Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 14: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

(dir. Tom Savini)

*First time viewing

     George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead not only started the zombie phenomenon, but also offered sharp social commentary on the 1960s. Despite Romero’s claim that the film’s racial themes were unintentional, there’s no denying the film’s significance on that front. The focus on character and the controlled use of the living dead allowed for the film to transcend its status as just another low-budget horror film. Savini’s remake has a strong focus on character as well, and with Romero on script duty, the film follows the same plot as the original for the first two-thirds. The effects are better, the film feels more expensive, and the drama is heightened. But, there’s something missing.

     Savini’s effects work looks great (though not as good as Dawn of the Dead) and while color allows these effects to stand out more, the loss of black and white makes the imagery less haunting than the original. While I wish the film could stand on its own, Romero’s involvement with the remake makes it impossible to view without comparing it to the original. Though there are some differences, like a volatile relationship between Ben and Cooper, and Barbara going full-Rambo, the film doesn’t separate itself enough from the 1968 version to say anything new. I think if the script had been written by someone else and offered a new take, the remake would have been far more successful. Despite Barbara spelling out the film’s central idea at the end (“we’re them, and they’re us") the film never runs with this idea or shows what this Night of the Living Dead means in late 80s/ early 90s culture.

Scare Factor: 1/5 While the film is entertaining, the ending lacks the same memorable punch as the original film, and as a result the film offers less to think about. It’s not a bad zombie movie, and considering the slew of truly bad zombie films out there, it’s probably one of the better ones. But it’s a film that never strives to be anything more than a competent remake.

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