Hero Complex Film Fest '12: A Zombie-Centric First Night of Movies
by Ben Pearson
May 19, 2012
Last night, moderator/journalist Geoff Boucher and the people at the LA Times Hero Complex kicked off their third annual Hero Complex Film Festival with a zombie-heavy evening, complete with special guest appearances. Zack Snyder's 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake started the evening, followed by a Q&A session with Snyder and Robert Kirkman, the creator of AMC's massively popular zombie series "The Walking Dead" (and the comic on which it's based, of course). After a quick break, director Edgar Wright came out for a great Q&A of his own, followed by a screening of his zombie cult classic, Shaun of the Dead.
First things first: for those of you who haven't seen it, Snyder's Dawn of the Dead holds up really well, and though purists may call this sacrilegious, it's actually one of my favorite entries into the zombie genre. Snyder spoke about his passion for the material, and his struggles making this film on a small budget. I had never seen Robert Kirkman in an interview before, but he was far more charismatic than I anticipated. He spent half of the time cracking jokes about Snyder's upcoming Man of Steel and trying to pry bits of info about the movie from Snyder, who didn't comment other than to say the film is going to be "gigantic."
Edgar Wright, in his Q&A, confirmed his love of George Romero's original zombie movies and revealed that his love of those films was what united him with co-writer Simon Pegg years ago. He shared an anecdote about how Romero himself watched a finished version of Shaun of the Dead alone with a Universal security guard, because the studio was scared Romero might pirate the film, which was a ludicrous story that got a big laugh from the audience. On a more serious note, he mentioned that he and Pegg finished the first draft of the script on September 10th, 2001, and offered observations about the weird parallels between writing a movie about a global catastrophe and actually seeing how the world reacted to a real-life catastrophe.
He also credited John Landis' An American Werewolf in London as another huge influence on Shaun, and pointed toward the Resident Evil video games as his personal choice for the property that reinvigorated the zombie genre. Of course, conversation soon turned toward his long-gestating adaptation of Ant-Man for Marvel, but the director remained tight-lipped other than to say that the massive success of The Avengers was a bit intimidating. But perhaps the most interesting tidbit to come out of his conversation was the reveal that The World's End would be at least in part about "the struggle of the individual against the collective," and that Wright & Pegg are gearing up to shoot The World's End before Ant-Man.
When asked whether he preferred fast zombies or slow zombies, Wright said that he liked the slower ones and said, "If Simon were here, he'd be a lot more vocal about it." Then, from the back of the room, someone shouted, "Yes I f*cking would!" and Simon Pegg himself joined the Q&A. (For the record, they both prefer slow zombies because they find them scarier, comparing the fast and slow ones to a bullet and a tumor.) They spoke about collaborating, reminisced about the making of the movie, and absolutely blew my mind during an answer about putting hidden references/Easter eggs in the film (spoilers for Shaun of the Dead):
Pegg: You might have noticed, Nick [Frost's] plan in the Winchester on the first night, the night Shaun and Liz break up, is exactly what happens [over the course of the film]. What is it?
Wright: "First thing in the morning, have a bloody mary," which is bloody Mary in the garden. [The first zombie they encounter is a girl named Mary in their backyard.] Then "have a bite at the King's Head," the king is Bill Nighy and they bite his head. Then "grab a couple at The Little Princess" and the couple is Diane and David and the little princess is Kate (who plays Liz). And then "stagger back to the Winchester" because they pretend to be zombies, and then "stagger back for some shots" because there's a rifle over the bar.
Pegg: We are so up ourselves, it's ridiculous.
Insane! I'll never watch that movie the same way again. I honestly don't know if I ever would have put all that together myself, but it's still a really cool foreshadowing of what's going to happen, which is just one of many hilarious touches in Shaun of the Dead's excellent script. Overall it was a great night full of intense zombie fun, and I'll be attending the rest of the festival as well, so keep your eyes peeled for some more cool stuff coming up in the next couple of days. For more info on the Hero Complex Film Fest (in its third year) and the schedule for 2012, you can visit their official event site. More recaps from this weekend coming.