‘A Night of the Living Dead’ gets a new life with Local Actor, Denny Kidd
By Shane Gilreath
When George A. Romero made the film “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968, it is doubtful that he envisioned a universal cult following and large franchise of films, that continue to pay tribute to his original brainchild even after his death, but that is exactly what has happened. The film that continues to be beloved by movie buffs has now made its way to Southern Kentucky, including a tribute film that touches McCreary County through one of its leads, native son, musician-turned-actor, Denny Kidd. The musician, who was recently hired to tour with punk/hip hop group, Bry Lew, playing venues across the southeast, indicates that it was serendipity that led to his starring role, when he was cast following his work with another actor.
“I was giving props to an incredible actor, person, someone I consider a positive influence and friend,” Kidd said, before the previous actor dropped out of the project, according to film director, Kenny Scott Guffey, who oversaw casting of the film with Co-Director and Executive Producer, Jake C. Young.
“Mr. Kidd was actually a stroke of luck,” added Young, saying that fans of the original should see “A Night of the Living Dead” as a love letter to the original.
“I’m excited about the experience,” Kidd admits, who, according to Guffey, is also writing an original song to feature over the film’s closing credits. “I hope it opens other doors.”
The actor also hopes that seeing him chase his dreams, leads others down the same path. “Being local to (the) McCreary County area, I really hope it shows others, especially young adults, to not ever give up, think outside the box, and believe they can achieve anything no matter how outside the box it is.”
Like many participants in the trade, the entertainment industry, especially music and horror films, has been his life’s greatest passions. “I grew up very much afraid of Freddy Krueger,” he said, “but for some reason, I would keep sneaking up and watching ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’ I was so afraid, but also intrigued.”
That intrigue has led Kidd, who owns and operates his own studio, The Kidd Kave, to various conventions just to meet the actors he once feared. Now, because of his own work in “A Night of the Living Dead,’ the actor himself has been invited along with the cast and crew to appear at the fifth installment of Knoxville’s Creepy Con in August. As of publication, tickets are still available to visit with Kidd and the cast in Knoxville (https://creepyconknoxville.com/)
Though filming is currently taking place in Shopville, Kentucky, none of it is expected to take place in McCreary County. At least, none for this particular film. Kidd teases that future film projects could end up in the county.
“Kentucky is very much a sleeping giant when it comes to the film industry,” Producer/Director Guffey says. “In the last 15 years or so, Hollywood productions have started venturing outside of California. I believe that soon Kentucky will be a hot spot.”
Others seem to share that sentiment, with the commonwealth offering entertainment incentives through the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
“In the last three years, independent filmmaking has really begun to grow in this area,” says co-director, Jake C. Young. “With our company (MTS/DesiRue Productions) being the lead, we intend to make our area a highly sought filming destination.”
McCreary County and the region surrounding it is ripe for the industry. Scenes for a short film by James Dotson, in association with the release of his book on the story of Princess Cornblossom, were shot here several years ago. That the county continues to be an ideal location is something that hasn’t escaped the “A Night of the Living Dead” star.
“Filmmaking could draw even more tourists,” he believes, with fans flocking to filming locations, resembling what has happened in locations like Covington, Georgia, where shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “In the Heat of the Night” have been filmed. In fact, an entire tourism industry has sprung up around the shows, boosting the town’s economy along the way, fan by visiting fan.
“The scenery and the amount of down to earth people make McCreary County special,” Kidd, who grew up in Stearns, alongside his brother, Kenny, said. “The time and effort that locals put into their gifts are unmatched, and I believe it’s a lot to do with the area struggling or simply people not having much to do. So, they invest their time in their passions.”
Fans hoping to see Kidd on the big screen will have to wait a bit longer, though, as “A Night of the Living Dead” is still in production, expecting to rap later this month, but in the opinion of Director Kenny Scott Guffey, it is a film that is a perfect allegory for contemporary times.
“The idea to remake ‘Night of the Living Dead’ came about because of COVID,” he acknowledged, thinking of fears that modern infectious diseases have brought about. “I had realized that during the quarantine everyone was holed up in their homes, and scared of being infected – or worse – by what was outside.”
For fans of entertainment’s popular zombie genre, it certainly mirrors the fears of COVID and the emerging Monkeypox outbreaks.
“This film is a reboot, much like the original series of films created by Romero,” said Jake C. Young, who starred as the legendary Daniel Boone in Guffey’s last film, “Boone: The Vengeance Trail.” “This is a take on the film that not only appeals to the horror genre, but also to dramatic audiences.”
Fans are expected to be able to see the film at a premiere in early 2023. Guffey’s previously released, “Boone,” had a premiere at Somerset Cinemas 8, where the director expects the team to attempt a premiere for their current undertaking.
“We expect to have a major release to platforms such as Amazon Prime, Redbox, Walmart DVD, iTunes, and all other major streaming platforms,” added Young.
As for the film’s star, Kidd, he wants this endeavor to speak to more than people’s apocalyptic fears, but directly to the people of McCreary County, as well as the genres fans around the world.
“Never accept doubt,” Kidd said, as he continues to build his entertainment resume. “There’s always going to be someone who puts you down, makes you feel unworthy, calls you names and tries to doubt your abilities. Take all of these negatives and instead of allowing doubt to take over and change what you really want and what you really want to do, turn it into drive. Push yourself harder because it’s your life, and it’s your goal and only you control your narrative.”