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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

If you have read much here at the blog you probably know that I’m not much of a remake guy. But there are exceptions to that rule and Night of the Living Dead 90 is one of those. The script was updated by Romero to reflect things that he didn’t like or didn’t play correctly to a modern audience any longer. He also put effects wizard Tom Savini in the director’s chair. The man himself rewrote the script and someone who genuinely loves the original directed it. I’m down with that.

If you have seen the original the story starts off in a familiar way. Barbara and Johnny are off to cemetery to visit a grave when they are attacked by the living dead. Johnny is killed and Barbara runs off to a nearby farmhouse where she soon meets up with Ben. He has a truck but no gas. They also meet some other survivors who were hiding in the basement and eventually make a break for the gas pumps out back to refill the pickup and escape the zombies that are surrounding the house. That doesn’t work out so well and mostly due to an ass named Harry! The next morning the posse arrives to clear the house and save the survivors, but are there any?

When someone accuses me of just hating on remakes because that is the cool thing to do I always bring up this movie. The original Night of the Living Dead is one of my favorite horror flicks ever. Because it was in the public domain it played constantly on the late-night horror hosted shows that I grew up watching. So, I’ve seen it hundreds of times and love it on each viewing. There aren’t many movies that I’m more invested in as a fan than I am with the original NotLD. I say that because I love the remake. It’s very difficult to do a remake correctly, but this is a fine example of how to do it. 

Random Steelers hat!
First Romero was involved which gives this movie instant credibility. The fact that he went back and “fixed” some things that bothered him about the original was fun to see. The most noticeable difference is in the Barbara character. Instead of being catatonic and mostly useless the ‘90s version becomes invested in her own survival and immediately takes charge. She is the one that tries to calm everyone down and get them to work together. She is also the one that wants the group to make a break for one of the rescue centers. Barbara is a much more interesting and fun character in this version of Night of the Living Dead. And that ending… she is awesome.

The cast is also much better than the original. No disrespect meant but other than Duane Jones I never really thought that the actors were great. But in the remake, we get Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, William Butler, and Tom Towles. These are all actors that have long resumes and bring a lot of experience and talent to the project. The best “upgrade” is Patricia Tallman as Barbara. I’ve already gone on about how great this version is, part of that is the writing but a lot of it is Tallman’s acting. The character goes from running away to fighting, without feeling like she is suddenly an action hero. There is a character arc here as she still shows emotion, including anger and a sense of justice. God, I love that ending!

The zombies look great
The most noticeable change in the remake is the special effects work. We get a lot of cool looking zombies and a decent “feasting” scene. From the start, there is a neat bit with a recently dead person stepping out of their burial clothing, another that is bent in half by a pickup truck, an overdose zombie, and many more. Each of them has a reason they are dead which is a pet peeve of mine because I want to have an idea how they died. I love the attention to detail that someone like Savini brings to a zombie movie. Far too many filmmakers have all the undead look the same, which is annoying and disappointing. Here we get some quality work on a budget and it makes a huge difference. The feasting scene has the zombies ripping into the remains of the unfortunate gas pump victims. It isn’t as gruesome as Dawn or Day, but still is a good time.

This is a great movie that switches things up like the Barbara character and the ending so that it is different while still feeling like the original. We also get to see some familiar faces, especially Chilly Billy interviewing someone again! This is what a remake should be. Update what needs updating, maybe put a small twist in to surprise the audience, a couple of cameos as a nod to the original, and most importantly treat the first film with respect. I can’t think of a better remake of a horror movie than this one right here. I highly recommend it.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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