The tiny quiet city of Evans, Pennsylvania, looks like thousands of others in the nation. The rolling hills and lush belts of trees give the city a peaceful appearance, its serenity broken only by the occasional bleating of sheep or cow mooing in the pasture. Behind a railroad track, up an unassuming road, is a single-lane path that leads up a hill, marked by an old wooden sign marked “Evans City Cemetery.” Ask anyone in the town and the citizens smile and point the way, knowing full well that their little town has historic significance not only to horror fans, but to the world of cinema. The tiny cemetery is the site where, forty years ago, a young woman witnessed her brother brutally killed and eaten by a corpse risen from the grave just moments after he uttered the phrase so dear to the hearts of horror fans around the world.
On Tuesday, August 14th, exactly forty years to the day since Night of the Living Dead began shooting, cameras once again visited the cemetery, and I was privileged to be there with them. In honor of the historic film, a new documentary is being shot that is unlike any done before. Though they still haven’t settled on a title for it, this documentary has set visits and interviews with George Romero, as well as all the original stars who are still living returning to the sites, many for the first time since zombies first walked the grounds.
With cameras in hand, head writer Billy Gram, producer Chris Roe, cameraman and co-producer Jesse Bryden and cameraman and co-producer Robert Lucas were joined by Russell “Johnny” Streiner and the lovely Judith “Barbara” O’Dea. Also joining was NOTLD production manager George Kosana, who also played the Sheriff. As the three stars stood at the same headstones at which they’d stood so long ago, O’Dea noticed a man walking through the cemetery, smiled and, recalling Streiner’s famous line, laughed “Oh look, here comes one of them now.” Imagine her shock when she realized that the man walking toward her was, in fact, none other than the original zombie, Bill Hinzman, repeating his approach, a planned surprise by Roe and Gram.
Sure, there have been other NOTLD documentaries, admits the crew. But according to producer Chris Roe, there are two reasons why this one was necessary; a true in-depth documentary on the film has never been done well, and this is the first such documentary to include all of the original cast members, sharing their memories as well as visiting the sets again.
Evident from this set visit is the amount of respect the documentarians have for the source material, and for the people who made the movie special. On the set, while waiting for the actors to arrive or for microphones to be wired, conversations among the crew always turned two directions: the first time they’d seen NOTLD and the fan-boy giddiness we all felt to be not only in the cemetery, but in the presence of these people who scared the collective pants off us. For their part, none of the actors had any inkling that NOTLD would have such a long life, that it would be studied, and that people would actually remember what O’Dea called the “grainy little black and white film.” When asked how they feel about being forever connected to the film, the four on-hand agreed that the response has been tremendous, and they are very grateful to horror fans who remember them.
With a length that promises to hit around the two-hour mark, Roe says they’re not sure how fans will be able to get their hands on this unique look at the production, but that he would like to see it released as its own entity instead of a DVD extra on an anniversary edition of the film. “This is going to pay tribute to those who are no longer with us, it will pay tribute to the movie, and it will pay tribute to all those who worked on the project,” says Roe.
Keep it here for more info on the doc as it comes to light, and check out a few more pics from the set below!
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