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All great horror looks to its predecessors and contemporaries for inspiration. SYFY's Day of the Dead series — a homage to the late, great George A. Romero's famed zombie universe — is no different. Creators, executive producers, and showrunners Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas put a lot of (undead) brainpower into which properties from across a spectrum of films would serve as a template of sorts. And because we're officially in spooky season and just hours away from the premiere of Day of the Dead on Oct. 15 at 10/9c, we wanted their must-watch list right from the zombie's mouth.
"I mean it would definitely be Return of the Living Dead," Elinoff says immediately when we prompted the pair to tell us what movies fans should watch to prep themselves. Thomas jumps in to agree and adds The Evil Dead, the 1981 horror classic from writer/director Sam Raimi, as well as its 1987 sequel.
Red Dawn is next. The 1984 original from director John Milius, not the ill-fated 2012 remake, though Elinoff does laugh and sarcastically add, "Absolutely the Josh Peck remake."
"That's when it got good," Thomas quips. "That's when they really perfected it."
The 1984 Red Dawn, though, served as a real, non-zombified inspiration for the series. "Just that idea of town people running off into the woods to fight for their town," Elinoff explains.
"The idea of something coming into a small town and taking it over, we had Red Dawn in the back of our heads through the whole thing," Thomas confirms.
Then there's Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop (1987). "There's a very specific kill in our season that we pulled straight from RoboCop," Thomas teases. "We showed everyone the clip from RoboCop and we were like, 'We have to remake this. We want it to look as close to this as possible.'"
Of course, the obvious horror films go without saying: Any and all of Romero's work. Others that further expand on a mix of zombies, monsters, and people in small towns dealing with calamity include Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988, directed by Ken Wiederhorn), The Beyond (1981, directed by Lucio Fulci), Cemetery Man (1996, directed by Michele Soavi), Dead Alive (1992, directed by Peter Jackson) — "There's some lawnmower action in our show that's definitely inspired by Dead Alive," Thomas explains — Dead & Buried (1981, directed by Gary Sherman), and Tremors (1990, directed by Ron Underwood).
That's not all, of course, but to catch the other inspirations you'll have to check out Day of the Dead yourself when it premieres on Oct. 15 at 10/9c on SYFY.