When do your heroes become idols? Sometimes, it is when you realize how ahead of their time that they really were.
Such is the case, for me, with George Romero, who is, widely and justifiably, acclaimed for the glints of social awareness that permeate his pieces. His fantastical 1981 drama Knightriders even contained a very happy and well adjusted gay couple among the central dueling, roustabout characters in that very personal epic.
But a look at his 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead shows that Romero may have been flirting around with the idea of a queer couple even earlier. As his four main characters escape a zombie threat by taking refuge in a shopping mall, Romero soon pairs his protagonists off into definitive couples. Newshounds Stephen (David Emge) and Francine (Gaylen Ross) – who are expecting a child together- are most certainly an item, presenting all the mood swings and expected tenderness that living in such a barren world would bring. But, through editing and mood, Romero craftily presents soldiers-of-fortune Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reiniger) as their own special kind of duo, and for my money, they are representative of the ultimate in film bro-mances. Roger’s death scene, in particular, seems indicative of a supposition that, with time, the very masculine team’s relationship might have gone further, if the future had been kind to them. Infected by a zombie, Roger breathes his last, with Peter by his side. In fact, as death overtakes him, Roger’s hand, tenderly, falls onto Peter’s chest, establishing, forever, their concrete connection.
Of course, I’m not assuming in the least, that there was anything sexual in the very fine portrayals of Foree and Reiniger. But, the fact that they completely allow their characters’ love and devotion for each other to shine through, ultimately, makes them one of my favorite horror film twosomes.
Besides, couldn’t you just imagine Romero, with a devious twinkle in his eyes, subtly implying, in post production, that all was not as it seems with these hardy warriors in such an apocalyptic scenario?
As a quick postscript, the truly friendly Reiniger, recently, chatted with me about working with Foree and Romero in this quick and lively interview.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!