Thursday, October 24, 2013

'Birth of the Living Dead' -- a hit at Western Carolina University

From Rob Kuhns
October 22, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC

The drive from Johnson City, TN to Cullowhee, NC was probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The mountains and the fall foliage were utterly  spectacular. 

Jeffery Ray (photo, right), a film and business student at WCU, greeted me on the WCU campus and took incredibly great care of me during my trip. At one point I had lost my glasses and Jeffery very patiently helped me find them. The university put me up in the Chancellor Bird Alumni House – gotta say, it was really nice to stay in a house after so many days on the road in hotels. Thank you, WCU! My first stop was a discussion with Arledge Armenaki's film class. The students were equally interested in documentary and fiction and among them were, of course, zombie and Romero fans. Esther and I have discovered they are absolutely everywhere, and continue to spread like a merciless plague. I was delighted to find out that one student shared our love of Romero’s, Martin (1976). WCU clearly has a remarkable film program. Arledge told me they were one of the few schools Sony gave their latest 16K camera to. The screening was very well attended – about 80 people, Jeffery told me. Most were students, but there were a handful of faculty as well. One student, a self-proclaimed horror film fanatic (his parents introduced him to horror at the tender age of eight!), asked where my interest in the genre began. I said that it probably started when I saw Planet of the Apes when I was 10 years old. While the film is not a horror film – technically, it’s Sci Fi – the ending (spoiler alert!) when the astronaut Taylor discovers the destroyed Statue of Liberty on the beach – he’d been on earth all along! – shocked me profoundly. It shocked me in very much the same way as the ending of Night of the Living Dead. I thought it worth noting that Planet of the Apes and Night of the Living Dead came out in the same year – 1968.  So did 2001, A Space Odyssey, which changed sci fi in the same revolutionary way that Night changed horror. After the screening I met a couple from Pittsburgh who were happy to see such a tribute to their hometown (Night was made near Pittsburgh, and Romero’s commercial production company was in downtown Pittsburgh).  They commented on how the sheriff in Night, (“Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up”) was such a wonderfully typical Pittsburgher. I was sorry to say goodnight to this welcoming group of people and hope we can visit WCU again soon.