October 16, 2012

Toronto Zombie Walk Marshals RUSS STREINER and JOHN RUSSO Get Candid about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE

On Saturday, October 20th, Toronto will be overrun with zombies and zombie enthusiasts turning out in hordes to see two of Night of the Living Dead's legendary creators -- Russ Streiner and John A. Russo -- when they come to town as the official grand marshals of the 10th annual Toronto Zombie Walk in support of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE

On the same day the Toronto After Dark Film Festival hosts its Zombie Appreciation Night screening of [REC] 3: Genesis and Cockneys vs. Zombies, Phil Pattison and Christopher Harrison, the boys at Nictophobia Films and creators of the very exciting Night of the Living Dead Live stage adaptation, have decided to further spoil us zombie fans by bringing in their executive producers Russ Streiner and John Russo to kick off the 2012 Toronto Zombie Walk.

Earlier this summer I had the chance to chat with Russ Streiner (best known to horror fans as Johnny) and renowned author John A. Russo (Return of the Living Dead ) about Night of the Living Dead Live: a non-musical stage adaptation of the groundbreaking film described to me as an interactive and intimate live theatre experience entirely in black-and-white -- as if the movie itself had shambled off the screen! It is, as Russ Streiner told me excitedly, Night of the Living Dead's  "first authorized stage production anywhere in the world."

Obviously, Phil Pattison and Chris Harrison's pitch for the project was impressive enough to unite the original surviving Night of the Living Dead creative team. Night of the Living Dead Live brings together George A. Romero, Russ Streiner, and John A. Russo for the first time since the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. Not only is this a fantastic coup considering some of the creative differences these three men have had with each other in the past, but this "zombie dream team" is also clearly impressed with Nictophobia's creative pitch and the direction they have in mind for the show.

"They're coming to get you, Toronto."
 "Their enthusiasm, their credentials, and the ideas that they have," Streiner said of the Nictophobia boys, "that's what really did it for us."

Russo added to the praise, stressing the pair's creative chops: "As far as conceptually and artists and talented people, also sincere people, we had the faith they'd do the right kind of job."

In my conversations with both Streiner and Russo, it quickly became clear that their admiration for Pattison and Harrison was in no small part due to the fact that Nictophobia had the respect to come to them to get permission for an adaptation of Night of the Living Dead, unlike so many others who have misappropriated and exploited the film in the past.

"It's always refreshing when people try to do the right thing because this movie has been ripped off so many times that it gets pretty gut-wrenching and disgusting," Russo admitted to me with a clear disdain for those who have profited on Night of the Living Dead since a copyright error during its initial release thrust the film was in the grey zone of public domain. "It isn't public domain," Russo went on to claim. "We're still fighting with the idiot in the copyright office who started that." But unlike those who would profit unfairly on the back of Night of the Living Dead, Russo described Phil Pattison and Chris Harrison as nothing but "very gracious and gentile people."

Russ Streiner probably put it best about the Nictophobia boys: "To be honest with you, it's always refreshing to deal with honorable people."

Night of the Living Dead Live is currently in production with a projected Toronto premiere date in mid-April or May of 2013. In the mean time, help make horror history by contributing to their Indiegogo fundraising campaign with awesome perks for every level of donation, including a chance to meet George A. Romero himself.

And don't miss Russ Streiner and John A. Russo as they toss the inaugural severed head to launch the 10th annual Toronto Zombie Walk on October 20th in Nathan Phillips Square. Visit TorontoZombieWalk.ca for full details.