Monday, October 15, 2007

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

This is obviously not the original version of the film, which stands as one of the pinnacles of the horror genre, and one of my all-time favorite movies, but rather the remake by Tom Savini. Savini, who had long been close friends with George Romero, doing the makeup and special effects for most of his films, finally made his directorial debut here, and I gotta say, he didn’t do a half bad job.

Let’s start with the good. The original film was made on a budget approximating the cost of a complete run of Darkhawk, which meant that the zombies in it (then, as here, they are never actually called ‘zombies’ by any of the characters) mostly looked like people with dark eye makeup and bad teeth. Savini, utilizing a much larger budget, gives his creatures the royal treatment, making them look just plain nasty as can be. The other big benefit of the increased budget comes in the acting department. While the actors here didn’t have much more experience to their names than the ones in the original, they are clearly a cut above, with Tony Todd (here a few years from terrifying audiences as Candyman) leading the pack. Even the zombies get into it a bit, as when they try to hold them off with flaming torches and one zombie darts back with a look on his face like, “This certainly isn’t what I signed up for!” So yes, while much maligned by the people that always cry foul when a classic gets remade, this really isn't nearly as bad as they would claim.

One thing that is noticeably weaker, though, is the lack of tension in this version. The original was one of the scariest, most claustrophobic horror movies ever made, and while this one does manage to capture some of that feel, it doesn’t do it nearly as well. It’s hard not to make the direct comparison between the two, as, until we get to the last ten-fifteen minutes of the film, it follows the original so closely that they may as well be the same film (the only change of note, aside from the climax and ending – Barbara, rather than falling to pieces and being useless the whole way through the film, becomes a pretty major ass kicker herself). Still, it does do quite a few things as well as the original, and serves as a nice alternative for people tired of watching the original for the fiftieth time.

Rating: ** ½

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