t have the experiences I had. His do-it-yourself scrappy get-it-done attitude convinced so many people that, even with limited means, you can make your vision come true,” said Adam J. Pearson, 35.
With files from The Canadian Press