Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead was released to Blu-ray/DVD today and I wanted to share my recent interview with the movie’s director and co-writer, Douglas Schulze. We talked about his reasons for moving forward with this type of movie, the challenges of using George Romero’s classic to tell a new story, and I also learned about sequel plans:
Many people are taking Night of the Living Dead and just remaking it, while you used it as a starting point for a new movie. How did this idea originally come about?
Douglas Schulze: The story for Mimesis is very timely because of what’s happening in our world. People are so influenced by art and cinema that they go out and do the things you hear or read about. I’ve been asked if I have concern for the type of story I’m doing, but I think it’s the opposite. You need to shine a light on this and talk about people that take things too far.
There are so many remakes and reboots, and we need to evolve horror films. We’ve reached this wall and Mimesis is an attempt to climb over the wall. Instead of trying to recreate a horror classic, these people are trying to live them.
I’ve lived in the horror culture circuit for over two decades now, and I’ve seen a lot of the extremism that goes on there. That helped fuel the idea and it was just a matter of finding a film to “mimesize.” There is nothing more terrifying for me to emulate than a flesh eating zombie, and that brought me right to Night of the Living Dead.
I like that you didn’t just set out to remake George Romero’s movie. It helps because the viewer is expecting certain story beats and you’re able to mix it up. Can you tell me about working on the screenplay, and the process of incorporating and changing George Romero’s work?
Douglas Schulze: When you set down with a group of friends and beer, it sounds like fun. When you sit with a script writer, you have to think of how to do an homage without ripping off the story. I love George Romero’s work and the last thing I wanted to do was rip that idea off. I felt there was a great original story of emulating people’s favorite films, so once we got beyond that, we had the pressure of deciding where to emulate, where to homage, and where to remain original.
We really felt the bad guys would drive the narrative in the direction of Night of the Living Dead, yet the characters inside the home wouldn’t just go along with this. That’s where it becomes an original film.
What challenges did you face working with limited time and a limited budget to capture everything you planned?
Douglas Schulze: When I was a kid, I remember seeing Night of the Living Dead for the first time. I always knew it was a low budget film and we never ran away from that idea. We intentionally set out to work within restrictions to hold true to Night of the Living Dead. I know that could sound like a defensive way of saying we had a small budget to work with, but we wanted to step into this world and recreate it in the same tradition. We made a point of really emulating that with the cinematographer. I’d always like a bigger budget to work with, though. We could have probably explored intensifying some things, but every department was wonderful and did an amazing job within their limited means.
You work with genre veterans and new actors in Mimesis. Can you tell me about the casting process? Did you have Allen Maldonado in mind from the beginning?
Douglas Schulze: The story is driven by Allen Maldonado and it’s his character that goes through the journey. He’s from LA and just clearly rose to the top of 100 candidates because of his sense of comedic timing. The original character was deadpan serous and Allen had this natural sense of humor that was hard to resist. We let him run with some of the dialogue and we thought the results were wonderful. Sid [Haig] and Courtney Gains came through a casting agent. We met Bill Hinzman through the convention circuit and there are a whole bunch of actors from Michigan that were perfect for their parts and rose to the challenge. It was a really great experience working with all of them.
I’ve heard that there is interest in a sequel to Mimesis. What can you tell us about your sequel plans?
Douglas Schulze: We have it set up as a bit of a trilogy. The idea calls for further exploration, and we’ll step closer and closer to the roleplayer in each movie. We’re looking at two wonderful old classics to revisit or “mimesize,” which I think is a better turn. We’re looking at the classic Nosferatu and one other I don’t want to give away right now. It’s all in the planning stages, but we’re hoping to roll cameras this summer. A year from now, you could see the final product.