This Was The Walking Dead's Love Letter To The Legends Of Horror

Greg Nicotero is the best kind of busy. Chugging along with the same energy that made him a multi-hyphenate in the horror field and beyond, the special effects artist has been unable to "take the ship out of the dock" when it comes to his usual gig directing the season premiere of "The Walking Dead." That time has been spent helming Shudder's "Creepshow" revival series. 

The "Day of the Dead" makeup effects wizard has directed a total of 33 episodes of AMC's long-running zombie series, but the one that has gotten the most chatter lately came in Season 11. "On the Inside" has a few plots going on, but Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Virgil (Kevin Carroll) get the most harrowing thread, finding themselves trapped in a house with feral people living in the walls. If you got vibes of Wes Craven's 1991 creepfest "The People Under the Stairs" (or a certain 1968 midnight movie) while watching the events of the episode unfold, you can thank Greg Nicotero.

Sitting down with Syfy Wire, Nicotero unpacks the episode and reveals some of the experiences he pulled from to bring audiences one of the scariest episodes of "The Walking Dead" to date.

'I felt like I was a well-oiled machine.'

Beginning with his apprenticeship under famed SFX artist Tom Savini and branching out to work with genre giants like Sam Raimi, George A. Romero, Don Coscarelli, and Wes Craven, Greg Nicotero has enjoyed a long and fruitful career. However, it was his collaboration with Craven that guided Nicotero as he brought "On the Inside" together. He served as SFX artist on "The People Under the Stairs," which features wild children who live in the walls of a house inhabited by one of the kinkiest couples in horror. He tells Syfy:

"I like the idea that we were able to step into the horror roots of Wes Craven's and John Carpenter's world because I worked on a movie called 'The People Under the Stairs' back in the day, so I was channeling some of the great horror directors that I had worked with in the past. Plus having two seasons of 'Creepshow' under my belt definitely kept me sharp which I think was something really unique because with 'Creepshow' you get three days per story."

"So, I know how to shoot fast and I know how to shoot efficiently. I know how to work with actors and I know how to get material done that's good. It's not just shooting it, it's actually shooting it well. Coming into this after having been shooting for a year straight, I felt like I was a well-oiled machine, as much as I can be for me, at that particular point."

When there's no more room in hell...

Having worked with the Godfather of Gore himself (he got his first gig on Romero's "Day of the Dead" in 1985), Greg Nicotero doesn't throw around comparisons to George A. Romero's work lightly. But in the course of filming "On the Inside," he couldn't help but feel the influence of the late director as he shot the undead swarming over the set:

"Once we had the movement, I always looked at the ferals as a cat and mouse. They like playing with their food before they eat it. And there's the idea that they're in the room with you watching you. They're very methodical about the way that they hunt you down, and that was something that I really enjoyed. And building the set that we did in the hallways that had that maze feel to it, the opening is pure George Romero out of 'Night of the Living Dead.' When those zombies are climbing against the windows, I was like, 'Guys, this is the closest that we've ever done to shooting something like 'Night of the Living Dead.” I felt like I had a great opportunity to channel some of these other classic horror moments from these directors."

Not bad company to be in.