Back Alley Productions will bring the definitive zombie apocalypse to life with “The Night of the Living Dead” to an all-online audience.
Based on the 1968 American horror film of the same name, Back Alley is putting its own spin on Romero’s vision. “The Night of the Living Dead” follows seven people trapped in a rural farm house as their world is thrown into chaos when the dead reanimate and begin murdering the living.
“The scary thing about zombies is that they’re us,” director Christopher Smith said. “They’re not from space, or from the black lagoon, or from some demonic realm. They’re our neighbors and our friends, reduced to their most basic animal form: violent and mindless. Our survivors, too, have that inclination. They still have their humanity intact, but as the pressure mounts and communication breaks down into gridlock, it makes it harder and harder for them to come up with a solid plan to survive.”
Locked inside, and under constant assault from an enlarging group of cannibalistic undead ghouls, the survivors must do their best to last the night. As the stress of the monsters wears everyone to their mental breaking points, they find that the true threat might be inside themselves.
“We had selected this story last year, but as we’ve been rehearsing it we realized how shockingly relevant it is to the 2020 landscape,” Smith said. “Fear and isolation, a disease crippling the nation, uncertainty and distrust in the news and the government, race relations, sexism and institutional problems — all the things we’ve seen on full display nationally this year are on full display in this isolated farmhouse. Romero was writing this in the peak of the 1960s when the nation was going through another cultural shift hallmarked by incredible anger and competing political messages. So much of that bled into the script, and the parallels to today are pretty astonishing.”
Of particular note was a black lead character, which was essentially unheard of in 1968 when the film came out.
“The stereotypical horror trope has always been that the black characters die first,” Smith said. “It speaks to a larger issue within the horror community that black stories are never fully told, and black characters are easily thrown away. So it’s incredible for Romero to have a black lead who has agency and depth to him, who in fact doesn’t die within the first 10 minutes. In fact, what makes ‘Night of the Living Dead’ so incredible is the characters, the depth of story, and the realism. No one is two-dimensional. The zombie genre has a reputation for being mindless and gratuitous, and stuffed with shallow stereotypes rather than real people. But in Romero’s vision we find a story and characters, themes and action, that make for a timely and relevant message that will make people think as much as it entertains.”
The production stars Cody Robinson Steele, Zoe Kokotek, Gavin Russell, Kirt Johnson, Savannah Powers, Jackie Ellis, Brandon Reynolds and Anthony McDowell. The cast has been taking extra preventive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.