Friday, October 2, 2015

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Night of the Living Dead (USA, 1990) - Color, Director(s): Tom Savini
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 92 min.

Z-rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

Say Cheese!

George Romero's seminal zombie film, Night of the Living Dead, is undoubtedly a classic and landmark film in cinema. Due to an unfortunate mix up with the film's copyright, it slipped into public domain and Romero actually saw little in the way of profits. Concerned that someone would eventually produce an unauthorized remake, Romero decided to produce it himself. Tom Savini was originally brought back to do special effects, after working on Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but was persuaded to direct the movie instead.

Barbara and Ben

While staying loyal to the original film, I think the remake does improve on certain aspects of Romero's version. The original movie may have been subversive for featuring a black protagonist, but feminists have criticized the character of Barbra for being helpless and "virtually catatonic" throughout the film. Patricia Tallman's (Babylon 5, Army of Darkness) portrayal of Barbara is strong, vigilant, and a total bad ass. There's a moment after she arrives at the house where she's in shock but quickly gets over it. She has the awareness to know whenever someone, living or dead, is coming up behind her. She's the one who realizes you can run past the zombies and makes plans to escape. She's crackshot with the rifle, getting headshots on every zombie she aims at, and she even bashes a tubby zombie's head in with a fire poker! In true Final Girl form, you even see her literally and metaphorically putting on the pants in one scene.

Tony Todd (Candyman) plays Ben and he's fantastic as always. Tom Towles, who sadly passed away earlier in April this year, plays the obnoxious Harry Cooper. Towles is known for playing scumbags and he really manages to get under your skin from the very first moment he appears on screen. In the original movie, Harry was a selfish coward only looking out for his own self-interest but Towles' Cooper is all that and more. He's a loud, pompous jackass who acts like a big shot around his wife but doesn't lift a finger to help everyone else board up windows.


This movie has the same claustrophobic setting as the original but a couple of the characters are more developed. This one also touches more on how difficult it is to kill loved ones, especially when you don't know what's going on or what's causing them to act this way. Russell Streiner (Barbara's brother Johnny from the original) and "Chilly Billy" Cardille both make cameo appearances.

Uncle Rege Zombie

Nudity: Matching nude male and female zombie buttocks. There is some female zombie sideboob too but it's hardly worth mentioning

Gore: Not as much as you might expect from a movie directed by Tom Savini. He had to cut several scenes from the film to avoid an NC-17 rating and was not allowed to fully explore his vision. Savini describes the production as the worst nightmare of his life, with less than half of his ideas making it into the final version of the film. The make-up and special effects do look fantastic though! The effects team studied autopsy and forensic pathology textbooks to make them look as realistic as possible. I hear that Savini sometimes shows the cut scenes at conventions. I would really like to have seen his vision without meddling from producers or the MPAA.

Awesome: Very. As far as remakes go, this is definitely one of the better ones I've ever seen. Initially, the movie caught a lot of flack for being so similar to the original but has since gained some cult popularity. I think this remake does exactly what remakes are supposed to do, update certain aspects of the story. If the story was radically different, they should just make a completely original film. Following the era of splatter cinema that the original helped usher in and the slasher boom of the 70's and 80's, I feel like a full color update is very much welcome. Sadly, there have been multiple attempts to cash-in on this title and they have all been terrible. There's even a campaign for an animated remake with genre favorites attached like Tony Todd, Danielle Harris, and Bill Moseley. Much like the living dead, they never stop coming!