August 22, 2021 3 min read
Zombie properties have been larger in the last decade, than ever before. With the dominance of 'The Walking Dead,' paving the way for modern takes like 'World War Z' (in its various forms), and more recently the 'Train to Busan' Expanded Universe, the one thing that we can probably agree upon, is that no one can agree upon that actual official nature of these creatures. From zombies, zeds, walkers, flesh eaters, undead, biters, and taking it back to 1968's 'ghouls,' hardcore fans have tried to narrow down the carved-in-stone bible of our zed and father George Romero. But of course, even George changed the sacred rules. So it's maybe best to reflect on, and acknowledge the lasting influence of writer John Russo and what he brought to the Living Dead universe and beyond.
By his own admission, a zombie hoard worth of his original ideas with George Romero never made it to the shooting script for 'Night of the Living Dead,' and since then, he's been willing to adapt the use of the undead terror to tell the actual story, that of the people. For John it's always been about people and what happens in these exaggerated circumstances. How good, bad, and every meter in-between interact in the bleak hope of survival. This is something Robert Kirkman really brought back to the genre with his interpretation of the apocalypse in 'The Walking Dead.' For John Russo, even the script for the remake he was working on with George Romero before his death was going to be a new take on the whole idea.
Until then, enjoy this excerpt of John Russo talking about the inception of the zombie rules in Night of the Living Dead, followed by the closing words in Roger Ebert's review about "The Return of the Living Dead,' having switched up story and style for the 1985 sequel.
“The first ghoul Ben Shoots. Richard Ricci played this part. He gets shot twice in the chest, but he only dies when he is drilled through the head. People begin to get the idea that you have to destroy a ghoul’s brain. Back during our scripting sessions, we discussed various methods that might be appropriate and believable ways of vanquishing ghouls. Karl and Marilyn joked that maybe at the climax of the film when the ghouls swarm en masse into the house, Ben could discover that they die when they’re hit in the race with a Boston cream pie. They, at the wrap-up, a pie truck could arrive and save the day.”
John Russo, The Complete Night of the Living Dead Film Book, orig. published by Imagine in January, 1985
"It's kind of a sensation-machine, made out of the usual ingredients, and the real question is whether it's done with style. It is."
Roger Ebert, August 19, 1985
Way to go John, ya did good.
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