(03/10/07)Directed by Jeff Broadstreet, whose credits also include the Karen Black-starring Dr. Rage (2005), Night of the Living Dead 3D stars Sid Haig, the exploitation star of such cult classics as Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) and who has recently enjoyed a career resurrection following his delirious turns in House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005). No stranger to the living dead (Haig has a cameo in House of the Dead 2 although even he can’t save that stinker), this latest horror opus sees the actor playing a barmy mortician who is responsible for causing a whole new army of flesh-eaters to walk the earth. Naturally, the thing that really sells this latest spin on Romero’s original, timeless classic is the addition of 3D special effects – something that should, at the very least, provide die-hard zombie buffs with a fresh, and potentially inspired, new thrill.

Kamera caught up with director Broadstreet for the following exclusive chat. An amiable personality, the filmmaker admits to understanding the fan apprehension over another Romero, in-name-only spin-off but hopes that Night of the Living Dead 3D will break the mould – and the barriers – of the cinema screen.

So your film came out in certain areas of the U.S., very briefly, last November and that was the last anyone heard. What is the current status of it?

Yeah, we had a test theatrical release last November. It was mainly in the Southwest and part of Canada – about 150 prints altogether – and we played on 80 screens in LA alone. We did okay but Borat was in its second week at the time and that pretty much killed everybody (laughs). I believe Lion’s Gate is now going to be putting out the DVD in October of this year – the distributor of the picture, Midnight Movies, is gearing up to do a theatrical release in the rest of the U.S. but it will be more of a limited venture – kind of what happened with Bubba Ho-tep. We are also going theatrical in Japan and Malaysia, which we are pretty happy about.

So onto the obvious question, why did you want to remake such a sacred cow?

I never set out to remake Night of the Living Dead. To be honest, it is not one of my favourite horror films, although I was, and am, a big fan of Dawn of the Dead. But the project was offered to me by the production company and I had worked with the executive producer in the past. He knew I had come close to making a couple of 3D films previous to this so he realised that I had some understanding of the form and the technicalities. They came to me and offered me the film – including bringing me on as the sole producer and also the director, so I didn’t have to answer to anybody and I had total freedom, a bigger budget and a longer shooting schedule than I had ever had before.

Of course, the writer and I knew going into it that there would probably be a backlash – and we understood that. In fact, our reaction before we went to see the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, which we thought was going to be a piece of crap, was largely apprehensive. However, we came out of the theatre saying, "Hey – that was actually pretty good." So that was the same intent that we went into this with. We wanted to make an enjoyable little horror movie and if people go into it with an open mind then they will find that it is pretty good – but there have been a lot of folks in the United States who have reviewed the idea of the movie rather than the actual thing. It seems like a lot of the hardcore Romero fans went into it with a chip on their shoulder; they couldn’t wait to see the movie so they could trash it. But we knew, going in, that was going to happen and whilst this is a remake it is not a slavish remake – I mean, the film had already been remade once in 1990, by Tom Savini, and I liked that movie…

How easy was it to get the rights to the Night of the Living Dead name? Is it still in the public domain?

Yeah – exactly, the production company found out that Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain but nobody really knew about it. In fact, the production company only got tipped off when they went on Amazon and realised how many different DVDs had been released of the movie (laughs). So they decided to remake it and do it in 3D, which would give it a little bit of a new spin. To give you the story in a nutshell – prior to 1978, a film had to physically have its copyright on the print and what happened was that the movie was called Night of the Flesh Eaters and, at the very last minute, they changed that to Night of the Living Dead. They then sent it off to the lab, which I think was in New York, and the lab forgot to put the copyright on it. As a result, technically, the film was in public domain the moment it was released…

Even so, did you attempt to get any feedback from George Romero or John Russo after the film was completed?

No, although I think Romero might be more open-minded to it than Russo…

But Russo was the one who filmed those new sequences for the 30th Anniversary DVD…

Oh yeah and that was just terrible! It was hideous (laughs). Look, morally or ethically, you can certainly defend him because he was one of the original filmmakers and if he wanted to go back and cash-in then that was up to him. However, I think that what he did was just awful. Everyone I know, who is any kind of Romero fan, hates that 30th Anniversary edition.

You mentioned earlier you are not such a big fan of Night of the Living Dead. Why?

I like it okay. A lot of people think it is a great horror film. I like it but I don’t think it is a great horror film. I think they did well for a bunch of guys who had never made a movie before.

What didn’t you like about it? I mean, I consider Night of the Living Dead one of the top five horror movies ever made – without a doubt…

I am not going to tell you the things I don’t like about the film because the people reading this article might want to kill me (laughs)…

Okay, well how did you think you could improve on it, seeing as you are not such a fan?

I wasn’t really trying to improve on the original movie. I was making a movie with the same basic premise and that is all. A brother and a sister – and our heroine’s called Barb instead of Barbara – go to a graveyard, get attacked by zombies and have to take refuge in a farmhouse. The farmhouse is then surrounded by the zombies and that is still our storyline. I wasn’t really trying to improve on the original or any of the other Romero movies – like I said, I quite like Dawn of the Dead and I think Day of the Dead is okay. I still really respect Romero because he made independent films on his own and when he has made films in Hollywood I don’t think it has been a particularly happy experience for him. I believe that when he did Land of the Dead it was not so much fun for him…

See, I’m not really against remakes because the Texas Chainsaw Massacre one really surprised me… it was ten times better than I thought it would be…

I also thought the Marcus Nispel (Chainsaw) film was really good. He did a good job. I will say that our film is probably not as gory as it needs to be but then I didn’t have a huge budget and I knew that I couldn’t top the special effects that Romero had already done in Dawn and Day and also Land. I must admit I don’t particularly like Land of the Dead but I like how he integrated the CG with the practical effects – that was really well done.

We’re going to have to disagree again because I really enjoyed Land of the Dead. I don’t think any other genre director is quite so politically intelligent, or observant, as Romero…

My main problem with Land of the Dead, and I hope I am not standing on your toes here, is the central premise. To me, that was flawed because you have a movie where the dead are around all the time and never rot. Well the whole idea of zombies and re-animated corpses is that they decay. So I just didn’t really get the idea of the gas station zombie learning because – you know – how long is he going to be around?

Yeah, but to tell his story he needed to give the zombies a conscience…

Yes he did, and he was also commenting on the whole social strata thing. But he could still have easily integrated the idea of the zombies standing in for the lower classes by having them decay and fall apart. So I just found that entire central premise flawed. I also just don’t think it is one of the best entries in the series. But you know what? He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. He hadn’t made a zombie movie since 1985 and people were saying, "Well this better be fantastic after all this time" and it wasn’t fantastic it was just okay. He would have had to do something really mind blowing for people to like it and I know that there are a lot of really hardcore zombie fans out there (laughs).

What films, if any, influenced your zombie design?

I like a lot of screen zombies but what I tried to do was to make them more old school. I wasn’t a fan of the fast-moving zombies in the Dawn remake. It didn’t make any sense. It was like 28 Days Later – where they were really making a virus movie rather than a zombie movie. So what I did was to stick to the central Romero-esque premise that the zombies are re-animated corpses, they move slowly and they are brain-dead. What I wanted to try and get across was that the zombies in our film are in the same condition that they were in when they died. We have a twist in our film – should I give it away?

It’s up to you…

Ah, I’ll give a little bit away – our zombies retain a little bit of their intelligence as they are turning and even when they fully turn they still retain a bit of it for a short time. That was a new touch for us and what I wanted to get across was that if someone died in a car accident and came back to life they would look really bad and they might have bones sticking out, a mangled face and so on. They would look different from someone who died of a heart attack, you know? So that is one of the things that I wanted to get across to my makeup effects guys. My zombies, from a looks standpoint, are probably more EC comics influenced. I was a big EC comics fan growing up and I have a big collection of the reprints.

So just to wrap up can you tell me about your favourite 3D special effect in the new movie?

One of my favourites is this smoking effect, which everybody likes – it turned out very well. There is also this bullet shot that comes straight out the screen. Some of my favourites are not all that showy. For instance, there is a showdown between the Ben character and the Henry Cooper character, played by Greg Travis, and Ben is holding a gun on him. Ben’s arm, from his shoulder to the tip of the gun, is off the screen. Now that is not real showy and not real in your face but it really shows how 3D can be used. I have seen a lot of 3D movies, even the low-budget ones like Metalstorm and Parasite, and a lot of them really gimmick it up. I wanted to avoid that. I didn’t want to create a 3D movie that would give you a headache and we purposely set up the shots to avoid eyestrain. For instance, the smoking effect is just a guy taking a whiff of a joint.

I should also state here that a lot of the fans have said that they don’t like the fact that some of the characters smoke pot but that was one of the few things the studio that produced the film forced on us. It doesn’t dominate the movie or anything but Henry and his wife are living in a remote farmhouse and they are pot farmers. But there are not a lot of pot jokes or anything like that. It is just a subplot in the movie that has a couple of good sight gags and one cool effect. The opening of the movie is also a very complex 3D effect but I don’t want to spoil that for you. You will just have to see the movie to understand…

Night of the Living Dead 3D is released on in the U.S. on 09 October 2007 on Lion’s Gate. Please follow the links provided to buy a copy and support Kamera by doing so.