Gather round, ye of living flesh, as we venture into the dark world of two horror legends, walking dead people, and the calamitous curse of capitalism. (shudders)
‘Twas the year of our Lord, 1992, when the Stephen King of Children’s literature Robert Lawrence Stine published the first book in his Goosebumps series titled Welcome to Dead House. To briskly jog your memory — surely you must have read it! — the story tells of the Benson family who moves to Dark Falls, a small town that had a wild gas leak and, unbeknownst to the new arrivals, turned its citizens into zombie-ghost vampires. That’s right, not only are these unfortunate souls destined to roam Earth for eternity without actually being alive, but they will also turn to dust at the sight of light, and they need the blood of a freshly killed human each year to sustain their undead status. It is, no doubt, quite gnarly.
Stine himself has said that the book might be a tad too scary for the series, which we’re guessing is exactly why it piqued the interest of the late great George Andrew Romero, Father of the Zombie Film, Son of the Bronx, Master of the Undead.
Romero wrote a script somewhere in the ’90s that used Stine’s story to add some classic Romero commentary about human nature and the burden of greedy capitalists on society. The basic plot remained the same, but the undead’s origin changed significantly.
In Romero’s adaptation, the town was ruled over by a wealthy patriarch, one Foster Devries, who, through the power of class and cash, had possessed the town and turned everyone into his undead slaves. Like an insufferable boss, Devries governed everything the townsfolk were allowed to do, even though they were already dead. The Benson family wasn’t so much afraid of getting killed in the town’s yearly ritual as in Stine’s book but rather scared shitless that they’d get sucked dry until they died only to continue “living” according to the rules and limits imposed by Dead Boss Devries. In essence, Romero’s version would’ve dealt with the loss of independence and self-determination, as well as greedy old men who want everything their way, even in death.
It’s a story that will forever be relevant. Alas, it’s one that’ll probably never get made. The script was almost on its way — with Romero and none other than Tim Burton at the helm — but then the Superman Lives project came along. You know, the one that would’ve seen Burton direct Nicolas Cage in that red Speedo if the movie wasn’t ultimately ditched.
Sigh. The things we could’ve had.
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Top Image: Scholastic Paperbacks