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On Sunday, January 28th, at 8 PM, George A. Romero’s classic horror movie, Night of the Living Dead, will be playing for free with a new film score specially recorded for this unique screening.
Writing and performing this musical experience are the Toronto-based collaborators who wrote and performed this script, Guillermo de la Rosa, Bryan Shannon, Dave Taylor, and Kevin Yip, led by de la Rosa. As a director and writer, del la Rosa’s work has previously appeared at The Frida as a horror short at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. His recent success includes co-writing the feature film The Shadow of the Sun, which became Venezuela’s official selection for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards.
In this interview, de la Rosa shares the initial impression Night of the Living Dead, how the re-score was created, and what’s in store for him.
Justina Bonilla: When did you first see Night of the Living Dead?
Guillermo de la Rosa: Yeah, I saw it the first time when I made this re-score, actually.
What did you think of it after first seeing it?
When I first saw this, I was really amazed. It was really evident how this movie was in the DNA of that genre. I also was really pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of it. By the purity of the concept. Because over time, as more roles have explored it, it overcomplicated [the concept]. It’s just so focused and so elegant. And I think there’s a certain level of a haunting quality that I think is really indelible and permanent.
How did you become involved with this project?
I’m a film director. I did a short film that screened at The Frida in 2018 for the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. And that’s where I met Laura Vasquez. She allowed me to stay at her house, which was very kind of her. We became friends afterwards. In the process, I mentioned that I’m a musician, I play the drums, and I have a couple of bands in Toronto. That’s where I live right now, by the way, Toronto.
When COVID happened, the lockdown, The Frida was trying to find creative ways to remain active and profitable. They [said], “Well, how would you to do an event that’s raising money for the theater?”
We first did Nosferatu. So this was the first time we did it, I conducted my guy, and we played, we re-scored the thing live. Then a year later, we said, “Now I want to do it again, just for fun, but with Night of the Living Dead.” So that’s how it happened, and we hope it’s not the last one we do for you guys.
What scene was challenging to score?
When they met the first zombie in the cemetery. That’s scene was intimidating because it has to be driving and have a sense of dread. I find that dread is better over a long stretch of time, but you have to know how to sustain it.
So trying to get that first appearance of the threat, which are the zombies, or the living dead, and sustaining that for, like, six or seven minutes, it was also the first long track we did. So we just jammed it out, and you never really know where that’s gonna go. It’s a lot of reading the movie and reading our body language in the space. So that was always intimidating.
As a filmmaker what are your favorite horror movies?
The Exorcist will always have a special place in my nightmares. I love that movie. And I think the fact that I grew up Catholic made it extra scary for me. But as I started becoming an adult and I started realizing what the film really is about, which this idea that this dread is invading your home and not being able to control it and [it’s] just taken you and [is] all around you… That really hit me.
Of course, there’s also modern horror filmmakers that I really love, like Ari Aster and Hereditary. For me and many filmmakers, it’s establishing a paradigm of what horror is now.
What are your favorite film scores?
Everything from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think it’s just incredible and rousing and so powerful and deep and textured. It’s a score of you hear once and you’ll recognize [for] the rest of your life.
Do you have any other future projects coming up?
Right now, I’m in the pre-production stages of a short film that I’m shooting back home in Venezuela, where I’m originally from. It’s a dark comedy with some horror.
I’m working on developing my second feature script that hopefully will be my first feature film that I direct. Right now, me and the band are working towards recording our first single. And hopefully recording our first EP soon.
How does it feel to have the film you co-wrote The Shadow of the Sun as Venezuela’s official selection for the Oscars?
It’s really nice. It was a huge honor for me. I’m gonna treasure that in my heart forever. And it’s really crazy to think that’s happened to a film I’ve worked on. It’s really humbling. And I’m really happy.
More information about Guillermo de la Rosa and his work can be found on his site.
Night of the Living Dead: Re-Scored, screening Sunday, January 28th, is sold out. A stand-by line will be formed the day of in case of any no-shows.