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VENICE (Reuters) - Zombie master George A. Romero had no particular conflict in mind when making "Survival of the Dead," the sixth installment in his long-running horror franchise, but rather discrimination in general.
More than 40 years after "Night of the Living Dead" launched Romero's career in 1968, the 69-year-old American is back to his independent movie making roots with a picture in competition at the Venice film festival.
The self-financed Survival of the Dead tells the story of a band of soldiers lured to an island that promises to be the one place on earth where they can escape from the living dead, who feed on human flesh and appear as if from nowhere.
But they become embroiled in a generations-old dispute between two families who have radically different ideas on how to contain the zombies.
Patrick O'Flynn wants to put a bullet through the head of every zombie he can find, while his arch rival, Shamus Muldoon, wants to keep the "dead" alive in the hope of finding a cure.
"I wasn't looking at Iraq and saying, well, lets make a movie about Iraq," Romero told reporters on Wednesday.
"It's much more about man's underlying inability to forget enmity, forget their enemies even long after they've forgotten what started the conflict in the first place.
"I think that part of the problem is that nobody looks at both sides of any issue, it's automatically: I'm on this side or I'm on that side."
According to production notes for the film, Survival of the Dead is the second movie in Romero's new cycle of independent pictures made outside the studio system.
"We've made a couple of studio films and it's just a very different process," Romero said.
"These last two films, it's really like going back to the very original films that I made where it was really private financing and real guerrilla-style film making."
Night of the Living Dead was reportedly made on a shoestring budget yet came to redefine the horror genre with its violence and satirical view of American society.
"I've had the flexibility in these films to do whatever I wanted to do. At least there's no policeman looking over your shoulder ... There's no committee. That's a wonderful freedom to be able to have."
Romero credited the zombie's lasting cultural impact more to video games, like the Resident Evil series, than to his movies. "It's really not the zombie films. I think ... it's much more video games that have kept them alive."
Variety's review on the movie from Venice was largely negative, saying it was "steeped in fan-pleasing gore but woefully thin on ideas, originality ... or directorial flair. This is easily the least frightening of all the Dead movies."
Editing by Paul Casciato