Did You Catch All These Zombie Movie References in ‘Zombie Tidal Wave’?

Zombie Tidal Wave premiered on Syfy last night. Ian Ziering reunited with his Sharknado director Anthony C. Ferrante for an all-new tale combining monsters and natural disasters. The Zombie Tidal Wave washed up an army of the undead on the shores of Emrys Bay. Hunter Shaw (Ziering) led his friends to safety chopping up zombies all along the way.

Zombie Tidal Wave
ZOMBIE TIDAL WAVE — Pictured: Ian Ziering as Hunter Shaw — (Photo by: BROBOND ENTERTAINMENT/SYFY)

You don’t need to be a fan of zombie movies to enjoy Zombie Tidal Wave. Chopping up zombies is good fun for everyone. However, if you are a die-hard fan of zombie movies, you may have noticed some homages to the classics, and some were so subtle you might have missed them. Luckily, Ferrante spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet about the zombie references he put in Zombie Tidal Wave. Spoilers for Zombie Tidal Wave in the following story. 

The George Romero reference you probably didn’t notice in ‘Zombie Tidal Wave’

A band named The Fulcis is featured very prominently in Zombie Tidal Wave. Lucio Fulci directed many Italian zombie movies. Ferrante suggests you read the background sets too.

“In terms of horror movie references, if you pay attention to the signage, particularly in the center of town, there are loads of references to things,” Ferrante said. “If you know your zombie movies you’ll catch some of them.”

However, one big reference to Night of the Living Dead creator George Romero was probably not featured on screen enough to be noticed.

Zombie Tidal Wave

“You don’t really see closeups of them, but all the beer in the movie is Romero Beer,” Ferrante said. “There are different brands. There are the Night, Day and Dawn beers. We did specific labels for them but again, it’s stuff that I’m telling you this but no one would ever really notice.”

It’s a tricky balance giving fans those Easter eggs without being too obvious.

“The thing about an in-joke like that is that if you draw too much attention to them, people will just go, ‘Yeah, why are you stopping the movie for this,’” Ferrante said. “They’re Easter eggs. You’ve got to freeze-frame to find them.”

Mock beer labels do serve a practical purpose behind the scenes though.

“The art department, if you don’t have product placement for a beer, it’s like what do you want to call it?” Ferrante said. “Well, it’ll be Romero beer.”

One zombie gets killed in a very noticeable way

In all the zombie movies made by Hollywood, and international filmmakers, zombies have been dispatched in many unique ways. There’s one that Zombie Tidal Wave recreates that could not be mistaken.

“In the early ‘80s, in Dr. Butcher M.D., they have a zombie’s face getting torn up by a motorboat. So it wasn’t the best effect [in Dr. Butcher] but in this movie, we use the longboat motor.”

The zombies in ‘Zombie Tidal Wave’ look familiar

Zombie makeup has come a long way since George Romero made Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Zombie Tidal Wave goes back to the greenish faces of Romero’s original ghouls, which were only seen in color in Dawn of the Dead. Ferrante said that was actually a coincidence. 

Zombie Tidal Wave

“I think the design of the makeup, when we started seeing it on screen, I’m like oh, yeah, I guess we kind of went a little Romero with it,” Ferrante said. “The reason why they were that color and everything has to do with a story point, the phosphorous in the water, the stuff that kind of flows through the zombies. I think it was more of a story point than a direct nod to the Romero movies.”

That’s why Zombie Tidal Wave zombies have blue blood too.

“In the movie, they explain they were experimented on with this material,” Ferrante said. “It was stuck at the bottom of the ocean and there’s a lot of phosphorus in their system. That mix of everything makes their blood blue.”

‘Zombie Tidal Wave’ battled censors like the classics too

Back in the ‘80s, the MPAA was very strict with horror movies. Filmmakers would overload their movies with gore so that when cuts were demanded, they would end up reducing the violence to the amount the directors always intended.

“I did the 80s thing where I put more gore in than needed,” Ferrante said. “I just went more over the top with it just because I knew that we had to. So that way, I was expecting them to come back and go, ‘You’ve got to cut back here, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.’”

It turns out 2019 basic cable standards and practices are much more lenient than the MPAA of the 1980s.

Ian Ziering in Zombie Tidal Wave
ZOMBIE TIDAL WAVE — Season:2019 — Pictured: Ian Ziering as Hunter Shaw — (Photo by: BROBOND ENTERTAINMENT/SYFY)

“We got it back and it was like oh, this is fine,” Ferrante said. “So we actually had to self-censor ourselves. We had to go in and cut it to where we wanted it to be. There were extra spurts and all this stuff that just wasn’t necessary. I was shocked at the stuff we got away with.”

Will there be a ‘Zombie Tidal Wave 2’?

Ferrante and Ziering ended up making six Sharknados. Could Zombie Tidal Wave be their next franchise?

“I stand by how the first Sharknado was,” Ferrante said. “We didn’t think there would be a sequel. If there is to be a sequel with this, the audience has to be there. You make a complete movie and then you hope that there’s life after it. If you make a movie intending a franchise, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. You can certainly seed it with things. Certainly, with Sharknado, it was a one-off, but the concept could live on.”

If there is a Zombie Tidal Wave 2, Ferrante will think of ideas, but he didn’t leave an obvious opening for a sequel.

Ian Ziering in Zombie Tidal Wave
ZOMBIE TIDAL WAVE — Pictured: Ian Ziering as Hunter Shaw — (Photo by: BROBOND ENTERTAINMENT/SYFY)

“In this movie, there are certainly a lot of strands and stuff that you could take and extrapolate and build into an even bigger mythology,” Ferrante said. “But at the end of the movie, there’s no gotcha thing where oh my gosh, this person’s still alive, or this or that. If it’s successful, I’m sure they will want to do another one of these movies but right now, we haven’t really thought too much about it. We just kind of finished this movie and hope for the best.”