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HCFF: George Romero honored by Edgar Wright, Robert Kirkman, Zack Snyder and Simon Pegg

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Friday night was zombie night at the Hero Complex Film Festival. The two films (and one TV show sizzle reel) shown all showed very different takes on the zombie genre, but all four special guests present knew that they had one person to thank for making their work possible: George Romero.

“I think the only thing that me and Simon [Pegg] really feel is that George Romero should always be given proper respect for starting the whole thing, which I don’t think he always is,” Edgar Wright said about his passion for zombie films following a screening of “Shaun of the Dead.”

In addition to Wright and Pegg, Zack Snyder and Robert Kirkman were also present for “Dawn of the Dead” and “The Walking Dead,” respectively. Wright, Pegg and Snyder had the most to thank Romero for, as “Shaun of the Dead” was a comedic spin on Romero’s 1978 classic “Dawn of the Dead,” and Snyder’s film was a direct remake.

“Romero having created the genre and, in a weird way, a world that is kind of unique in that, no matter what, you kind of have to go yeah, we acknowledge that it’s a sort of Romero world, we’re just sort of passing through it. Which I think that’s cool,” Snyder said.

Kirkman also acknowledged that Romero was “a huge influence” on “The Walking Dead.” But according to Pegg, he is the only influence.

“[Zombies are] always seen like being vampires or werewolves. They’re not. George came up with this in 1968,” Pegg said. “Zombies existed in a sort of voodoo way, but he combined it with the cannibal and mixed in a little kind of communicability and you’ve got your modern zombie. That was all George’s idea, and it’s been picked up now and run with as if — and by us as well, although we did it actively by eyeing towards him — but like it’s a free for all, and really George needs to be canonized for what he did, I think.”

In fact, Wright and Pegg went as far as to mean for “Shaun of the Dead” to be a part of Romero’s universe. Since “Night of the Living Dead” took place on a farm, “Dawn of the Dead” in a mall and “Day of the Dead” in an army compound in Florida, the writing team said they considered “Shaun” to be taking place at the same time, except in London.

“What we tried to do, I guess similar to Rob’s show, is we tried to set it within George’s universe. That was one of the things that I always loved about the original Romero trilogy is, as far as I could thing, they were the only horror franchise, or only franchise, that took different stories within the same crisis. There were no returning characters,” Wright said. “That was part of the comedy/horror thing, is we tried not to make the zombies to funny. It’s the reactions of the characters that’s nearly all the jokes, and their reactions to the fact the world is ending.”

After they wrapped “Shaun of the Dead,” Wright had Universal reach out to Romero to see if he was interested in giving his blessing to the project. He agreed, and watched the movie in a Florida movie theater with no one but a Universal security guard keeping him company.

“George watched it and we got a call from him later than night and he couldn’t have been sweeter about it,” Wright said.

Wondering about that Universal security guard? Well, apparently he was there to make sure Romero didn’t bootleg the movie or steal the reels of film. “Like we didn’t owe him money for stealing the title,” Wright said with a laugh.

Though their appreciation of George Romero was universal, Snyder, Kirkman, Wright and Pegg had some differing opinions on the fast versus slow zombies debate. “The Walking Dead” features slow zombies (though Kirkman said that sometimes he gets complains that the TV show’s zombies are too fast, so he’s affectionately dubbed them “speedwalking zombies”), and “Shaun of the Dead” does as well. Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” had much faster zombies, as opposed to the Romero film that it is based on.

“I don’t have a preference,” Snyder said. “I don’t have a preference either,” added Kirkman.

He continued, “Well seriously, I know sometimes you get some flack for the running zombies, but the thing is there is room for all kinds of zombies, and the zombies in your movie are totally goddamn awesome.”

That’s a nice sentiment, but Wright was not so kind about Snyder’s decision to include fast zombies.

“Since Rob Kirkman’s gone and since Zack is gone, I’m firmly a slow zombies, man,” Wright said. “The original recipe.”

Pegg was even more passionate in his defense.

“I was having this conversation with Max Brooks, who was saying that they made the zombies in ‘World War Z’ fast, which he wasn’t entirely along with, but we were talking about it and how much we love slow zombies and he said it’s the difference between a bullet and a tumor,” Pegg said. “The tumor is far more sinister and scary than a bullet, and I think that’s key to the slow zombie. I think that’s what’s made them so beloved, is this weird eerie ineptness that they have, which makes them sad, it makes them tragic, it makes you feel sorry for them.”

Where do you fall on the fast versus slow zombie debate? Do you agree with all of these sentiments on Romero? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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