ACMI’s terrifying new program focuses on the dead

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ACMI’s terrifying new program focuses on the dead

ACMI has just announced Focus on the Dead, a spotlight on seven exclusive films spanning half a century of modern zombie cinema and beyond, screening this autumn at Australia’s national museum of screen culture from 16 March to 2 April.

Accompanying the focus season, ACMI is also co-presenting a two-day conference, Mapping Global Horror: Australia, Japan and Beyond, in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology and University of Pittsburgh. Hosted on 17 and 18 March at ACMI, the program is an opportunity to further explore the global phenomenon of horror cinema through talks and presentations with world-leading academics, researchers and directors, including Japanese-Australian writer/director Natalie Erika James (Relic, 2020).

Curated by Reece Goodwin, Focus on the Dead aims to unpick the evolution of the zombie film and interrogate the links of the subgenre to the personal and political. It will include the Australian premiere of George A. Romero’s seminal Dawn of the Dead 3D, painstakingly restored frame-by-frame from the original theatrical release under the supervision of the film’s producer, Richard P. Rubinstein.

ACMI’s 2023 horror program

Mapping Global Horror: Australia, Japan & Beyond
17 March and 18 March, 11am-4pm
ACMI, Fed Square, Melbourne
Members $50, Full $70, Concession $55
Book at

Focus on the Dead
16 March to 2 April 2023
ACMI Cinemas, Fed Square
Members $12, Full $18, Concession $14
3-session pass $33–45
6-session pass $66–94
Book at

Thursday 16 March, 6:30pm and Saturday 25 March, 6:30pm: Night of the Living Dead
Friday 17 March 6pm: Relic, followed by Q&A with director Natalie Erika James
Saturday 18 March, 4pm and Thursday 23 March, 6:30pm: Dawn of the Dead 3D
Sunday 19 March, 3pm: Train to Busan
Friday 24 March, 6:30pm and Saturday 1 April, 4pm: Atlantics
Saturday 25 March, 4pm and Sunday 2 April, 3pm: The Last Man on Earth
Sunday 26 March, 3pm: Day of the Dead

Find Melbourne’s latest film, TV, literature and gaming news here.

ACMI Film and TV Curator, Reece Goodwin, said: “Since George A. Romero’s original anti-fascist classic Night of the Living Dead(part of his Trilogy of the Dead), the modern zombie film has had a complex trajectory, diverging into lots of disparate directions and covering a ton of ground – Romero’s living dead are still walking, and their stage is now truly global. Unbound from the zombie film genre, this spine-tingling film season offers an exciting and thought-provoking exploration of the horror genre and its many forms.”

Providing an incisive look into horror, the Mapping Global Horrorconference is a rare chance for screen industry professionals, academics and horror fans to deep dive into a genre that is as popular as it is socially and culturally significant worldwide. With Australia and Japan as primary entry points for a discussion, conversations and workshops hosted across two days will cover a breadth of new and revitalised themes and ideas, such as zombies, women in horror and folk horror.

Dr Andrew Lynch, conference organiser and Lecturer in Cinema and Screen Studies at Swinburne, said: “As well as tracing how the horror genre has been shaped by such transcultural anxieties, the event showcases the key role of both Japan and Australia – and even Melbourne specifically – in horror’s operations as both a global genre and a global community.”

Dr Jessica Balanzategui, conference organiser and Senior Lecturer in Media at RMIT, added: “The event highlights how horror as a global force is a powerful agent of social reflection on death and ageing. Horror films from different time periods and regions illuminate how our deepest fears are inflected by our cultural context.”

In ACMI’s Focus on the Dead, seven features will screen as part of the season including George A. Romero’s original Trilogy of the Dead, a revolutionary series of zombie films that began with the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, followed by Dawn of the Dead(presented in a newly restored 3D version making its Australian premiere) and Day of the Dead.

A precursor to the zombie film as we know it today, The Last Man on Earth is credited as a major influence on George Romero and his genre-defining vision of slow-moving zombies. Based on the book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – also adapted into The Omega Man (1971) and I am Legend (2007) – the 1964 adaptation has developed a cult following, offering an aesthetic touchpoint with its crisp black-and-white photography and eerie Rome-filmed streetscapes.

ACMI has also secured the first Australian theatrical screening of Relic, a disarmingly sensitive psychological horror that follows three generations of women responding in different ways to the decline of the eldest. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Japanese-Australian writer, director and producer Natalie Erika James. This assured debut feature wowed audiences at its Sundance Film Festival premiere in 2020 and due to the pandemic was fast-tracked to streaming platforms.

French-Senegalese director Mati Diop makes her feature film debut with Atlantics, an enchanting drama tiptoeing around the horror genre. The beguiling story of profound loss follows up on Diop’s short film of the same name about a group of Senegalese men embarking on a perilous sea voyage – now shifting focus to the women left behind. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, where Mati Diop became the first woman of colour to have a film screening in competition.

A key program highlight, Train to Busan – from South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho – is an action-horror praised as one of the best modern zombie films of all time. It follows a man and his estranged daughter who become trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak in South Korea.

Tickets for both Focus on the Dead and Mapping Global Horror: Australia, Japan & Beyond are now on sale. For full program details, visit