Once in a great while, a select few of us are fortunate enough to have a conversation with someone we consider a true icon of their field of expertise.
Recently, I had the ridiculous pleasure of chatting with Lori Cardille, one of my all-time favorite women in horror from one of my all-time favorite horror films of all-time, ‘Day Of The Dead’.
Cardille may very well be the person most tied into the ‘Living Dead’ franchise not named Romero or Nicotero. A fact many people don’t know is that Lori’s father, the one and only ‘Chilly Billy’ of Chiller Theatre fame ( and 2012 Horror Host Hall Of Fame inductee), played the field reporter in George A. Romero’s classic 1968 film ‘Night Of The Living Dead’.
Seventeen years after her father got caught up in the zombie apocalypse, Lori found herself portraying the strong female lead Sarah, a scientist intent on getting to the bottom of the walking dead epidemic, in Romero’s 1985 epic ‘Day Of The Dead’.
Many consider ‘Day Of The Dead’ to be the best of the ‘Living Dead’ films, in no small thanks to the fact that to this day, it can be argued that it is the most gruesome and visually disturbing of all of them.
I absolutely love the film for several reasons, but the main reason always has been and always will be the portrayal of the strong-willed Sarah by the fantastic Lori Cardille.
Not only was Sarah a beautiful young woman- she was smart, independent and she could kick some zombie ass when need be. Without realizing it at the time I first saw ‘Day Of The Dead’, it’s quite possible Lori is the one who began my affinity for women in horror.
Lori is a truly amazing talent who is so much more than just Sarah from ‘Day Of The Dead’. I highly recommend you read up on Lori’s post-‘Day’ career, including her personal triumphs from real life horror in her book ‘I’m Gonna Tell’. As if I needed more reason to admire this woman…
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my discussion with the lovely Lori Cardille!
1. Growing up, you weren’t a fan of horror films at all. What film started to turn you into a horror fan?
Well, I have always loved vampire films and ghost stories. One of my favorite vampire films is ‘Let The Right One In’. I really hate horror films where there is violence and torture against women, especially when it’s sexual in nature! I just find it sick. I also don’t like slasher films or “let’s kill the teenagers one by one” films.
2. With your father being such an integral part of the original ‘Night Of The Living Dead’, did you ever imagine you’d continue the Cardille/Romero zombie legacy seventeen years later in ‘Day Of The Dead’?
It was the furthest thing from my mind and career at the time.
3. Do you have any specific memories of all the ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ hoopla, being a child so closely attached to the film through your father?
I think I was in the eighth grade when ‘Night’ came out. I remember being almost sick that I HAD to go to the opening. I spent most of the time in the lobby.
4. Many consider ‘Day Of The Dead’ to be the best Romero zombie flick. Sarah is such an iconic character. What did you do to prepare yourself for the role?
First of all it was an honor for George to offer me the role. He saw my in a play called ‘Reckless’, written by Craig Lucas. I played Rachael Fitzsimmons, a character who drives the play. It’s a serious comedy. George offered me the role after that. I went to Carnegie Mellon University and I was trained to do thorough and in depth research no matter how small or large a part may be. With Sarah, I mostly worked with the idea of what it was like to present a pseudo-strength and true strength. I really think her true strength shows when she breaks down after cutting off Miguel’s arm.
5. At the time, did you imagine the film, let alone your character, would still be such an important part of the horror genre some twenty-five years later?
You know, I knew when we were filming ‘Day’ that it was a wonderful, dark, complicated film. But I must tell you that at the time, it was not well received. It just came and went. It was such a disappointment. I love the fact that people slowly discovered what we already knew. I always say that the ‘Day’ fans are thoughtful and intelligent people who understand complexity and appreciate the beauty of darkness.
6. Are you a big fan of horror conventions and such? Can you recall any memorable moments from any of the shows you’ve attended?
Horror conventions are amazing and unusual entities unto themselves. I have mixed feelings about them. I do maybe two or three a year…maybe. The one thing I am certain about is that I LOVE meeting the fans. I like to connect with them, look them in the eye and thank them for appreciating ‘Day of the Dead’.
One time a young man came to my table. He was very nervous and his hands were shaking. I remember taking his hand and saying, ” Honey, I’m just a mom.”
7. What is your favorite horror film?
‘Let the Right One In’.
8. Who are some women in horror you admire, both behind and in front of the camera?
It’s hard to answer that question because I just don’t know enough about the genre. There is however, a young woman named Kristy Jett. She is a beautiful writer and has a perspective on horror that I really appreciate. I have always loved Anne Rice.
9. What advice would you offer a young woman interested in joining the ranks of horror as a writer/director/actress/what have you?
Follow your heart and vision whatever that may be and believe in your voice.
10. What do you want your legacy in acting to be?
That I respected my craft.
11. What are you currently working on?
I am now writing a script that I have been thinking about for years. It involves my dad, Chilly Billy. I’m writing it with Amy Hartman, an accomplished and talented play writer. We hope to be finished by the end of the summer.
Folks, you’ll never fully understand how awesome this interview was for me. I have just shared a conversation with a horror hero of mine. It was an absolute blast, and I sincerely thank Lori for her time and support!!