It was another sleepless night just a few days ago that I encountered Return of the Living Dead, an unofficial sequel to George A. Romero’s iconic film, Night of the Living Dead. Return of the Living Dead – which was directed by famous screenwriter Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Total Recall) ironically enough –  was a shoddy followup to the original, setting it in the same category as so many later Dead sequels and spinoffs (with the exception of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004).

That hit or miss history sets up a wide range of potential for the upcoming Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D – a long-rumored project that may at first sound like another unnecessary prequel, but is actually something much more intriguing once you look at it closely.

A press release has informed us that director Simon West (Con Air, The Expendables 2) is producing this new Living Dead film. What sets Origins apart from your standard prequel is that it will use motion-capture technology in a CG environment to create a 3D movie experience that looks like a living comic book. In other words – the same sort of techniques used to create Avatar, only not as technologically sophisticated as James Cameron’s film).

Check out the press release below:

Newly-formed international sales company Meyers Media Group announces today that they have picked up all international rights to director Zebediah De Soto’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: ORIGINS 3D from Simon West Productions. Simon West (director of “Expendables 2”) will produce alongside Jib Polhemus (“The Mechanic”), Gus Malliarodakis and Matty Mangone-Miranda. Written by De Soto, David Reuben Schwartz and Warren Davis, the film is a motion capture re-imagining of the George A. Romero zombie classic that stars Danielle Harris (“Halloween V”), Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan”) and Tony Todd (“Candyman”). The deal was brokered by Lawrence Meyers and Randy Dannenberg of Meyers Media Group and Polhemus on behalf of Simon West Productions.

In the film, New York lies in ruin when zombies have overtaken the city. For the few people left alive there is only one dream – survival. That includes Ben (Tony Todd) and Barbra (Danielle Harris), two survivors who find themselves trapped and fighting to escape the hordes of undead that walk the streets.

Shot completely in a CG environment using stereoscopic 3D, the film employs the next generation facial capture technology that is a step beyond any previous versions used for this type of film. The look is a marriage between the graphic novel and modern animation, making it a true ‘graphic film’ that younger audiences will be more accustomed to experiencing.

“Horror films, especially zombie-based films, already have a huge audience so it is particularly exciting to reinvent the genre with a totally new look,” said Simon West.

This is helmer De Soto’s debut as a feature director.  Also rounding out the cast are Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”) and Joe Pilato (“Day of the Dead”).

Tony Todd and Danielle Harris are an odd pair when you think about them being actors who are pretty much polar opposites in terms of physical appearance. Todd is a tall, middle-aged black man, while Harris is a petite, thirty-something white girl. Doesn’t get much different than that.

Of course, the thread that connects these two actors is their shared status as “horror movie icons.”  Todd’s Candyman persona has since been extended into appearances in other horror franchises like Final Destination and Hatchet; Harris has similarly become a staple of the genre, a crowned “Scream Queen” who has starred in 4 different installments of the Halloween franchise and the second Hatchet film – amongst many other horror (and non-horror) projects. So, once you get beyond physical appearance, the degrees of separation between Todd and Harris are in fact pretty narrow.

Physicality won’t be as much of an issue in Living Dead: Origins as the film will use motion-capture technology to transform the actors into their respective characters. The cast is also populated by actors that are already familiar with hardcore horror fans (Moseley and Pilato in particular).

Again, on paper, this project sounds like a bust. But with a cast of horror icons and an technology-ambitious approach to zombie-horror at a time when shows like The Walking Dead have made the sub-genre so mainstream and familiar,  Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D is something we’ll be keeping an eye out for (no zombie pun intended).

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