The Living Dead Legacy: A Comprehensive Exploration of the Franchise and Its Offshoots


The Living Dead Legacy: A Comprehensive Exploration of the Franchise and Its Offshoots

a Guest Post by B. D. Latham


The impact of George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," released in 1968, extends far beyond its initial impact on the horror genre. Not only did the film redefine zombies, but it also gave birth to a vast and intricate franchise that includes sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and inspirational works. This essay delves into the evolution of the "Living Dead" franchise, analyzing its sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and related series such as "Return of the Living Dead," "Zombi," "Contagion," and more. We will also examine the influence of the franchise on broader media culture.

The Original "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)

Romero's original film set a new standard for horror cinema. Its story of a disparate group seeking refuge from a zombie apocalypse resonated deeply with audiences. The black-and-white cinematography, coupled with the film's social commentary, created a unique blend of horror and societal critique.

Sequels: A Continuation of Horror

1.    Dawn of the Dead (1978): Romero's sequel relocated the horror to a shopping mall, exploring consumerism's grip on society. Mixing horror with satire, "Dawn of the Dead" demonstrated Romero's ability to evolve the franchise's themes while maintaining their impact.

2.    Day of the Dead (1985): In the third installment, Romero delved into the psychological toll of surviving in a decaying world. The film's focus on character dynamics within a confined space intensified the franchise's exploration of humanity under pressure.

3.    Land of the Dead (2005): This entry, directed by Romero, introduced the concept of intelligent zombies and tackled class disparity in a post-apocalyptic urban landscape. Romero's return to the franchise maintained his critical lens on societal issues.

4.    Diary of the Dead (2007): Adopting a found footage style, this film portrayed the outbreak's early stages through the eyes of student filmmakers. It commented on the role of media and technology in crisis situations.

5.    Survival of the Dead (2009): The last film directed by Romero, "Survival of the Dead," explored a family feud against the backdrop of a zombie-infested island. While not as acclaimed, it continued the franchise's exploration of human nature in extraordinary circumstances.

Offshoots: Expanding the Universe

1.    "Return of the Living Dead" Series: This subseries veered into comedy-horror, with the first film introducing zombies craving brains. It embraced campiness and established its own cult following.

2.    "Zombi" (Zombie Flesh Eaters) Series: Inspired by Romero's work, Lucio Fulci's "Zombi 2" initiated a separate series focusing on gore and visceral horror, distinguishing itself from Romero's sociopolitical commentary.

3.    "Contagion" (2011): While not a traditional zombie film, "Contagion" depicted a global pandemic's impact, mirroring real-world fears. The film's realism resonated deeply in a post-9/11 world.

Remakes and Reimaginings

1.    "Night of the Living Dead" (1990): Tom Savini's remake paid homage to the original while adding modern effects and nuanced character development.

2.    "Dawn of the Dead" (2004): Zack Snyder's remake transported the narrative to a shopping mall, injecting fresh energy and intensity into the story. Its fast-moving zombies represented a departure from Romero's traditional slow-moving undead.

3.    "Day of the Dead" (2008): A loose remake, the film took a more action-oriented approach, featuring a different storyline and characters.

Expanded Universe and Series

1.    "The Walking Dead" (2010-Present): Based on the comic series, the television show portrays life in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by zombies. It delves into character development, interpersonal dynamics, and the struggle for survival.

2.    "Fear the Walking Dead" (2015-Present): A spin-off of "The Walking Dead," this series explores the early days of the outbreak on the West Coast, focusing on a different group of survivors.

3.    "Day of the Dead" (2021-Present): A TV series inspired by Romero's film, it explores the journey of a group of survivors navigating a world overrun by zombies.

Timeline of Films in the "Living Dead" Franchise and Offshoots

·         1968: "Night of the Living Dead"

·         1978: "Dawn of the Dead"

·         1979: "Zombi 2" (Zombi series)

·         1985: "Day of the Dead," "Return of the Living Dead"

·         2004: "Dawn of the Dead" (Remake)

·         2005: "Land of the Dead"

·         2007: "Diary of the Dead"

·         2008: "Day of the Dead" (Remake)

·         2009: "Survival of the Dead"

·         2011: "Contagion"

·         2021: "Day of the Dead" (TV series)


The "Living Dead" franchise stands as a testament to the enduring impact of Romero's original vision. Its sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and series have collectively contributed to shaping horror cinema and media culture. The franchise's exploration of societal issues, human nature, and survival continues to resonate with audiences across generations. The evolution of the "Living Dead" universe mirrors the shifts in cultural and cinematic trends, ensuring its relevance and significance for years to come. As we confront our own anxieties and societal challenges, the "Living Dead" franchise remains a source of reflection, exploration, and unending fascination.