They’re coming to get you, Barbara…
One of the most iconic lines uttered in horror cinema, Night of the Living Dead is a classic. The dawn of the Romero zombie & the most recognisable form of the walking dead in popular culture. Released in 1968, the original zombie horror came with a low budget & in black and white so it was no surprise that a remake would eventually come. (Check out our review of the 1968 original here).
In 1990 effects/make-up artist Tom Savini would take the reigns to direct the remake. There were few better qualified as Savini had worked with Romero on Dawn of the Dead & Day of the Dead. To add more weight to the remake, Romero himself re-wrote the screenplay for the film.
The end result isn’t a bad movie by any stretch but it just feels off. It stays so true to the original that you can’t help but wonder why it even came about.
For those who don’t know…
Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and her brother Johnny (Bill Moseley) are visiting their mother’s grave at a Pennsylvanian cemetery. Johnny won’t stop teasing Barbara who feels very uncomfortable in the remote place. A man approaches them & attacks Barbara revealing himself to be a zombie. Johnny tries to help her but ends up getting killed in the process.
As more zombies’ approach, Barbara manages to escape ending up at a seemingly abandoned farmhouse. Inside she fights off more zombies before a man called Ben (Tony Todd) arrives & helps her. The pair begin fortifying the house but discover other survivors who have been hiding in the cellar of the house.
The obnoxious & argumentative Harry Cooper (Tom Towles), his wife Helen (McKee Anderson) and their daughter Sarah (Heather Mazur). The young girl has been bitten by a zombie and has fallen seriously ill. Of course, the group don’t know yet what we happen to know regarding a Romero zombie bite.
Alongside the family are the young couple Tom (William Butler) & Judy (Katie Finneran) who are glad to see Barbara & Ben. However, Harry isn’t & instantly clashes with the strong & affirmative Ben.
Harry wants to hold up in the cellar but Ben sees it as a death trap with no escape resulting in the pair constantly arguing over the next course of action. All while the dead begin to converge on the farm.
The highlight of this remake is the performances & the slight twists on certain characters. Tony Todd is great as Ben & his clashes with Tom Towles’ Harry are the best moments of the movie. Another impressive performance comes from Patricia Tallman’s version of Barbara. A tougher & far stronger woman. It’s a welcome change, one of the few that actually matter.
Considering Tom Savini’s involvement, Night of the Living Dead is disappointingly light on gore. While the zombie effects are good, there just isn’t enough nastiness on show. The movie didn’t need to be a splatter-fest, it just needed something to distinguish itself from the original.
One such way it does do that though is with the extended ending & ham-fisted forcing of an unnecessary message about the cruelty of humanity.
If you’ve never seen the original then this 1990 colour version is a perfectly viable option to watch. It’s basically the same film with a bit more money behind it.
Night of the Living Dead - Remake