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Romero: Road of the Dead is a looney tunes Fast and Furious with zombies

George A. Romero Survival of the Dead

George A. Romero is currently seeking funding for a new entry in his DEAD franchise, although this time around he’s handing the helm over to stunt coordinator Matt Birman, who served as second unit director on Romero’s LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. As Romero explains, Birman’s stunt experience makes him more suited to bring the stunt-heavy story to the screen. Shooting a lot of stunts isn’t Romero’s “cup of tea”, and I’m sure that at 77 years old he’s much less interested in dealing with the process than he was back in the days of KNIGHTRIDERS.

It’s fitting that Birman would direct the film anyway, since it was his idea. Inspired by a scene in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD where a zombie is seen at the wheel of a car, pitched the concept to Romero as “a stunt movie where the zombies drive”. Birman then wrote the first draft of the script by himself, before Romero stepped in to co-write further drafts. The result – GEORGE A. ROMERO PRESENTS: ROAD OF THE DEAD, or just ROAD OF THE DEAD for short.

Here’s how Romero described the story while speaking with Rue Morgue: 

It’s set in a sanctuary city where this fat cat runs a haven for rich folks, and one of the things that he does is stage drag races to entertain them. There’s a scientist there doing genetic experiments, trying to make the zombies stop eating us, and he has discovered that with a little tampering, they can recall certain memory skills that enable them to drive in these races. So it’s a demolition derby with zombies at the wheels, and of course the shit hits the fan in other ways. It’s really a romp; it’s great fun, with stunts galore.”

While Romero says the zombies will be “fast and furious” behind the wheel – and even describes the film as “THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS with zombies” – he assures fans that the zombies will still be slow-moving when they’re walking around.

The characters around the scientist will include his daughter, his girlfriend, and several other people on his staff, plus “half a dozen important bad guys”, “some comic relief characters”, and that dictatorial fat cat. Although Romero’s films have always had a political edge and ROAD OF THE DEAD carries on ideas that were featured in LAND OF THE DEAD and his original draft of DAY OF THE DEAD, exploring a post-apocalyptic class system, the filmmaker said that you won’t see traces of the current U.S. political situation in this one, for a couple different reasons: 

It would be hard to (address current U.S. politics); that’s almost too large to deal with, and we didn’t want to go there when we were writing it. This one is really almost a comedy, though it’s got scares and spooky moments and all that. It’s more about suspense than blood. While there is gore, it’s not overt; there are no big, operatic sequences where people get torn apart. There’s slapstick in it, but it’s mostly stunts; it’s quite different. One character dies, for example, in a tragic way, but was once in NASCAR and is able to come back and drive. It’s that kind of looney-tunes.”

Romero will be producing ROAD OF THE DEAD with Birman, Matt Manjourides, and Justin Martell. The project will be presented to potential investors at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal later this month, and hopefully it will have better luck finding funding that the zombie project Romero originally wanted to make in the wake of SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

Romero had been seeking a 2 or 3 million dollar budget for a black and white zombie noir along the lines of I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, but couldn’t get the money. He blames the fact that the likes of The Walking Dead and WORLD WAR Z have “Hollywood-ized” the zombie sub-genre for the lack of interest in financing smaller scale zombie films. If there’s not blockbuster potential, no one wants in. There is hope that ROAD OF THE DEAD’s more fun, ZOMBIELAND-ish approach to the dead will draw more interest.

I’ll watch anything Romero is able to make. ROAD OF THE DEAD, the zombie noir, something entirely different, I’m on board for whatever. I just hope he’ll be able to make something.

Extra Tidbit: How does ROAD OF THE DEAD sound to you?
Source: Rue MorgueIndieWire

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