There are icons of horror. There are even masters of horror. Then there’s George A. Romero. The legendary director changed the landscape of the horror genre single-handedly by infusing social messages with a terrifying exploration of human (and inhuman) nature in his 1968 landmark independent horror classic, Night of the Living Dead.
Now, some 42 years later, Romero is not ready to rest on his laurels just yet. He’s back with his latest zombie flick, Survival of the Dead (reviews here and here), and in honor of its upcoming theatrical release on May 28th, Dread Central sat down with Romero to talk about Survival as well as take a look back with him on some of the key moments in his career.
With his Survival of the Dead, Romero took some liberties with the characters he established in 2007’s Diary of the Dead and continued their storyline into this new installment. According to the writer/director, this wasn’t something he intended when he embarked on this new era of his career.
“When we worked on Diary, initially I thought it was a unique story,” explained Romero. “I saw it as sort of a one-shot deal at the time. I wanted to make sure that we did Diary quickly after Land of the Dead because the topic of emerging media was so timely I didn’t have a lot of time to see past that project for what ended up happening in Survival.”
“Originally, Diary was meant to be an experimental film. I had always in the back of my mind been thinking about doing another Dead film after Diary but thought it would somehow tie into the original series that I directed. But when it made money and there was talk of doing another one, I immediately started figuring out what to do with Survival and what characters I’d like to see again. I’ve never been able to continue storylines before so this was an adventure for me,” Romero added.
When Romero got on board for Diary, it marked the director’s return to independent filmmaking after Universal’s Land of the Dead in 2005. The man who revolutionized independent horror in the sixties spoke about his feelings now that he’s working on his own terms, “I don’t ever want to deal with the studios at all again. For a long time we were developing projects like The Mummy and Goosebumps as well as projects of our own, and nothing ever came out of any of that. I just got fed up with all of it, and I don’t ever see a reason to go back to the studio system.”
“With these last two films I kept the creative control so I really feel like I’ve gone back to my roots, and that’s really been a great feeling for me. I get to take these ideas that are just a little ‘off’ and still get to make the films the way I want to make them,” added Romero.
So, does Romero ever tire of zombies since he’s been dealing with the dastardly creatures for over four decades now? Hardly. In fact, the godfather of zombies spoke about how making Survival didn’t even feel like work and that he’s still got plenty of creative ideas for future ‘Deadheads.’
“Making Survival was seriously like taking a vacation. Even with all the stress, it still felt like it did when I made Night every time I showed up on set,” Romero explained. “What’s interesting, though, is that Survival still felt like a unique experience for me as a director because there were a new set of rules involved and it felt like a really personal project for me because I got to say what I wanted to say with my zombies this time around.”
The director added, “You’d think after forty plus years I’d be done with zombies, but I still have a lot of ideas for kills and zombie slayings so fingers crossed I get to use those ideas in the next two films if we get to move on those.”
With Romero clearly focused on his directorial future, Dread Central asked him what he felt was the reason that his quintessential zombie classic Night of the Living Dead still remains as the measuring stick for not only horror filmmakers but mainstream directors as well.
“I think the reason Night still holds up after all this time is that beyond the zombies, there’s a timeless and terrifying story there. And for the people that aren’t as familiar with the horror genre, I think that the movie is almost a curiosity piece. People weren’t making films like that at the time and certainly not horror films with a message,” said Romero.
Romero added, “What I love most about Night, above any of the other Dead films, is that it’s still effective. It still has the ability to scare you to death and get into your core. That’s why I am still around telling these stories. I can’t get enough!”
Magnet has released the film here in the US via VOD, XBOX Live, Playstation Network, and Amazon, and then you can dig on it in theatres as it begins its limited theatrical run on May 28th.
For more information on the movie check out the official Survival of the Dead Facebook page and the official Survival of the DeadMySpace page! If you’re on Twitter, you’ll want to follow @OfficialRomero to stay up-to-date on all things Dead.
Survival of the Dead – Red Band Trailer 2
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