Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Walking Dead: Death in Primetime - How a Show About Zombies Has Conquered Television

On October 30, 2010—the day before AMC aired the first episode of The Walking DeadRobert Kirkman had no idea what to expect. He knew he had a strong storythe success of his Walking Dead comic book series had proven thatand he knew there was nothing remotely like that story on TV. Like the graphic novels, the TV version would not be a story about zombies, but about how humans respond to a world where they face nothing but threatsfrom roaming hordes of the undead, from malevolent psychopaths, from the hunger in their stomachs and the voices in their heads. Primarily, it would be a human drama, and he would need space to allow that story to unfold. If everything broke right, maybe he'd get two or three seasons to tell it. He was cautiously optimistic.
Four years later, on October 12, 2014, the season five premiere of The Walking Dead set a record for the most watched drama in cable television history, pulling in 17.3 million viewers. No cable shownot Breaking Bad, notMad Men, not The Sopranoshas ever had more viewers. In fact, the show has even started beating NBC Sunday Night Football, a ratings gold standard for years. Far from dying a quiet death after one season, The Walking Dead turned into a franchise, with action figures, video games, and an upcoming spinoff series in the works.
"I never anticipated it being the success that it is, and I can't imagine anyone in the industry did," Kirkman says. "I know people at AMC thought it was something special and had potential to be a hit, but it has no business being as popular as it is. It's a horror show. It should be turning people awaythe majority of people shouldn't want to see zombies eating people. It's not the kind of thing that you look at and go, 'Oh, that's a mass market thing that will appeal to dozens of different demographics.' But for some reason, it does. It's certainly a strange anomaly. I think there are a lot of people in the business scratching their heads going, 'Well, that's certainly defying conventional wisdom.'"
As a fan of the show, it's easy to understand why it would find a devoted audience. The characters are richly drawn, the acting is impeccable, and every week the stakes are nothing less than life and death. Unlike, say, Mad Men, it's a show where you never know week-to-week whether your favorite character is going to survive for the next episode, and you watch the show with an attendant anxiety. But plenty of shows have great writers, great actors, and the looming specter of death. Those shows don't set ratings records. Why is The Walking Dead the one that is connecting with audiences on a deeper level?
"I could spin you a yarn, but I really don't know," says Andrew Lincoln, the actor who plays the show's central character, former sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes. "I think that sometimes something captures people's imaginations, and the fan mail I get is astonishing. Maybe it's the fact that it is a kind of dysfunctional family trying to pull each other through this hell. And it's a lot of different types of people, where race has no meaning anymore. Class has no import. They're just people, and you're judged wholly by your actions. Maybe that's a breath of fresh air."
Theories abound as to just why The Walking Dead has captured the cultural zeitgeist at this moment, and the topic has become a popular theme for academic dissertations and scholarly analysis. Perhaps, some argue, given the rise of zombie-themed writing in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our fixation on the undead represents our fears of being invaded by "the other," of being caught unprepared to fight an incomprehensible foe. Or, as others have argued, maybe the idea of a zombie apocalypse exposes our anxieties regarding a struggling economy, bringing to the surface our dread at having all of our specialized knowledge and training rendered irrelevant in an instant. Maybe we watch The Walking Dead to project our anxieties onto the characters on the screen.
"With everything that people see in the 24-hour news cycle, there is an underlying subtext of doomsday in the media," says Michael Cudlitz, the former Southland star who plays burly G.I. Joe-come-to-life Sgt. Abraham Ford on The Walking Dead. "Your pension won't be there by the time you need it! Your job won't be there when you need it! The earth won't be there when you need it! Everything is like, 'Holy crap!' Everything is not going to turn to shit, but we are fed that every day about everything. Congress is never going to get it together. We're never going to have a budget. We're going to be at war forever. The world is going to end. Taxes are rising. The earth is going to blow up. And you go, 'Okay. Yeah, it's probably going to happen. Zombie apocalypse? Sure, why not?'"
While science has ruled that the dead could never reanimate, story arcs on The Walking Dead have eerily paralleled recent world events. Six months before an Ebola outbreak ravaged Africa, The Walking Dead featured a mystery virus that swept through their prison community, killing dozens with a hemorrhagic fever and resulting dehydration. Then, just as the survivors began to recover from the illness, their patriarch, Hershel Greene, was captured and publically beheaded by a rival group. In 20 years, how many viewers will re-watch these scenes and mistakenly assume the show's writers were referencing ISIS' brutal campaign of murder, when, in fact, the episodes predate them by half a year? No, we're not stalked by roaming hordes of the dead, but many of the calamities captured on The Walking Dead aren't just hypothetical scenarios for viewers in other parts of the worldthey're a daily reality.
"I think we live in perilous times," says executive producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens). "I think with the Internet and social media, the world feels much smaller, and we connect immediately with things that are going on in other parts of the world. So there's that immediacy. If there's an Ebola outbreak in Africa or there's a terrible earthquake in Haiti or war breaks out or global financial problems—it all feels very close. And I think we feel as if we're dancing on the edge of the abyss all the time. This show is able to connect with people, because it's really unlikely the zombie apocalypse is about to happen, but at the same time there is lawlessness and a breakdown in civil authority. And people can connect with characters who are experiencing something that is never likely to happen, but live vicariously through a situation that mirrors something that could happen."
As horrible as the scenarios presented on the show are, there's also an escapist element at play. Though none of us would want to live in a world where childbirth is again a life-threatening ordeal, let alone one where people might see their fellow humans as sources of food, the end of society would have its benefits. The flipside of living in a world where your job skills are no longer valuable is the fact that you no longer have to spend 40 hours a week at a job you hate. No student debt hanging over you, no monthly rent payments to make, no traffic jams to test your patience—the world of The Walking Dead is one where its characters have no choice but to live for the moment.
"The immediacy is what draws me to it as a viewer," says Melissa McBride, who plays abused wife turned fearless warrior Carol Peletier. "Especially lately, seeing how these characters that I've come to love are continuing to adapt and evolve in that world, just having nothing all of a sudden. What motivates them to keep going forward as this little band of people? They're all they have. They have no diversions anymore. They have to just get through that moment. They're completely unplugged, and I think that's fascinating. They're completely present."
When people have nothing but each other, those relationships assume paramount importance. And as dysfunctional as the group of survivors on The Walking Dead can be, they've grown into relationships that force them to genuinely care for each other's emotional and physical well-being. Perhaps, in the real world, where many of our most meaningful relationships occur at a distance over electronic devices, we watch The Walking Dead and subconsciously long to matter to other people in the same way those characters matter to each other.
"I think that, at its core, The Walking Dead is about caring for your loved ones and trying to survive and make it in the world," Kirkman explains. "These are all things that everyone has done or has dealt with. Everyone has been lost, to a certain extent, and everyone has dealt with the struggle to achieve something that is difficult to achieve. These are very fundamental parts of life that are being boiled down to a very digestible form in The Walking Dead. But it's not just a story about survival or a story about what you would do for the ones you love. It's also set against this insane backdrop that is absolutely unreal—that could never really happen—that is possibly infinitely entertaining. There are any number of stories and any number of directions we could go in this crazy apocalyptic world. I have to think it gives the audience opportunities to think about very heavy issues that you don't really like to think about or consider, but it's set against this fantastical backdrop, so that you don't really register that you're experiencing this kind of stuff. It's easier to deal with these very hard subjects that we're dealing with," he says, trailing off with a laugh. "But it's also possible that it's only popular because people like to watch zombies eat people."
No doubt, such viewers exist. Read any Walking Dead message board, and you'll find no shortage of viewers who tune in week after week to see zombie heads explode and humans torn apart. Like no show since The Sopranos,The Walking Dead represents the convergence of low-brow thrills and high-brow existentialism, and it's only natural that the show would draw from both camps of viewers. Those two groups shouldn't have much overlap, but the show's success seems uniquely dependent on creating a balancing act that keeps both happy.
"I'm not a huge fan of the horror genre, because I get scared, man," says Josh McDermitt, the actor who, appropriately enough, plays the show's resident coward, Eugene Porter. "But the reason I was drawn to The Walking Dead as a viewer was that it isn't a show about zombies. It's a show about survival and the human condition, in the way that Lost was the same thing. That show was about these people surviving. If that show was about a bunch of people living on an island eating coconuts, no one would care. It's the same with The Walking Dead. Sure, we have these zombies and this element of danger, but the biggest threat is from other humans and from within yourself. Are you able to adapt to change? I also think, at least with this show, it seems so real. It just seems like it could happen, way more than Vampire Diaries or something like that. I do believe that zombies could happen, like those guys who were doing bath salts. I'm like, 'Oh, boy. Here we go.' There are a few moments like that throughout the year where I'm like, 'This is not good.'"
Because the show retains an element of realism, it lends itself to daydreaming of zombies bursting through the front door at midnight and of lingering a little too long in the crossbow section at Walmart. Perhaps the success of The Walking Dead speaks to our desires to remake ourselves as Daryl Dixon, the crossbow-toting badass who has become the show's most invulnerable character. We want to imagine that we would have the wide-ranging competence to hotwire a car, track an animal, or cauterize a woundwhatever the situation requires. Like all great adventure stories, The Walking Dead has no shortage of heroes. But in this case, the heroes look just like us.
"I think, in a very weird way, people can hook into the show and see parallels to their own lives right now," Cudlitz suggests. "Aside from that, Kirkman has created these fantastic, iconic characters that people either identify with or want to identify with. They can say, 'That's who I would be.' They aren't superheroes. No one has superhero powers. They're all normal people in extraordinary circumstances doing extraordinary things. There are a lot of underdogs running around, and everyone likes to root for the underdog. I think they identify with that."
Add it all upall the theories and conjecture and speculationand you still don't really come to a satisfying answer for why The Walking Dead is connecting with audiences in a way very few shows ever have before. And as overwhelming as the success of the show must be for its starsmany of whom were more or less unknown when they joined the cast—it's even stranger for Kirkman. Even someone with his imagination couldn't have dreamed up the reality of the show's success.
"People ask me to describe it sometimes," Kirkman says, "and I say, 'I did a comic book, and the comic book turned into a show, and the show ended up being one of the biggest things ever.' It's indescribable, and it's not like there's anyone I can call who can relate to that. [Game of Thrones creator] George R. R. Martin and I should probably hang out sometimeI'm sure we'd have a lot to talk about. But it's not the kind of thing that normally happens to people. My father can't sit me down, like, 'Well, son. This is how this goes and this is how you handle it.' It has been a completely and utterly unreal experience from top to bottom, so it's hard to sit down and recognize the things that are happening to me sometimes, because it seems imaginary to a certain extent."
The reality, of course, is that no one has more responsibility for the future success of the show than he does. The direction of the plot, not to mention the weight of deciding when and how to kill off beloved characters, rests solely upon him. And as even the most iconic TV shows start to recycle plot points and lose momentum as they reach their sixth and seventh seasons, Kirkman faces the challenge of finding ways to make sure our collective zombie fever doesn't break. (Luckily for him, the show has only progressed about halfway through the comic book source material, and much of remaining plot is considered by fans to be the best in the series.) Perhaps the most important question isn't how The Walking Dead has managed to captivate a nation of viewers, but how it will continue to keep us coming back.
"It's certainly possible it will continue to grow—that's something AMC thinks is a possibilitybut you don't really know," he says. "I'm certainly enjoying what we're doing, and I'll enjoy this ride for as long as it lasts, but I can't guess how long it will go. I hope to see a 70-year-old Andrew Lincoln killing zombies in 30 years."

Zom(bie) Con: Feed Your Brrraaiins at Drexel’s Symposium on the Undead

From the wildly popular TV show “The Walking Dead” to movies like “World War Z,” zombies have become a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon. But they can also serve as a gateway for discussions about some challenging issues.
“Zombies can help us deal with some difficult topics,” said Kevin Egan, PhD, director for the Center of Interdisciplinary Inquiry in Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College.
“For example, if you look at film director George Romero's use of zombies in the 1968 film ‘Night of the Living Dead’ as a proxy for race relations at the time, you can see that not only are zombies really interesting and scary, but they can also represent some critically important problems that society is contending with.”
Zom(bie) Con: Feed Your Brains, a day-long symposium at Drexel on Thursday, May 14 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., will offer a multiplicity of perspectives on the figure of the zombie. Guest speakers will discuss the zombie in relation to film and videogames, Jewish studies, history, literature and the health sciences, among other fields. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required here. For more information about the conference, click here. The event will be held in the Sky View Room on the 6th floor of Drexel's MacAlister Hall (32nd and Chestnut Streets).
“The zombie is incredibly pervasive in society right now, and it draws together a wide range of fields and disciplines – from literature and cultural studies, to film and art, to public health and epidemiology,” said Egan.
“We thought it would be cool to bring together experts and practitioners from these diverse fields for one day to discuss how and why the zombie has become so prevalent. Why did the CDC use a hypothetical zombie outbreak to draw attention to disaster preparedness? How has the zombie been represented in film, and what insights into our cultural anxieties might that represent? Where does the zombie appear in and across literature? These are the types of questions we really want to engage.”

Conference Timeline:
10 – 11:30 a.m.:  The Zombie in Literature and Culture
  • Simchi Cohen, PhD, comparative literature expert, Drexel University Great Works Symposium Visiting Fellow
  • Norberto Gomez, Jr., PhD, media art and text expert, author of “The Book of Cannibals or How to Consume”
  • Barry Vacker, PhD, communications expert, associate professor of media studies and production, Temple University
11:45 a.m. – 1:15 pm.: The Zombie in Film
  • Dave Parker, editor and director, known for “The Dead Hate the Living!” (2000), “Masters of Horror” (2002) and “The Hills Run Red” (2009)
  • Jace Anderson, writer, known for “Toolbox Murders” (2004), “Night of the Demons” (2009) and “Fractured" (2013)
  • Adam Gierasch, writer and director, known for "Autopsy" (2008), “Night of the Demons” (2009) and “Fractured" (2013)
  • Panel moderated by Jared Rivet, writer and actor, known for “The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited" (2009), "Hell Froze Over" (2009) and "Earbud Theater" (2015)
2:30 – 4 p.m.: Zombies, Epidemics and Public Health Initiatives
  • Deanna Day, PhD, history and sociology of science expert, author of “Toward a Zombie Epistomology: What it Means to Live and Die in Cabin in the Woods” and “How to Tell if You’re Dead: The 19th Century Doctor Who Wanted to Create a ‘Death Thermometer'”
  • Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, sociology expert, assistant professor at the Department of Health Management and Policy, Drexel University
The event is part of the Pennoni Honors College’s Great Works Symposium, an interdisciplinary, research and writing-intensive course series centered around a common theme each academic year. The idea behind the symposium is to give students an opportunity to think about how their chosen field fits into an interdisciplinary topic and to interact with people they might not see too often during their normal course of study.
The courses are team-taught by several instructors from different subject areas, and are open to all students regardless of their major.

This year, the course series examined the theme of the ‘supernatural,’ drawing on the literature (including films, ghost tours and exhibits) and experts from disciplines as diverse as psychology, history, history of science, literary criticism, metaphysical and religious studies, popular culture, anthropology and others, to study supernatural phenomena. 

   “The supernatural appeals to people because it deals with our fascination with the unknown,” said Egan. 

“If you look at mythology for example, tales from classical Greek mythology up to modern day superhero comics are filled with supernatural events and beings, and I think this speaks to our universal attempts to grapple with the unknown in ways that are accessible and meaningful.”
Each year, the Great Works Symposium selects a visiting fellow, a scholar who is brought to Drexel for a one-year appointment with a focus on teaching and conducting research within the symposium.
This year’s fellow, Simchi Cohen, PhD, earned her doctorate in comparative literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work stands at the intersection of film studies, 20th century Jewish American literature, Yiddish literature and contemporary American popular culture, and is particularly invested in images of the monstrous, the uncanny and the living dead.
Her research considers the influence Jewish history and culture have had on the production of American popular horror culture, and the way in which the zombie functions as the thread that pulls Jewish literature and American popular culture together.
“The zombie is a particular kind of monster – one that straddles borders: borders between living and dead, borders between human and inhuman, borders between belonging and un-belonging,” said Cohen.
“And so it's really the perfect vehicle through which to generate an interdisciplinary dialogue, a dialogue that starts precisely at the space between disciplines.” 

As part of the conference, the College is hosting “The Writing Dead: Creative Writing Contest.” Aspiring writers are invited to submit their best zombie-themed short stories and poems. All entries must be submitted digitally to Ana Castillo-Nye at by midnight on Friday, May 1. Students can submit entries in either or both categories: one fiction entry that is no longer than 5000 words or roughly 20 pages and/or one to five poems total. Drawings, photographs and artwork will not be accepted. All entries must be the work of a single student and each work must be the original work of the student authors.
Winners will be announced during Zom(bie) Con on May 14. One winner from each category will be chosen by a selection committee consisting of Drexel staff and faculty. Winners will each receive a prize to be announced later. Winning entries will also be featured with appropriate credits on the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry’s Great Works Symposium website.

Night of the Living Dead and its 28 Follow-Ups

George A Romero's classic Night Of The Living Dead arguably has 28 follow-ups to date. We've even done a flowchart to prove it...

How many follow ups are there to Night Of The Living Dead? Go on, guess. If you answered three, then congratulations, you’re one of the 12 people who remember Land Of The Dead. But you’re wrong. If you answered five, then you’re one of the two people who’ve actually heard of the latest two Romero films. But you’re still wrong.
I’ll tell you. I count 28. 28! I’m not joking. And that’s not counting the homages, parodies, or myriad 'of the dead' and 'of the living dead' titles there are that have nothing to do with Night Of The Living Dead. Actually, most of the titles on this list have nothing to do with Night Of The Living Dead, but they are technically part of the series that started in 1968. In fact, there are so many that are only tenuously related that the only way to keep track of them all is to make a flowchart.
Clear now? So why so many sub series from just one, low budget film? Let’s take a look.

Night Of The Living Dead

The original film, and still arguably the best of the entire series, was made in 1968 for the price of a small flat. The brainchild of director George A Romero and writer John Russo, the film evolved from a horror comedy to full blown horror that, Romero himself admitted, was a rip off of I Am Legend (the novel, obviously). However, due to the low budget and improvisation from the cast, the final film is instead entirely its own animal, a brutal and gory horror film that resembles nothing else from that era. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, go and watch it. It’s genuinely one of the most terrifying films ever made.
That’s not why it spawned so many sequels and remakes, however. That lies in a title change. Distributor Walter Reade insisted on a title change from Night Of The Flesh Eaters to Night Of The Living Dead to avoid confusion with 1964’s The Flesh Eaters, and then not only deleted the original title card from the film, but also the copyright notice. As a result, the film entered the public domain upon the first showing (that particular law no longer exists).
Getting no money from their creation naturally led to creative differences between Russo and Romero, leading to at least three different sets of follow ups. This on top of the remakes, which of course required no permission.
So let's see the aftermath.

Romero’s Of The Dead Series

The Dead series most will be aware of is Romero’s own series. With Russo retaining rights to any Living Dead movies, Romero made his sequels with little reference to the original, other than the overall tone and the apocalypse caused by the dead mysteriously coming back to life. 1978’s Dawn Of The Dead follows the survivors of the apocalypse hiding in an abandoned mall. While Night was an allegory of the civil rights movement, Dawn attacked consumerism, having the zombies return to the mall out of instinct.
Day Of The Dead followed Dawn Of The Dead in 1985, following what could possibly be the last people left alive on the whole planet. It follows a group of scientists trapped in an underground bunker and protected by a group of soldiers, examining the conflict between them and how an isolated society can spectacularly break down. Overacted to the point of hilarity and significantly gorier than any of the other Dead films, Day Of The Dead was less well received at the time, but opinion has softened over the years.
After a 20 year hiatus, the series returned with Land Of The Dead. The only expensive, mainstream film in the entire series, it boasted a relatively big budget and a cast boasting Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo, and examined class conflict in a walled city that had (comparatively) not been affected by the zombie apocalypse. It’s a fine zombie film, but not as good a dystopian thriller as the Hopper/Leguizamo classic Super Mario Bros.
Believe it or not, there are three further sequels, two of which follow on from Night rather than Land. Diary Of The Dead is a found footage film set during Night (the series is set in the perpetual now, so technically it’s not a reboot) and forms a sort of commentary on the information age. Survival Of The Dead, the only direct sequel in the series, is an examination of how long an audience can put up with annoying, screeching characters.
The final film in the series is Day Of The Dead 2: Contagium. While none of the Dead films have strong continuity, this one has nothing, literally nothing to do with Day Of The Dead. However, it is unfortunately an official sequel, as it was produced by Taurus, who own the rights to the original. So yeah, it goes in this series, technically.
Don’t watch it though, it’s dreadful.

Return Of The Living Dead series

John Russo, co-writer of Night Of The Living Dead, decided to make his own series, and wrote a novel he hoped would be adapted into another Living Dead film. That novel was indeed picked up, and turned into a film by Alien and Dark Star’s Dan O’Bannon. However, while Russo’s The Return Of The Living Dead was a serious affair, Return Of The Living Dead (the movie) was a horror comedy punctuating the violence with punk rock and featuring for the first time running zombies (take that, Alex Garland).
And it was a success. Russo and Bannon had nothing to do with the follow ups, but the series successfully spawned four sequels. Part II, another comic horror (emphasis on the comedy), 3, more of a sci-fi horror, and the low budget, straight to DVD Necropolis and Rave From The Grave, which have nothing to do with the original three barring the odd reference.

Russo’s Living Dead series

John Russo had more up his sleeve than just Return - in 1999 he produced a 30th Anniversary Edition of the 1968 film that added 15 minutes of new footage (as in actually new footage, specially shot by Russo), removed 15 minutes of old footage to make way for the new stuff, and even brought back Bill Hinzman to play his star-making role of 'Cemetary Zombie' again. Yeah, it doesn’t sound good, does it? It’s terrible, from the new footage shot on a cheap video camera, to the new badly acted scenes, and the replacement music which just doesn’t work.
No one anywhere likes this film. There’s no satisfactory reason I’ve found that explains exactly why this film exists, but it probably stems from the copyright gaffe. This film, being technically a new one, at least made Romero and Russo some money.
The other explanation is that it could serve as a springboard for sequels, which happened with 2001’s Children Of The Living Dead, executive produced by Russo and starring Tom Savini. Purporting to be a sequel to both Night Of The Living Dead and Return Of The Living Dead (referencing them as zombie outbreaks, caused by Children’s antagonist), it follows a backward town trying to defend from a third wave of zombies, disturbed by the building of a car showroom. There’s no point reviewing this, as even Russo himself called it the worst film he was ever involved in.

Zombi series

Night wasn’t the only film to get recut. Dawn Of The Dead’s genesis owes a lot to Italian filmmaker Dario Argento, who secured financing in exchange for international rights. His cut of the film, known as Zombi, took out most of the character development and focused on the action, turning it into something more similar to the Italian horror films he thought fans would enjoy.
And he was right.
So right that it formed a series of its own. This is one that gets confusing.
Zombi 2 has nothing to do with Dawn Of The Dead, except for some framing scenes in New York that were added to cash in on Zombi’s success. This 1980 film was directed by noted Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci, and is notable for featuring on the Video Nasties list under the name Zombie Flesh Eaters. There’s a scene where a zombie fights a shark and a bit when someone gets their eye impaled on a nail. 
This was followed, loosely, by Zombi 3, directed by Fulci at first, and later Bruno Mattei, who is easily the greatest man in the world. Why? His CV includes Jaws 5 (yes) and Terminator II (note the II, not 2). I love him more than anything, ever.
Zombi 3 had nothing to do with Zombi 2 aside from the vague idea of zombies, and was a commercial disaster. In fact, it was such a disaster a sequel was greenlit in order to recoup the losses. Zombie 4 (aka Aka After Death) has equally nothing to do with any of the other Zombi films.

Unofficial Zombi films

Defining a film as official in a series made by different directors with nothing to do with the other films is difficult at best, however, the Zombi films officially are 2, 3 and 4 (not Zombi, weirdly). In the UK, they were released as Zombie Flesh Eaters, with Zombi 2 being Zombie Flesh Eaters 1, and so on. And these three films have been released around the world with all sorts of weird titles, but largely just these three.
Not so in America. They have an additional three unofficial sequels.
The first, Zombie 5, is called Killing Birds everywhere else, and is notable for having no deaths by birds, and no zombies for about 90 of the 91 minute runtime. It was also released in 1987, meaning it actually comes before Zombie 4 in the chronology. Even earlier is Zombie 6: Monster Hunter, which contains no monsters, no zombies, and is a direct sequel to Zombie 7: Grim Reaper (yes, they’re numbered backwards). Both of these were directed by Joe D’Amato, who made the films Emanuelle And The White Slave TradeErotic Nights Of The Living Dead, and produced… Troll 2.
Both of his 'Zombi' films, under the original titles of Anthropophagous: The Beast for Zombie 7 and Absurd for Zombie 6, were banned in the UK as a video nasties, and the uncut versions remain some of the few films to still be banned.
There were even more films that at one point or another, in one country or another, were marketed as Zombi sequels. There are about half a dozen films claiming to be Zombi 3, for example. I’m not including them here, because as far as I can tell it would be easier to list films that weren’t supposed Zombi films. I think MaryPoppins was once marketed as Zombi 47: Umbrellisimus.


Our last category is remakes. There are a lot of remakes.
The first remake came in 1990, when Night Of The Living Dead was remade by Tom Savini himself. Motivated by the lack of revenue from the original, the remake is largely the same as the original, save for updating the character of Barbara into a badass, and removing the shock ending. It stars Tony Todd, who is worth the price of admission alone.
The next remake was not of Night, but Dawn. Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead takes the abandoned mall concept, but not much else, and makes an excellent action horror film that, despite what you think of it, is so much better than the dreck passing as unofficial sequels. And this was the film (along with the next year’s Land Of The Dead) that put the Living Dead films back in the public consciousness; from this point on, the floodgates opened.
The first shameless cash in actually was Day Of The Dead 2. I’ve talked about that, so let's move on. Night Of The Living Dead 3D came in 2006; that came about because the original had no copyright. It had nothing to do with the original film except for the basic premise, and was utterly, utterly dreadful. It actually looks like it had less budget than the original. Still, this remake received a prequel of its own, Night Of The Living Dead 3D: Reanimation, which was equally crap. This is not to be confused with Night Of The Living Dead: Reanimated, which is literally a reanimated version of the 1968 film by various animators, but using the original soundtrack and dialogue.
Hoping to cash in again, a remake of Day Of The Dead surfaced in 2008. Early rumours suggested it would be a sequel to the 2004 Dawn Of The Dead, but true to fashion, it has no links to anything, and is utterly dreadful. The only tie to Snyder’s film is Ving Rhames, although he plays a different character anyway.
We’re not done yet. There’s also a 2014 remake that went completely unnoticed, and another animated version that is finished, but won’t be released until later this year. It might not be worth mentioning, but it stars Tony Todd in his second remake (that must be a record or something), along with Day Of The Dead’s Joe Pilato and a few other washed up actors, like Tom Sizemore. But before you get your hopes up, the animation appears to have been done on a broken Atari Jaguar.

Honorable mentions

These films aren’t officially part of the franchise, but since none of the films actually have anything to do with each other, let’s include them anyway.
Flesheater was directed by Bill Hinzman, the cemetery zombie from Night Of The Living Dead, and part of it was edited into Night Of The Living Dead: 30th AnniversaryApocalypse Of The Dead (aka Zone Of The Dead) is a homage that stars Ken Foree from DawnA Chemical Skyline is a film listed on IMDB as a spinoff, and purportedly is set in the same universe as Night. And finally Mimesis is a 2011 film where the characters are trapped in a Night-style situation, but have seen Night Of The Living Dead and know what to expect. Meta.
So what’s next? Well, there’s another remake of Day Of The Dead in the works, brought to you by the producers of Texas Chainsaw. Hoo. Ray. Romero himself has said he wants to make two more sequels once he can secure funding, although right now he appears to be busy writing Empire Of The Dead, a graphic novel series featuring zombies and vampires. Russo is also writing his own Escape Of The Dead books, which are typically sequels to Night, but unrelated to anything else.
But there’s one thing that we can count on - none of what comes next will have anything to do with what came before. Kind of like a zombie.