Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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When the dead rise from their graves to consume the flesh of the living a small but desperate group hole up in a farmhouse hoping to survive the night. Remake of the 1968 Romero classic.

We owe much of our fan base as members of the living dead to Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, so I’ll always be a huge fan of the film. I’ll never forget the moment as a young pup of around seven (still among the living at this point of course) when my uncle snuck me out of the house to go see the movie in a theatre. We went to this shitty little 99 cent theatre, they’re called Grindhouse theatres now, but back then they were just called “touch as little as possible and don’t dare try and eat anything” theatres, and I saw my very first zombie flick, the granddaddy of them all so to speak. I was immediately hooked, wanting more and more as I got older, filling my head with as much undead as I could. With this (some would say sick) obsession is it any wonder I ended becoming a zombie later in life willingly? Though I’ll be damn if that bite didn’t hurt like hell.

Since this movie is damn close to the original (with a few exceptions such Barbara being a lot stronger, Ben being a lot more motivated, and the film being a lot more explicit) I don’t see the point in describing it for a second time in one day. Besides, I think you’d have to have been living in the back of a deep dark cave to have not seen this film by now, or possibly five years old. I’ll just post a link to the original review though just in case you need a bit of a refresher.

Original Film Review

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Let me just get this out of the way first and foremost because I know it’s going to piss off more than a few people. Despite how much I love the original film, I think this one is actually a lot better. There a couple of minor things that make this possible, but the main reason is Barbara’s portrayal. In the original she is a weak willed, hysterical annoyance to the film. Her only reason for being there seemingly because someone had a fetish for screaming woman. That is all she does the entire film is scream. She is a completely useless waste of space in the house, and the film would have been immensely improved by her dying within the first five minutes. In this version she’s much different. She still starts out terrified and hysterical but transforms into a much stronger woman as the film progresses. The transformation was shown really well too, gradually happening until she’s the toughest character in the film. This was actually something Romero wanted to do originally, but this idea was scrapped when he saw Judith O’Dea (Barbara in the original) perform as a terrified woman. I wish they had gone with his first idea because I think it would have improved upon the original.

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{This is not a woman you want to fuck with}

One of the other things that made the film better was how much more explicit the film could be, but this one is completely understandable. In the late 60’s is was much harder to be graphic than it was in the early 90’s. George A. Romero actually did a great job in being as explicit as he possibly could, showing a level of brutality that was near unheard of in 1968. There are some things in the remake that Romero himself wanted to do in the original, but wasn’t allowed to for a few reasons. Things like showing the lynched zombies being shot at (it being too racial for the time), some more graphic deaths that he was asked to tone down, and a few things towards the end of the remake that I don’t want to give away on the off chance you’ve not seen this version. The remake is very, very similar, shot for shot in certain cases like when Barbara runs the car into a tree after Johnny’s death (though director Tom Savini was saddened by this since the car used was in reality Savini’s first car), blood dripping from the ceiling on Barbara in the beginning, and the Cooper daughter killing her mother (though in this one she really bites her instead of stabbing her which make so much more sense, pay attention in the background for a nod to the original in the form of a trowel), but there are certain bits that are changed around. Nothing drastic mind you, just bits and pieces that do make small to large improvements over the original.

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{That zombie in the middle looks fucking terrified}

The acting is another thing that is amazing about the remake, but I don’t think I’d classify it as better than the original. It’s amazingly wonderful acting but the original had some great acting as well. One of my favorite things about the original was how great the acting was, each actor playing their part perfectly, making you either love or hate them. Though as I mentioned in the previous review, I’m not sure if you were supposed to hate Barbara or not. I don’t think Judith O’Dea did a bad job with her character at all, I just hated the never ending screaming. The actors in the remake are all just as good as those in the original with the most notable being Patricia Tallman as Barbara and Tony Todd as Ben. Though I think it goes without saying at this point that Tony Todd is amazing in anything he’s in. Even Tom Towles as Harry Cooper did a good job, truly making you hate his character.

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{You will come to hate this asshole}

Now let’s get to some of the things I didn’t like about the remake.

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{Zombie “What” face}

The first is the effects. I won’t say they’re all bad, in fact some are spectacularly good, but this is another film where for everything done right there is something done just as horrible. Though if I’m being honest, as much as I love Tom Savini, this movie might be one of his worst. There are some great effects but there are also a lot of really bad effects. Some things I can understand and give a free pass to like the zombies breathing. You can actually see their breath, yeah, the breath of creatures that shouldn’t be breathing. Upon research I found out that it was filmed when it was cold outside so it explains a bit. It just really takes away from the feeling of them being dead when you can see them breath. That is excusable, but there are some other things that aren’t. For instance, when Johnny is killed in the beginning by his being knocked into a gravestone rather harshly it is very, very easy to tell it was a badly put together mannequin. There’s also a zombie wondering around the graveyard not too long after looking like he just got off the mortician’s table that is very clearly wearing a full body sleeve made to look like he was being worked on. I hated noticing these things as there is some truly great work done in the effects department for this film, but unfortunately, making certain things look so good only makes the awful things more noticeable. Thankfully, most of the zombies had some great makeup work done to them, but that leads to my other major complaint. How they acted.

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{Can’t tell that’s a mannequin at all}

Some of these zombies are just way too smart. You’d see them run into a wall over and over again but then do something like turning a door knob. Sure, a door knob is a simple thing to figure out, but these are supposed to be immensely dumb characters. Yet they navigate stairs with ease, use a rock to smash through a window, and beat on boards to pop them out instead of just trying to push them off. I never saw a zombie solve a math problem, but I’m pretty sure they were still a little brighter than they should have been. Though they’re still smarter than the living asshat who shoots a lock off of a gas tank and blows himself up. Damn, that guy was fucking stupid.

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{Not quite as stupid as ignoring the hungry zombie right behind you but still pretty fucking stupid}

All in all, this was still a great film, one I prefer over the original. I’d give the original flick a watch and then put this one on, you won’t be disappointed.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Tom Savini (special effects genius, also directed The Theatre Bizarre, Deadtime Stories)

Starring: Tony Todd (Candyman, Night of the Living Dead 3D: Origins), Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5, InAlienable), and Tom Towles (House of 1000 Corpses, Devil’s Rejects)

Released By: 21st Century Film Corporation and Columbia Pictures

Release Year: 1990

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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