Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Day of the Dead

George A. Romero's Day of the Dead Could Have Featured White House Zombies

Before the final version, Day of the Dead went through several story possibilities

By Matthew Jackson
Zombie hands reach out of a wall toward Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardille) in Day of the Dead (1985).

Director George A. Romero didn't set out to make a zombie franchise when he helmed Night of the Living Dead in 1968. He was just trying to make a satisfying film, which helps explain why it took 10 years for the first sequel to materialize. After that sequel, 1978's Dawn of the Dead, proved to be successful, he went looking for a third film story, with more than a few detours along the way.

Though there was interest in the film that would become Day of the Dead (streaming now on Peacock!) pretty much as soon as Dawn of the Dead was finished, it took another seven years before Romero finally released the conclusion of the original trilogy. In that time, he worked on other projects, including Knightriders and Creepshow, all while throwing around several different possibilities for where the third film might go.

For More on Zombies:
George A. Romero's Last Zombie Movie Might Finally Happen

SYFY Zombie Series Day of the Dead Teases a Bloody Good Time
Night of the Living Dead Returns as Animated Film

Could Day of the Dead Really Have Included Zombies in the White House?

According to Lee Karr's book The Making of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, one of the earliest hints at a potential plot emerged in the winter of 1978, before Dawn was theatrically release. During an interview with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette film critic George Anderson (as spotted by Slashfilm), which accompanied a TV broadcast of Night of the Living Dead, Romero noted that Dawn of the Dead producer Dario Argento (yes, the legendary Italian horror auteur) had already floated a very interesting idea for Day of the Dead

"Dario Argento, who we're co-producing this film with, an Italian director, said that the third one has to be 'Zombies in the White House,'" Romero said. "And maybe that's what it will be, I don't know."

Captain Henry Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) screams as zombie hands reach out toward him in Day of the Dead (1985).

In the summer of 1979, while speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Romero floated another idea, that of "'Zombies at Home,' a kind of 'My Three Sons,' non-violent and totally boring." He was joking, of course, though the White House idea did seem to be a slightly more serious possibility, if for no other reason than that the input came from Argento. 

Of course, when Romero finally did start writing Day of the Dead, he came up with something entirely different. According to Karr, a sprawling early draft of the film followed guerilla fighters battling it out for what was left of human civilization, complete with zombies trained by the military to act as soldiers, dark depictions of human society run amok, and even a kind of military tribunal. There were shootouts, chase scenes, alligator melees, and much more, but eventually budget concerns led Romero to scrap that idea. In the end, we got the Day of the Dead that's since become a ghoulish classic, a claustrophobic thriller about soldiers and scientists trying to forge a path forward while trapped in an underground bunker. 

You can watch this finished version on Peacock right now, and we'd recommend you do. But it's still fascinating to consider what Romero almost delivered. After all, Chucky made it to the White House, so it seems like Romero's zombies could set up shop too eventually.