Written by: John Edward Betancourt
I think for all of us, there is a film that simply changed our lives in one way or another. It's difficult to speculate exactly how it changed us because film is quite a private experience. We share that experience in the presence of an audience but with all of us transfixed on the screen we often miss the sheer terror of someone's heart beating during the freakiest parts of a scary movie, or the tears being shed as a film touches someone's soul.
For me, the film that changed my perspective on so much was the original Dawn of the Dead. In fact, Dawn and I go way back. My first real viewing of this motion picture came when I was eleven years old. The cover caught my eye in the video store and I asked my folks if it was okay, they said sure.
Now I'm sure eyebrows are going up over the fact that my folks let me watch such a gory and violent film at eleven years of age, and you know what? I'm not going to defend my parents because they are good people and I had a wonderful childhood and because it was my call. Let's just be honest, we all saw movies that we should not have seen as children, with or without our parents consent. We all know this to be the case, and well, I ended up paying the price as it is because my first viewing of this motion picture completely and utterly terrified me.
In fact it so scared me that I actually stayed away from the horror section of video stores for years to come until I left high school when whilst on the internet, I stumbled across a review for Dawn, specifically the late Roger Ebert's and it convinced me to take another look at the film and well...it changed everything for me. Seeing beyond the guts and gore and looking at the movie as a whole and seeing the social commentary for the first time ever, it motivated me to become a writer. In fact my first published short story comes out in an anthology next month, and it just happens to be about zombies, all because of Dawn of the Dead.
Yet despite my love for the film, I have never seen it on the big screen. Not until Friday night at the Mile High Horror Film Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse and let me tell you...this was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To sit in that theater with Ken Foree and Tom Savini and hear them talk about this movie before finally being able to watch it on the silver screen was surreal to say the least. But nothing was as out of this world when the lights finally went down and the horrible cries of the dead echoed throughout the theater as the movie began.
The smile didn't leave my face until the first gory scene when a zombie tears into flesh, but it quickly returned because at last I saw my favorite movie of all time the way it was intended to be seen, in a packed theater. In fact I'm still beaming from the experience because it was flat out magical and my thanks go out once again to the Alamo Drafthouse and the Mile High Horror Film Festival for making a dream of mine come true.