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The Rifftrax crew talk Night of the Living Dead, horror movies and more!

Our pals over at Rifftrax are at it again, invading theaters across the country with their patented quick-witted barbs aimed at lowly old movies. Except this time the movie isn't so lowly: it's George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a bona fide classic in the horror genre. (Although surely not too hard to poke fun at, especially by this gang.) While recorded in 2013, Rifftrax is resurrecting this particular show not only because it's one of their most popular, but as a twisted tribute to Romero, who passed away not long ago. It shambles onto screens October 25th!

As per usual, the guys - Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy - were all too kind to take the time to chat with yours truly, one of their most devoted fans. (I say it with no shame, check out past interviews HERE.) In addition to talking about Romero and NOTLD, we hit upon some other seasonal topics, such as what they do for Halloween and which movies scare them the most. Read on!

Q: Night of the Living Dead is the rare genuinely good movie that you're riffing on. Do you find a movie like this more fun to riff on for that very reason, because it's perhaps more of a challenge?

KEVIN: Well, it certainly is a classic, really the first of its genre, and when it gets going it’s still feels wonderfully creepy. But it’s also dated, and in light of the current zombie overload it seems kind of quaint and corny at times. So I think we enjoy digging into its earnestness and intensity and seriousness. And let’s face it, the close-ups of people snacking on limbs just beg for riffing.

MIKE: It does make it a little easier to riff in that it's generally coherent, a rare treat for us.

BILL: It's more fun to spend so much time with a good movie, for sure. Yeah, it can be a challenge with better movies but we've gotten pretty good at shifting gears.

Q: Do you recall the first time you saw Night of the Living Dead?

KEVIN: I first saw it in college. I was too young when it first came out, then when I was in high school The Exorcist came out and blew the horror curve for a while. So the first time I saw it was on a double bill with Dawn of the Dead. That was fun.

MIKE: I don't think I saw it until I was in my late 30s. And at that age I was more impressed by the amount of carpentry in the movie than I was frightened by the zombies.

BILL: In college. A midnight movie, which made it even scarier because I had a paper due the next day.

Q: The original recording of this riff was done well before George Romero passed away. Any second thoughts about broadcasting this now that he's gone? Any idea if he saw your take the first time around?

BILL: No second thoughts. We actually taped a new little tribute to George for the show, to say thank you. We pour one out for him onstage: a skull full of brains.

KEVIN: What we do doesn’t ruin the movie, it’s just our way of roasting it. I don’t know if he saw our riff, but judging by things like Creepshow, the guy had a good sense of humor alongside his sense of horror.

Q: Are you guys fans of the Halloween season? Do you deck out the house, dress up in costumes, the whole bit? Or are you more, "Get off my lawn!”

MIKE: Somewhere in the middle. I pass out candy, but I do hit every 10th trick or treater in the face with a spray bottle of vinegar.

KEVIN: I live in a really dark, heavily wooded neighborhood that can be really gloomy-looking that time of year, so the frisson of Halloween is constantly in the air. No need to deck out the house. We don’t get many kids at our door except for the adventurous ones.

BILL: I love Halloween and every year I dress up as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, sit in the dark with the door half open, and invite children in for ancient wedding cake. The less-traumatized kids love it! I think!

Q: What's one horror movie you watch if you want to be genuinely creeped out?

BILL: The Exorcist got into my head big time when I saw it as an adolescent, but it's far less scary to me now than Transformers. So many pixels died in that one!

MIKE: Carrot Top's Chairman of the Board.

KEVIN: Eraserhead still gives me nightmares. Night of the Hunter is utterly chilling and terrific. And now I think Get Out has entered my list.

Q: Is horror generally your favorite type of movie to riff on? Sci-fi? Which genre generally makes for the best riff-session?

KEVIN: Well just take a look at one of our favorites, Birdemic: Shock and Awe. Bad acting, bad effects, bad editing, just plain crazy-ass story. It’s a perfect melange of bad.

MIKE: It really depends; several of the horror movies we've done are great. Overall it has more to do with the overall tone and pace of the movie than any particular genre.

BILL: Yeah, with enough deadly earnestness and utter lack of filmmaking talent, any kind of movie can work for us.

Q: Have certain movies been ruined for you because you riffed on them and you just associate them with your jokes? For example, is it impossible now to sit down and just enjoy This Island Earth, or something comparable?

BILL: Surprisingly no, good movies are bigger and stronger than us and will outlive our shenanigans. And the rotten movies never had my heart to begin with. Except Birdemic.

MIKE: You'd think it would, but no, honestly. Though we riffed Casablanca I still love it and if it's on I'm stuck watching it no matter what. Same with Jaws, or even Lord of the Rings, but in that case I'm really stuck, for many many ent-filled hours.

KEVIN: I look at it this way, if a film is genuinely good, like Jaws, and we riff it, it’s still a good film - we really can’t break it. If the film is genuinely bad like Starship Troopers, and we riff it, it’s still bad but we make it a little more bearable, so everybody wins. And yes, I’m baiting people by bringing up Starship Troopers.

Q: Do you go back and watch any of your old episodes, of either MST3K, The Film Crew or Rifftrax?

KEVIN: If I do, it’s usually the shorts. Oh, how I love the shorts.

MIKE: I have not. The guys that did that stuff are hacks!

BILL: Nope, that Corbett clown bothers me. Poser!

BEST OF RIFFTRAX LIVE: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD screens across the country on October 25th. Theater listings and ticket info can be found at Fathom Events! Check out our other interviews with the guys HERE!

Extra Tidbit: Which movie would YOU like to see the boys riff on?

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