Monday, May 11, 2015

1PanelReview Night of the Living Dead (1990)

The best remake of a George A. Romero film is not a Zack Snyder film - get it right people!

This here's one of the very few rare films special effects veteran Tom Savini directed.

When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

What it is: Night of the Living Dead aka Night of the Living Dead (1990) or Tom Savini's Night of the Living Dead

Which is: A Horror/Zombie film
Directed by: Tom Savini
Year: 1990

Directed by Tom Savini as his real film debut following a few episodes of Tales from the Darkside, this 1990 Night of the Living Dead is the remake of the cult classic 1968 George A. Romero film. The film stars the Candyman himself Tony Todd as Ben and Patricia Tallman as the new correctly-spelled Barbara this time. The screenplay itself was slightly rewritten by George A. Romero without the involvement of John A. Russo.

Following the huge success of Romero's original zombie films "Dead trilogy" Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, there was a push for another installment in the series. But Romero himself wouldn't go back until a decade later with Land of the Dead. In 1990 to answer to public demand that was a its highest coming from the 1980s, special make-up effects creator, stuntman and make up artist Tom Savini who worked on past Romero films directed a new entry in the film series. His own entry, a remake of the original Night of the Living Dead where it all began. The film wants itself pretty close to the original, in fact it sticks to the original storyline rather faithfully. The film basically follows the same script with all the original twists and turns kept intact.
What's Good about it: The original was such a modest film, it surprised everyone when it went on becoming a huge commercial hit, spawning an entire sub-genre of horror and a few "sequels". This was the occasion to remake this cult classic with the proper budget they couldn't afford at the time and bring it back for a whole new audience.
Let it be said, Night of the Living Dead 1990 is a type of remake you simply just don't see Hollywood do anymore. Instead of focusing on completely reimagining things like our modern constant reboots (Spider-man anyone?), it's basically the same film from the same crew. Mostly a more recent update of the original, upgraded with the new technology available at the time. The very heart of the original film is still intact, the same characters are still present and there's even a couple of shots recreated, as if the film used the same storyboard.
And what this remake made me realize is how effective and perfect the original Night was. The story goes through the same notes and the same beats. It's a very simple tale, but so effective and powerful. Identifiable and relatable characters. Intelligent protagonists that try to survive as best as they can, and work as a group as best as possible.
As you can see it's basically the same storyline, to a point.
It's a really well done product from people that clearly loved the original, and it shows.
Where the film really shines is through its masterful special effects and gore. Compared to most horror films from the 80s it still pretty modest, but Tom Savini really tried to give an authentic experience. It's slightly bloody, more realistic. And it ends up working great for the film's favor. They didn't want to make it as bloody and gory as what was being done at the time, keep it restrained and not go into any unnecessary excess as a respect for the original. It gives the film a more realistic nature.
Tom Savini might not have been that experimented as a director, yet he crafted this film with a lot of care.
He was really able to recapture the tone of the original.
Finally, casting Tony Todd as Ben is easily the best aspect of this remake. Todd was able to make this version of Ben a lot more mult-dimensional.
The music composed by Paul McCollough for this occasion is really good, perfectly in line with Romero's later entries Dawn or Day. They might feel slightly dated by now, but we really traded for a far moodier and more tense 1980s-style score.

What's Bad about it: Some would say, what's the point of remake that follows the original film so closely? Did we even need two versions of the same exact film, one could ask. 
The remake idea originally came from issues George A. Romero was having over the rights for the original Night. Neither Romero nor Russo were ever able to retain the rights of the original black & white classic, and it has been in the free domain for many years. To be able to finally make a profit of the original film, which any studio can still distribute to this day, they decided to remake it. Romero was set to make the film, but Savini finally persuaded Romero could direct it for him, being one of his favorite film.
Tom Savini himself had some trouble making the film. He was never truly able to make it the way he wanted. A lot of his own ideas were finally cut because of the producers, plus the fact he didn't have much experience making a film caused some issues to make his vision come to film.
Hate it or love it, one of the biggest change in the remake his regarding Barbara's role and character. After witnessing the death of her brother at the hands of the very first zombie on film she quickly turns into a more proactive character. No doubt influenced by James Cameron's Aliens' Ripley character immortalized by Sigourney Weaver. This new Barbara transition into a more badass character comes pretty unexpected. While I personally prefer this new take on Barbara over the catatonic Barbra character of the original, it kinds loses on realism here. And the evolution doesn't feel that natural. 
And despite keeping it in tone with the original Night, one could argue there's just not much blood or gore. Which didn't really help the film back then.

Overall: This new Night of the Living Dead is a pretty good remake. And one of the better more "modern" zombie films out there.

At the time the film was mostly received to bad reception, which I feel unjustified in my eyes. This remake actually sticks pretty close to the original, which is great. You don't see that much anymore. Since the film is now in colored compared to the back & white aspect of the 1968 original, it sort of loses some of that realistic tense that was disguised by the limitations at the time. The lack of color gave Romero's film a certain credibility to its cinematic nature. Also, it might not have been the film Tom Savini wanted to make, but I think it's great. At the end of the day it still recaptures the cult classic. And the special effects are easily some of the more effective in most horror remakes out there.

This film comes of course Highly Recommended for any horror fan. It remains a cult classic zombie film, modernized. The perfect companion piece to Romero's later Dead trilogy entries. In my eyes it slightly surpasses the original.

A faithful remake of a classic. Without a doubt the best horror remake ever made along John Carpenter's The Thing, it comes close to replacing the original Night of the Living Dead for anyone up for a Romero-Zombie film marathon.
I give it: 3 / 3!


  1. I actively enjoy this remake more the original. The original is perhaps a bit more interesting in terms of the (apparently unintentional) racial commentary in how Ben is killed, but this one maintains that and gives Barbara a more interesting character while doing so, and if anything, the savagery and inhumanity toward the zombies at the end - in how they are hung and used for fights and bonfires - says more about a possible tipping point for humanity than the original.

    1. Personally I love them both, but I got a slight preference for the remake. Not because the other's older or in black & white, just because Tom Savini actually had Barbara do something (and be badass).