night of the living dead part ii

Night of the Living Dead remains an immortal horror classic, but what came next diverges into very different paths. The original film hailed from director George Romero, with a script credited to Romero and John A. Russo. After Night, however, Romero and Russo went their separate ways, with Romero crafting his Dead trilogy, and Russo striking out to make his Return of the Living Dead series. This caused a rift, with Romero taking Russo to court. But at one point, a direct sequel to Night of the Living Dead was penned. Now, 50 years after the original’s release, that sequel – Night of the Living Dead Part II – might rise from the grave.

Here’s some news that I don’t quite know what to make of. There’s a vagueness here that raises an eyebrow or two, and leaves me with a “wait and see” attitude. For now, though, here’s what we know. According to Bloody Disgusting, Living Dead Media is planning to make Night of the Living Dead Part II. Here’s the official announcement:

“Night of the Living Dead first brought zombies to the silver screen in 1968. The world was unprepared for the film’s flesh starved ghouls, which resulted in a groundbreaking and commercial success. It remains one of the most influential and revered horror films of all time and now sits in the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art for its cultural significance. Written by John A. Russo and directed by George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead created the foundation for the five Return of the Living Dead films that gave us TARMAN and his famous catch phrase “More Brains!”, popularizing brain eating zombies and defining the modern dark comedy-horror genre in the process. Romero’s Trilogy of the Dead series also owes its roots to the classic. In addition, Night of the Living Dead is not only credited with spawning a generation of zombie films, but all modern horror films.”

“That history and Night of the Living Dead’s place on the Mt. Rushmore of horror films is known by most horror fans and people all over the world. But, unknown to most is that in the 1970’s, the original writers and producers of Night of the Living Dead penned a sequel to their masterpiece. A sequel that inexplicably has gone unproduced for over forty years – until now. Living Dead Media has brushed away the dirt from this amazing follow up to a classic and brought together a great team to produce the new film.”

You’ll notice the focus here leans heavily on John A. Russo’s Return of the Living Dead series, and gives only a casual mention to George Romero’s Dead series. This implies that this long-lost-sequel has no involvement from the late Romero at all. In fact, Russo is listed as the sole writer of the original Night of the Living Dead here, even though the script is credited to both Russo and Romero.

So what’s going on here? There’s a sticky backstory to the Dead sequels. After Night of the Living Dead, George Romero made two sequels – Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. While these films are all considered to be part of the same series, they also stand alone. They’re all about the effects of a zombie outbreak, but neither sequel references the previous film.

This approach differed from what John A. Russo wanted. In 1985 – the same year Romero’s Day of the Dead opened – Return of the Living Dead hit theaters. While the script was ultimately written by director Dan O’Bannon, Russo helped craft the story. This film – which was more comedic than Romero’s movies – directly referenced Night of the Living Dead. Romero was not happy about this. He accused Russo of appropriating the Living Dead title, and trying to cash-in on the Dead trilogy popularity. Romero eventually obtained a restraining order that halted advertising on Return of the Living Dead. But the Living Dead franchise continued on, spawning four sequels (none of which have anything to do with Russo, or Romero).

On top of all that, the original Night of the Living Dead entered the public domain when the distributor forgot to include a copyright indication. As a result, countless knock-off films eventually sprung-up.

And now we have this news of a potential long-lost sequel. I’m not even sure how you make a direct sequel to Night of the Living Dead since (spoiler alert for a 50 year old movie) all the main characters are dead by the time the credits roll. We’re going to have to wait for more information to be released before we know just what the heck is going on here. The team working on the film claim they’ll release it in 2019, which means we might get more answers soon.

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