SYFY officially welcomed guests to partake in a fleshy smorgasbord today at Comic-Con@Home with a bone-chilling panel for its upcoming zombie series: Day of the Dead. If you like exploding corpses, swearing seniors, and tons of blood and entrails, then this show is definitely for you!
Inspired by the golden godfather of the entire undead genre, George A. Romero, the new series follows a group of people banding together to stay alive during the first 24 hours of a zombie apocalypse.. The first bit of creepy footage crawled out of its shallow grave during the show's panel at Comic-Con@Home — hosted by SYFY digital editor and writer Caitlin Busch.
"Every time zombies come up, we talk about Romero," co-showrunner Scott Thomas said at the panel. "He established what we know as the modern zombie now in Night of the Living Dead and then in Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead — and everything else. He did it in a way that also added social commentary; it spoke to the times [in which] these movies were made ... Every single zombie movie or TV show or graphic novel owes Romero for his legacy."
Thomas' fellow showrunner, Jed Elinoff, added that there was "a sense of responsibility" in tackling the iconic body of work that Romero left behind (the filmmaker passed away in 2017 at the age of 77). "We're taking on somebody's legacy and here's a chance to do something really special and you don't want to screw it up," he explained. "It's a balancing act, because we want to make sure it feels new and fresh and different and maybe like something he would do. But also something that we would do and that we would be excited to watch. That was sort of the line we walked the entire time."
To set Day of the Dead apart, the showrunners landed on some very clear rules: The flesh-eating ghouls move slowly; members of the undead are people who have already died (i.e. it's not a viral outbreak, per se); bites may not turn you into a mindless automaton (the jury's still out); and a bullet to the head won't kill the recently reanimated.
"We felt like that was just becoming so easy, that it was almost kind of a joke now," Thomas explained of the cliched trope of having to take out the brain. "We wanted to switch up the rules a little bit."
Steven Kostanski, who directed the first four episodes, admitted that the show's aesthetic harkens back to classic methods of filmmaking.
"[We wanted to] try and get away from the 28 Days Later kind of look of shaky handheld and have a well-composed show that's very cinematic-feeling," he said. "It was really fun developing that look and giving the [show] a unique flavor. It has a bit of a Red Dawn vibe to it that I really like and that was one of the things that really drew me to this project. It strayed from what the original Day of the Dead was, which is a very grungy, dark palette ... We literally bring it out into the day and it was fun playing around with that. It was certainly a challenge to be out in broad daylight and try to also be scary at the same time."
At the panel, the show also unveiled a sneak peek, offering a first look at all that blood-and-guts action — check it out.
The principal cast includes: Keenan Tracey, Daniel Doheny, Natalie Malaika, Morgan Holmstrom, and Kristy Dinsmore. Elinoff promised that each of the characters gets covered in blood "at one point or another." Malaika recalled how the showrunner once donned a poncho one day on set because the viscera was flying so freely. "That's what they get paid to do!" Elinoff declared. "I sit in a dark room and type and they get covered in blood."
Day of the Dead premieres on SYFY this October.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2021.