Ricky Church chats with Josh Duhamel about Night of the Animated Dead…
The Night of the Living Dead is such a significant piece of movie history not just for creating the zombie genre, but for the way it was filmed and the focus on the horrific experiences the characters go through rather than the pulse-pounding action the genre is known for now. The film has been remade or reimagined a few times, not to mention how it has influenced many other horror films, with the latest being Night of the Animated Dead, an animated remake which follows the same story but includes a few elements the original either didn’t have or could not do at the time.
We spoke with Josh Duhamel, who provides the voice of Harry in the animated adaptation. Harry is one of the survivors trapped in the farmhouse besieged by zombies, but is much less interested in working as a group as he’s more concerned about the safety of his wife and injured daughter. Due to this, Harry comes into a lot of conflict with Ben and the others. We chatted with Duhamel about playing Harry, the original film’s significance and his other voiceover role in the recent two-part adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Check out our interview below…
Ricky Church: Night of the Animated Dead is an animated take on Night of the Living Dead which has such a groundbreaking legacy in not just zombie, but the horror genre. Why do you think that original film is loved so much?
It’s such a good question. I’m not sure. I think it’s because, as a viewer, you just feel so helpless in it. When I watch the original I’m like “Run, run, you gotta run! What are you doing?” There’s something that you just can’t help but to root for the people and yell out “Behind you!” There’s a rooting nature to these kind of movies that is terrifying, but also frustrating because you feel like you would be able to get away from them, but at the same time it’s just a never ending wave of zombies that sort of just keep coming. I think that makes itself terrifying in a way.
For sure. There is that psychological aspect to it as it focused on the survivors’ mindset. Now since this is an animated take on the original film, what do you think sets Animated Dead apart from other remakes or re-imaginings of Living Dead?
Oh man, there’s something about the animated nature of it. The fact that it’s as graphic as it is, there’s still a lot of gnarly stuff in here for being animated that makes it actually scarier and more gruesome than I expected it to be. The original is a very mental and, like you said, psychological trip you go on. That to me was kind of cool to see. You don’t see that very often. The animation was not afraid to go there.
Of course Animated Dead has a few scenes and stuff they couldn’t do in the original, like Ben’s diner and some other sequences they couldn’t quite pull off back then. It focuses a lot on themes of survival, trauma and morality. What attracted you to the story the most?
A buddy of mine, Michael Luisi who produced this, asked me “Hey, do you want to be part of this?” and that was it. I hadn’t seen the original in forever, but I was like yeah, sure. There was something about it, I liked the fact that by taking old classics and animating them in some way you could get more liberties and you can do more and the challenge is recreating what it was that made these classic films special. In this case, these things aren’t supernatural, they don’t have super-strength or super-speed. They’re just like these slow moving, undeniable force and wave of zombies that keep coming back to the house. I think they did a good job of recreating the mental struggle these characters in the movie and then also the viewer feels.
For sure. Now you play Harry and out of all of those survivors, he’s probably the most agitated and panicky member of the group and also the one who looks out most for himself. How do you play a role like that against a role like Ben or some of the other people who want to band together?
Yeah. I liked playing this character. Harry is one of the most unlikeable characters in the story because he is so agitated and also agitating. But for me, he’s trying to get through the night. He’s trying to save his family. He’s got a daughter who’s sick down below who may or may not be infected. He doesn’t know who he can trust. I think that all those things sort of bring out the worst in you and your survival kicks in and it doesn’t matter. All niceties are out the window. I think that he’s the kind of guy who is purely there to get through the night and try to save whatever’s left of his family. And that’s what I try to do when I’m working it. I’m not passing any judgment onto the character or try to make him more unlikable, but just play the truth of who he is and how he sees this whole situation play out.
Yeah, for sure. It’s kind of interesting to think if he always had that personality or if it’s like what you said, the stress of the night and making sure his wife and daughter are okay, that’s making him purely look out for himself and unlikable.
Yeah. I think all social graces are gone at this point. It’s like, I am doing whatever I can to keep my family alive against this strange, terrifying force that’s right outside the door. They don’t know what these people are. It’s like the worst nightmare coming through. I think that that would cause anybody to be a little bit agitating or not necessarily the best version of themselves.
Yeah, for sure. You also recently played another kind of agitating role as Two-Face in the Batman: The Long Halloween two-part adaptation where you play the nice Harvey Dent and transform into Two-Face where you almost can’t really describe him as evil, but he’s just serving out his own justice. What was that role like for you in such an anticipated story?
I had a lot of fun doing that. The Long Halloween, I had a blast playing those two characters. I got to play one of my favorite villains, Two-Face, and do some crazy things vocally that I hadn’t done before. That was another one that, it’s similar to this one in that it has a nostalgic plot to it, there’s something kind of old school about it when you watch it. That’s why I love these types of movies because you can do things you may not be able to do in front of the camera.
The zombie genre is such a huge thing and there’s tons of different types of zombie movies that you can get into. In each of those movies, all the characters have different survival methods. Even in this one, Ben prefers staying upstairs and boarding up the place while Harry says let’s stay down in the basement. What do you think your survival tactics would be in a zombie apocalypse? Would you bunker down or get out there and hunt?
That’s a good question! My favorite question of the day actually. I would probably agree with Ben as far as trying to board up because you want to know where they’re at. Once you’re downstairs, you don’t know if they’re right upstairs because then the further away you get underground, the harder it’s going to be to get out of the place. So I think you’d want to battle them at the front door rather than down in the cellar. Then if you had to, obviously you got some place to retreat to if you have to, but why go all the way down there in the darkest place possible, especially when they know you’re already there. I would say if they don’t know you’re in there down on the cellar, maybe that’s where you go so that they don’t get you, but I don’t think I’d be out in the world trying to face them head on unless I had the right equipment.
Thank you to Josh Duhamel for speaking with us!
Night of the Animated Dead is available on digital now and will be released on Blu-ray October 5th.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.