I first saw the film on an October night in the 1980's. I must have been about ten years old. I remember that my mother was next door visiting my neighbor, and that my father was at work. I was home alone, and snuck a tape into the vcr to record a movie whose title brought chills to my spine. Night of the Living Dead. I knew that I might not be able to watch the whole film, as my mother might return at any minute and I would shut the tv power off, put something in front of the red "rec" light that indicated a recording in progress, and suggest to my mother that we go do something other than watch tv. She would love that, I thought. I turned the tv on, and the movie started. The strange, tinny sounding music began to play as I watched a car slowly roll through the Pennsylvania hills. I was not even to the first spoken line in the film, and I felt like screaming at the people in the car to turn around and go back the way they came. I didn't even know why, I just knew that the music sounded terrifying, and made me uneasy. This feeling of dread only got worse as the film went on.Every five minutes, I would run to the window the make sure that my mother wasn't walking back home, and I would return to the tv only to see Barbara doing the same thing, looking out the window, terrified of what she would see, or how many of "them" were out the window.
"Them". How terrifying they were.
I remember several weeks prior to the night that I watched my favorite film for the first time, I was at a funeral of a distant relative. It was the first funeral that I had been to, and I didn't quite know what was going on. I remember the slow walk up to the casket, and seeing the form of someone I vaguely remembered laying like they were asleep in front of a room full of people. How the light above the coffin cast a strange, pink light on the area. How it almost looked like they were still breathing. I expected their eyes to open at any minute and for them to sit up and look at me.I decided that day that I did NOT like funerals, or graveyards, or anything to do with death. Period. And now, on the screen was death, not caring if you liked it or not, pounding on the walls of your house, desperate to get in and get you.I remember looking around my house and wondering what I could barricade the doors with or use as a weapon in a pinch. The next time I ran to the window to see if my mother was coming back, imagine my horror to see a figure close to the driveway walking towards the front door. Yes, of course, it was my mother, but for a moment...for just one moment my heart stopped.I taped the movie silently and watched the horrifying end of it the next day. As the credits rolled, I was devastated, stunned, and shaken to my core. This was the first time that I had truly been disturbed by something. The feeling was strange, and I didn't quite understand it, so I decided to better understand why, I would watch the film again. And again. Thus began an obsession.
I still watch the film with alarming regularity, and ten years ago began to dream up an idea of a stage version of this film that would terrify the audience as much as the film scared the ten year old boy so many years ago. But the second that people start seeing shlocky zombies chasing after people in a theatre, it becomes camp. So how to make it just as terrifying? That has been the journey of the past ten years, and now to have finally heard the first several songs written by the brilliant composer, Matt Conner, this show is finally taking off. If I make just a few people in the audience feel like that ten year old boy, looking out the windows and jumping at noises in the house, then I will have succeeded. My love and appreciation to all of you for getting on board with me as I drive us to the farm house.
To donate to the show, please visit this link: http://kck.st/bpVSDb