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A chat with 'Night of the Living Dead' writer John Russo

Zombie Mondays

John Russo is best known as the screenwriter for the original 1967 zombie classic ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ But his work extends well beyond that.

“My ideas for all my books come from what's really going on in the world,” said Russo. “Things that are inherently scary or seemingly good things that can go terribly, terrifyingly awry.”

Russo kindly answered a few questions for Zombie Mondays regarding zombies and his career.

Q: I always found it interesting that while you wrote Night of the Living Dead, the sequels that you conceived seem to go in a different direction that George Romero's films. Your novel Return of the Living Dead and the comics you worked on seem to envision the zombie outbreak as more containable and less apocalyptic. Is there any chance that Return of the Living Dead will be filmed as originally conceived? The 80s' film version definitely went in its own direction.

A: Many people have told me they'd like to see the original straight-horror version made into a movie, and I think it deserves to be made. But we sold the property, and don't own the rights anymore. When Orion (Pictures) and Hemdale (Production Company) decided to make the film, they said that "horror is dead." I don't believe that is ever true, but it's what they said. So they hired Dan O'Bannon to do a re-write and put the comedy into it, and to direct the movie. I thought that Dan and everyone else connected with the project did a great job, and I loved the movie.

Q: Could you provide some details on the Escape of the Living Dead comic?

A: The ESCAPE OF THE LIVING DEAD five-part comic published by Avatar made the top ten of horror comic nationally and spawned two graphic novels and about ten sequels. I had a hand in writing most of the comics.

Q: I enjoyed your novel Living Things because it dealt in part with traditional Voodoo-style zombies. Where did you get your ideas for that book? The first half appears to be the original script for Voodoo Dawn while the second half goes in a different direction.

A: Part One of LIVING THINGS is actually a re-telling of VOODOO DAWN without many changes. But then the novel carries the story forward through Parts Two to Four.

Q: Apart from your zombie-related projects, which film of yours is your favorite?

A: I think my favorite non-zombie film is THE MOB BOSS AND THE SOUL SINGER. George Romero liked it a lot and so did the director of the Sundance Film Festival. But it does not have wide distribution. You can get it on Amazon.

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