Live Live Cinema has always been focused on using theatre, music, and sound design to re-imagine and revitalise little-known or forgotten classics of cult and independent cinema. With this latest production, we are tackling perhaps one of the most influential independent films of all time, and one whose shambling legacy still resonates to this day: George A. Romero's Night of The Living Dead.
Night of the Living Dead is one of horror's seminal, revolutionary films. Shot on a shoestring budget, it spawned an entire genre of film-making, and established conventions and a vocabulary that are still part of the cinematic landscape today. While its now numerous zombie progeny are of varying quality, the incomparable original still holds real weight and terror, and packs an ending that is shocking to this day.
Scratch the surface of this apocalyptic vision of shambling ghouls and gore, however, and you will find a rich piece of oppositional pop-culture, and one of the most socially relevant horror movies to ever be made. Duane Jones is the first black lead in a horror film, and it is impossible not to view the work through the lens of 1960's social and political concerns. The exact day Romero set out to shop the film around to distributors, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Shot in a gritty black and white verité style, it balances moments of haunting, eerie beauty with stark imagery that recalls Vietnam War reportage. More broadly, it presents a tragic vision of a society devouring itself from within, where ossified power structures are unable to respond to new conditions, and the inability of individuals to overcome their fear and mistrust of others thwarts any possibility of meaningful communication and co-operation in order to combat an overwhelming external threat.
In a world where white supremacy and xenophobia are ascendant, political structures appear impotent in the face of basic societal problems, a witless virus is ravaging the planet, and we may well ourselves be shambling brainlessly towards annihilation at the hands of a looming climate catastrophe, Night of The Living Dead could not be more vital and relevant.
The opportunity to engage with such a potent text within our own moment is incredibly exciting. As is the prospect of using the languages of theatre, music and cinema itself to breathe new life into this piece of forgotten silver for a contemporary audience. As a composer, this production has also been particularly gratifying, because it has given me the opportunity to address the fact that the film's original soundtrack did not actually feature a single note of original music. Due to budget constraints, a variety of stock “library” music was used, and so writing all-new, original score for Night of The Living Dead over 50 years after its initial release has been an especially rewarding process.