Attention all shoppers! The Monroeville Mall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylania, just got 1000% more in touch with its creepshow roots. A large bronze bust of indie horror director (and grandfather of the genre) George A. Romero was finally installed yesterday in the very shopping center that served as the location for much of his "birth of the modern zombie" classic, 1978's Dawn of the Dead.
No one combined horror, comedy, and social satire quite like Romero, and to this day nothing compares to the triple threat of those notes evoked by his images of the undead riding escalators and lumbering past craft stores and Center Courts, and hunting gear outlets, for reasons both clear and unnerving:
Peter: They just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.
Francine: What the hell are they?
Peter: They're us, that's all, when there's no more room in Hell.
Even the dead want an Auntie Anne's pretzel, it seems. For decades the Mall bore almost no marker that it had been home to one of the most iconic films ever, and three years ago the last piece of Mall decor from the film still visible in the shopping center, a small footbridge, was removed whole and sent to a museum for preservation.
But local sculptor and filmmaker Christian Stavrakis was not willing to let Romero's contributions to indie film and local filmmakers go unnoticed. As a child, Stavrakis was exposed to Romero's low-budget can-do spirit and creativity by his older brother, who worked with Tom Savini making special effects and makeup for Dawn of the Dead and other Romero projects.
"I hope this monument to George becomes a spot of inspiration for independent filmmakers and for artists in general," Stavrakis says. "If there's something you want to create, just do it. Nothing is stopping you but you. Hopefully, people will come and see this bust and say, I can achieve that, if they want to make a movie or make a painting, whatever. I hope it will be a focal point for that kind of creativity."
Last month, Stavrakis launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the creation of a large bronze bust of Romero to be installed for permanent display at the world's first zombie mall. He planned its completion to coincide with Pittsburgh's yearly Dawn of the Dead Con, The Living Dead Weekend, which runs this year from June 8 to June 10.
Today he shared worldwide first-look photos with SYFY WIRE of the statue in place at the mall, after its installation in a ceremony that took place yesterday afternoon, while Con attendees mixed with actual shoppers.
(Photos by Andrew Santagato)
Add a few hallucinations to this scenario and it could easily have been pulled right out of one of Romero's other classics, Creepshow, but Stavrakis says he worked on the sculpture over the course of months, often staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning crafting the visage of his hero. (We can just hear the distant cries of "I want my Father's Day caaaake.")
Planning a trip to Living Dead Weekend and want to make a beeline for the bust? "The sculpture is in the courtyard outside of Dick's Sporting Goods," says Stavrakis, "and it's very apropos, because when George passed away [in 2017], the mall set up a little area for people to leave photgraphs and flowers and memories of George. And that's exacty where the bust is today, in that very same spot."