Director: Tom Savini
Starring: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, McKee Anderson, William Butler
There IS a fate worse than death.
Barbara and her brother Johnny is visiting their mother’s grave. Johnny starts to make fun of his sister while they are there, but suddenly zombies starts to appear and attack them. Johnny gets killed during the struggle, while Barbara is able to flee away.
She arrives at a farmhouse where she first come across a zombie inside and quickly leaves, only to be consoled by a guy named Ben who arrived just as she was running out of the house and they decide that it’s still safer to go inside this house than stay outside of it. They find more people, living this time, in the basement and they use the house as a safety zone while more and more zombies are gathering outside of it.
This is a remake of one of the highest regarded horror movies of old time – the George Romero classic with the same title from 1968. Some say the birth of the remake came simply because the filmmakers never got the copyright for the original and this was a decent way to make some well deserved money off the title. This time the original director George Romero was happy to produce and write the script, while the makeup wizard Tom Savini got his chance to direct his first full length movie.
They stayed very faithfully to the original and made some minor adjustments to make it more modern. The biggest changes are done to the Barbara character, who went from being in a state of shock during the original to snap out of it midway through the movie here and become more of a tough action heroine instead. I thought that change worked well and the other minor changes wasn’t too bad either.
My main problem with this film is that it respects the original too much and becomes nearly a shot by shot remake. It feels so unnecessary and it becomes kind of dull after a while. From a viewer’s perspective I find this remake to be pointless, especially when you also take into consideration that we had already gotten Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead by that time, so you had to bring something fresh to the screen if you where gonna impress zombie fans.
Tony Todd, two years prior to doing Candyman, did a good job as Ben. Patricia Tallman (Army of Darkness, Dead Air) had the pleasure of playing the updated Barbara. She did look the part of a bad ass female, but her acting wasn’t that great. Tom Towles (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Home Sick) made Harry into a just as annoying and angry character as he was portrayed in the original. I think they should have changed this character around this time and made more of it instead of having him just be an annoyance to the others and also the viewers.
As mentioned, this was Savini’s first movie as a director. He had previously done some episodes of the Tales from the Darkside TV-show, but this was his first big test. I don’t think he displayed any big talent here and I’m sure he would even agree that this is not a role that he shines the most in. The look of the film is very bleak and tries to go for a depressing and dreadful tone. It doesn’t quite work that well for me. They did not go all out with the blood and guts that Dawn and Day had and Savini did not do the special effects for the film, which also shows since they are not anything special.
The Night of the Living Dead remake is something that would happen sooner or later no matter what. It fails to create a world on its own and becomes rather pointless and undistinctive for me. Instead of watching this I would rather recommend that you rewatch the original one again or watch any of the Romero directed zombie movies instead.