In 1968, George A. Romero cobbled together a low budget horror movie about corpses that came back to life and started eating people. It sounds absurd when you put it like that – probably because that’s exactly what it is – but the idea gradually took hold of the imaginations of audiences and filmmakers everywhere. Nowadays, there’s a new “zombie” movie practically week and a new zombie television series practically every series and a new zombie video game practically every month.
Meanwhile, George A. Romero is struggling to get them made. The director of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which has just received a new 4K restoration and is screening this week at the Museum of Modern Art, directed six films in the series over the course of 41 years, and was on the verge of completing one last trilogy when the money dried up. He only had one more film to go, and according to Romero, it was going to be in a very unlikely sub-genre.
“I happen to have a script, which in fact I do have, which was one that I wanted to do after SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. I thought it was going to be a three-picture deal and it turned out, because SURVIVAL didn’t make enough money, it turned out to be a two-picture deal,” George A. Romero told me in an interview conducted for Crave on Halloween.
“It’s a noir, what it is. SURVIVAL was a western and this one was meant to be a noir,” Romero added. SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, his last completed feature film, was released in 2009. The zombie western was preceded by DIARY OF THE DEAD, a found footage zombie movie released in 2007 that rebooted his original, iconic “OF THE DEAD” series.
While George A. Romero didn’t have time to elaborate further on the plot of his un-produced zombie screenplay, the revelation that it would belong in the film noir genre makes sense. DIARY and SURVIVAL both experimented with the zombie genre that Romero created by mixing it with different storytelling styles. Film noir, a sub-genre identified by French film critic Nino Frank in the 1940s, refers to a style of filmmaking that emphasizes moral ambiguity, and is frequently (though not always) recognized by storylines featuring criminals and private detectives, and visual signifiers like high contrast lighting and, often, black and white cinematography.
Film noir horror movies are uncommon, but some notable examples include Martin Campbell’s CAST A DEADLY SPELL, Alan Parker’s ANGEL HEART and Clive Barker’s LORD OF ILLUSIONS.
As for the title of this opus, George A. Romero said it doesn’t have one… except that it kind of does.
“Oh, you know it doesn’t have a title. Neither did SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD have a title. In fact what it’s called, on the page, is ENOUGH OF THE DEAD!” the director confessed, laughing.
“We didn’t have a title for SURVIVAL and it actually went up for grabs in the end. We actually did a little ballot and had all the production people talk about it, because I didn’t know what the hell to call it. I don’t know what to call this one. How many ‘OF THE DEADS’ can there be?”
There can be a lot, of course, but ENOUGH OF THE DEAD would certainly be a new one, and a very funny one at that. But will we ever see the conclusion to George A. Romero’s final zombie trilogy?
“I’m of an age where I certainly don’t want to go out and have to do pitches,” the 76-year-old filmmaker added. “I can’t afford at my age to go spend a year pitching a project just to get it to be under-financed. So I’m happy to be hanging out where I am. I’m writing a couple of things for other directors, and unless somebody comes to me and says, ‘Hey, would you like to make another zombie film…?’”
Hey somebody… get on that.