"A Love Letter to My Dad": Rise of the Living Dead Details Emerge
Night of the Living Dead changed the the way I thought of horror movies forever. My jaw dropped to the floor in the final ten minutes as the realization that the monsters banging on the door were far less scary than the bigotry that was coursing through the veins of the small town Texas communities I was exposed to. I even did a book report-style presentation to my middle school class on the film (though if I remember correctly I played down the racial commentary because even at 12 I could read a room). Night of the Living Dead may not be my favorite horror movie, but it is the most important to me, and possibly even the most important in the entire genre. George Romero may have passed away earlier this year, but his impact will live on forever.
That’s why it is so exciting to know that on Halloween, George Cameron Romero, the late director's son, announced that he has written and is in pre-production for the first ever “prequel” to Night of the Living Dead entitled Rise of the Living Dead.
“Many of you know that I have been working to tell a story for many years,” wrote Romero. “My dad read the script and called it ‘genius.’ Many have approached me about making this film and I’ve said no to many because even though I’m not a ‘precious’ artist, this one is special… this one is mine… this one… is my love letter to my dad… to his work… to the fact that he was once called the most dangerous filmmaker alive… to the fact that society in 1968 wanted to shut him up as much as they wanted to celebrate him.”
Originally titled Origins, which Romero was able to crowdfund $30,000 for the film in 2014. “Rise will take place in the turmoil of the 1960s shortly before Night of the Living Dead, and explains how The 'original' Romero Zombie was created. In 1962, Dr. Ryan Cartwright was on the scientific and altruistic path to find a way for humans to sustain life in the event of M.A.D (Mutual Assured Destruction), a huge topic brought on by the Cuban Missile Crisis. Little did he know that over the course of the next several years of his life, he would take a well-funded and military focused journey to the darkest corners of the world… as he creates the ultimate weapon for the government and a curse that will plague mankind for the rest of days.”
With a laundry list of promises on the original IndieGoGo for Origins, including example of what the film is NOT (“Full of eventful ‘cliffhangers’ to sell TV commercials and DVD box sets”) and their core values for the zombie genre (“the Individual zombie is relatively non-threatening; the danger is in the hordes”), I find the prospect of another zombie film tied directly into Romero’s legacy series to be very exciting. Clearly the zombie property has been cut to pieces due to copyright issues, public domain laws, and the like but with Romero’s son at the helm, the project clearly will be coming from a deep emotional place. I luckily don’t know what it’s like to lose a father, but if I did, I’m sure I’d want to create art to honor him. And that deserves our respect, as fans and as human beings.
But of course, as is the typical news cycle for fandom, it has sparked the ire of the internet and this time it’s the fact that Romero’s son will reveal the reason behind the living dead rising from their graves in his father’s original Dead film. Romero, according to original Facebook announcement, gave his blessings for this prequel story to be the origin of Night. But, of course, the internet did its thing and people vocalized their rustled feathers for ruining the “mystery” of the initial film. So this is a good enough time as any to remind everyone out there: just because something exists, doesn’t mean it can ruin a memory. If you hated the reboot to Ghostbusters, don’t worry, it hasn’t damaged the quality of Ramis’ 1984 masterpiece. If you can’t stand the fact that the origin will be revealed, have no fear, it will not change your opinion or experience of watching the original. That is unless, of course, you let it. Then, well...that one’s on you, bub.
Rise of the Living Dead has no scheduled shooting, release, or...well, ANY dates attached to it yet, but make sure you keep your dials tuned to Ghastly Grinning as this story unfolds!