Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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I once read that Tom Savini apparently pulled a Barry Levinson and apologized for his 1990 remake of George Romero’s classic zombie film “Night of the Living Dead.” If that’s the case, then allow me to apologize for calling Tom Savini a pussy for doing so. Savini’s update of the film is a grade-A horror film and probably a classic to anyone who grew up around its release. As a child during that time, I could only recall the scene from Romero’s 1968 original when the cemetery zombie breaks through the car window with the rock. Growing up around Savini’s film, I have far more memories of that than I actually do its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong…I love the original, but when it comes to old horror films, nostalgia plays a big part in the enjoyment factor and Savini’s version still holds up as well as it did then.

The plots between both films are very similar, so I’m going to attempt to refrain from using terms such as “like the original” when describing this version. Like the original (aw, shit, I did it!) the film begins with our heroine Barbara and her brother Johnnie (a hardly recognizable Bill Moseley) visiting their mother’s grave which they do every year. Out of nowhere, Barbara is attacked by a zombie which Johnnie fights off, resulting in his death (a pretty nasty blow to the head, I might add.) Panicked, Barbara runs to a nearby farmhouse for safety where she finds more zombies lurking about. Enter Ben (Tony Todd) who plows down a few zombies in his truck and helps her to rid of those remaining in the house. Shortly after, we meet another group of people who are hiding out in the cellar; two are locals and then there are the Coopers whose daughter is ill from being bitten by one of the zombies. Of course we know they’re zombies, but nobody in the film does. Panic and chaos ensue, especially between the rational Ben and the epitome-of-asshole Mr. Cooper. Since Ben is low on gas, they have to work together to figure out a way to get to a nearby gas pump, all the while surviving the hordes of undead outside.

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There are obviously a few noticeable differences between the 1968 version of “Night of the Living Dead” and its remake. Being that racism was hardly as large of an issue in 1990, the social commentary involving Ben and the film’s original ending are wiped away. There are a few class issues in the film but nothing to wipe your brow over. Barbara also goes from being a female in shock to Barbarella when it comes down to surviving. She may seem not so sexy at the beginning of the film, but once she puts on some old farmer’s pants and blasts one zombie headshot after the other, even the name “Barbara” will turn you on. The acting is quite solid for a horror film made in ’90, especially on the part of Tony Todd. Tony Todd is one of those actors that just creeps the fuck out of me now. If were in a bathroom with him, I’d probably hide in the handicapped stall until he left. In this film, he looks like the nicest guy ever. If I met him in a bathroom back then, I’d probably offer to hold his dick for him.

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On the technical side, there isn’t much to complain about. With a screenplay written by Romero himself (adapted from his original script) and serving as executive producer alongside his original “NOTLD” co-writer John Russo (as Producer), you already know the material can’t be bad. Then you have make up and special-FX guru Tom Savini making his directorial film debut on material that he loves, so you know you’re going to have some amazing special effects. There’s unfortunately not as much gore as you would expect, but remember that the MPAA were fucking ridiculous about violence then, so the film was forced to cut out some more headshots and a shotgun-blast-zombie-explosion from the final cut. Back then, a film like “Hostel” or the “Dawn of the Dead” remake would have never made the cut, yet you could see a pair of tits in a PG film and hear the word “fuck” twice in the same sentence in a PG-13. Oh, the irony. Moving along, The cinematography is great and the score is quite effective (again, for a ‘90s film). All in all, I can’t see why Savini would ever have doubted himself for remaking it. Better he did in 1990 than Paul W.S. Anderson in 2007, right?

The Hidden Message: Unfortunately, Barbara…they’re still coming to get you.

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~ by exploitnation on March 10, 2008.

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