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'The Walking Dead': Greg Nicotero Paying Homage to George Romero With Scary Episodes

The Walking Dead offered up true horror genre scares with its Mid-Season Nine finale in December, a tone it is aiming to maintain in its next eight episodes.

As the focus of The Walking Dead shifts back to threats being presented by walkers and villains who disguise themselves as walkers, the AMC series is getting back to its horror genre roots. For executive producer Greg Nicotero, this is an exciting and important element. "The show really hasn't been scary for a while," Nicotero admits to ComicBook.com. "I mean, it just wasn't necessarily in the DNA. The last few seasons, there was a lot more of the drama of the war between Rick and Negan, the Sanctuary and our good guys, so to speak."

Going forward, the show will aim to recapture the creepy magic created in the scene which claimed Tom Payne's Paul "Jesus" Rovia character. "To be able to introduce these new villains and this new threat, I was really excited," Nicotero said. "Listen, when I shot [Episode 9x09], we shot the opening my initial editor's cut. I loved the opening of the cemetery scene. I thought it was so scary, and just something really, really different and really exciting."

In fact, The Walking Dead is so focused on being scary and horror-driven in the near future that Nicotero found another opportunity to pay tribute to horror legend George Romero in the opening minutes. "They went in and did some additional shooting in the cemetery for the end of episode eight, because I think that they realized that we had some great opportunities in this cemetery," Nicotero said. "I mean, I kept saying, 'It's Night of the Living Dead.' We've never shot zombies in a cemetery before, so this is the closest that we're ever going to get to a George Romero homage, which is to have zombies in the cemetery. So a lot of the shots that I did in the [Episode 9x09 opening] are all intended to be evocative of classic horror, and the classic imagery of zombies in the cemetery."

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There is also an homage to the first episode of The Walking Dead but more on that on ComicBook.com this Sunday night.

The Walking Dead returns for the back half of its ninth season on February 10, 2019 at 9 pm ET. Fear the Walking Dead will return for its fifth season in 2019. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter and watch ComicBook.com's After The Dead each Sunday night following new episodes.