Night of the Living Dead (1990)
night of the living dead | remake | tom savini | george a. romero | tony todd | patricia tallman | tom towles | united states | zombie | zombies | mckee anderson | william butler | katie finneran | heather mazur | bill moseley | bill cardille
Film: Night of the Living Dead
Director: Tom Savini
Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman and Tom Towles
This film I have to admit that I saw long before the original. If you’ve read other reviews by me, I disliked black and white films with no real good reason other than they weren’t in color. I would watch this film regularly to the point where my sister and I can quote a good portion of the film. I still think that this is a solid remake to a classic. The synopsis for this film is the unburied dead return to life and seeks human victims, trying a group of people in a farm house.
We begin with a brother and sister driving out to a cemetery to pay their respects to their mother. They are Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and Johnnie (Bill Moseley). Johnnie is being a jerk and trying to scare his sister, while she is more reserved and is telling him to be quiet.
While they are at the cemetery, they see an old man approach. He stumbles and apologizes, but they are attacked by another man. The siblings get into each other’s way when fighting it. Johnnie ends up getting his feet tangled under him with the person on his back. He falls face-first onto a tombstone.
Barbara runs back to the car. She sees a man coming toward her. What she doesn’t see is that his suit is falling as it is cut in the back. This man is also dead and as he walks, his suit reveals that he has autopsy scars on his chest. Barbara panics and tries to find the keys to the car. While she does, the first man attacks her. He breaks the window and she finds the break release.
The car rolls back and crashes into a tree. Barbara flees and tries to find somewhere to go. She ends up finding a house that is all by itself. She goes inside, but finds that someone was making something on the stove, that has completely burned up. She notices that blood dripping from the second floor and then encounters a large man that attacks her. She flees outside.
We then meet Ben (Tony Todd). He’s driving a truck and he hits a zombie that is in the road. He joins Barbara and tries to talk to her, but she is hysterical and cannot get anything out of her. He takes her back into the house. Inside, they encounter more zombies and clear the house of them. He tries to ask her about the house and she informs him that it isn’t hers.
These two soon realize their not alone. Hiding in the basement is Harry (Tom Towles) and Helen Cooper (McKee Anderson) along with their daughter Sarah (Heather Mazur). Also are Tom (William Butler) and his girlfriend Judy Rose (Katie Finneran). There’s a tussle for power between Ben and Harry about who’s in charge. Harry wants everyone in the basement while Ben doesn’t want to box himself in. It is decided they’ll board up the windows. The decision is to try find the keys to the gas pump out and to seek help. The problem is that the number of zombies grows outside.
I have to say that I usual do not like shot-for-shot remakes of films, because it defeats the purpose. In the case for this film, it was done more because due to issues with copyrights, director George A. Romero never really got any financial compensation from his original film and immediately fell into public domain. With that said, I like to see a remake that does something different. I have to say that this one does very closely follow the original, but I think it does a lot that helps it stand on its own. I really enjoy making Barbara a stronger character is one of them.
This film though is hampered with how well regarded the original is. The original redefined the zombie genre and the era it came out in; having a black hero was really unheard of. It wasn’t Romero’s intention of hiring him to make a statement; Duane Jones was just the best actor that auditioned. I do like they kept with what they did in the original with having Todd. We also get some toxic masculinity, especially from Harry toward his wife and Barbara. Ben does a bit as well.
My dad loves the original and he always points out the plot hole of Barbara and Johnny getting to the cemetery without seeing what is going on, but no one questions it. This one really brings that to the front for me. I also have issue with why Towles, Anderson and Mazur are dressed up for a dinner party, but the film begins in the morning. If this started the previous day, how does Tallman not know about it? Plus Todd talks like he has seen a lot in this one day as well. Just a couple things to think about that came to mind for me.
The pacing of film is also good. I think it moves through the aspects of the story and it really doesn’t waste any time getting into it. I never find myself bored. I think there’s a solid power dynamic as well between the two men. The only issue I really have here is the ending of the film. I think it is trying to make the same statement as the original. It just feels out of place and a little bit too on the nose for me.
I actually think the acting on the whole is better in this one. Todd does a good revamp of the role of Ben. I love Tallman’s take on Barbara as a strong woman instead of a catatonic liability. She does start off that way, but I think the character growth makes it even better. Towles also does well as Harry. He’s such a jerk and I think how well he plays off Todd makes it even better. The rest of the cast is also solid.
To the effects of the film, knowing that make-up artist legend Tom Savini was the director this would be good. I think the look and creativity of the zombies is great. They look distinct and you can tell time went into it. The effects were done practically and look quite amazing as well. I think the film is shot very well.
Finally to cover the soundtrack of the film, which I think is really strong. This would actually be one I’d be willing to listen to while I’m writing. It definitely adds to the scenes and helps to amp up the creepiness of scenes. This is definitely a part of the film that I find to be really strong as well.
With that said, I would recommend seeing this film. If you like zombie films, this is a modern revamping of what happened in the original and changing some things to make a film that is similar while still being different. If you don’t think too much to the story, it is good and the pacing of the film is solid. The acting is solid and the action isn’t bad either. There is some good make-up and ideas for the undead of this film. I also think the soundtrack is quite strong as well. Not better than the original, but still a great movie in its own rights.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10