Contributing author Alfredo Torres is an adjunct professor of communications at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA where he wrote his master’s thesis on the metaphoric representation of zombies in the films of George Romero.
The Living Dead Fest celebrates 45 years of Night of the Living Dead!
Labor Day weekend saw a gathering of ghouls at the birthplace of the modern zombie as twenty one original members of the cast and crew got together in Evans City, PA to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Night of the Living Dead and the restoration of the Evans City Cemetery Chapel, which was seen in the beginning of the film.
The two day festival featured not only the reunion of cast members, including the doomed brother and sister duo Johnny (Russ Streiner) and Barbra (Judith O’Dea), co-screenwriter John Russo, and horror host legend “Chilly Billy” Cardille, but also the rededication of the Evans City Cemetery Chapel which was funded through a grassroots effort initiated by Gary Streiner, the sound engineer and brother to Russ.
The group raised over forty six thousand dollars in order to save the chapel, which was scheduled for demolition until Gary convinced the city council to allow him the opportunity to raise the money needed to work on the 90 year old structure. Gary turned his “Living Dead Fest” Facebook page into the operating center of his fund raising efforts. Enlisting the talents of fans including musicians, artists, film makers, and writers, Gary proved that the fans of the movie were more than willing to step up to the challenge of saving one of the last remaining connections to the iconic film. Even singer and songwriter Cindi Lauper filmed a video asking for help in the cause!
While the crowds gathered around, waiting for their chance to tour the cemetery with Johnny and Barbra, The Living Dead Museum opened its doors. The only known museum dedicated to the history of the genre, the museum relocated from the Monroeville Mall, the setting of another zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead. Featuring displays paying homage to Night and Dawn, a modern day zombie timeline featuring significant events in the growth of the zombie genre and the “Maul of Fame”, a wall which is covered in the bloody hand prints of some of the most notable figures in zombie history including our own advisory board member George Romero.
The event culminated in a late night outdoor viewing of the film. With lightning dancing in the clouds off in the distance providing the right atmosphere, the movie screened to over 300 dedicated fans who brought their lawn chairs and blankets to watch the film. An incredible celebration to one of the most incredible horror films of all time.