Night of the Living Dead (1990)

  • notld90_poster
  • Writers: John A. Russo, George A. Romero
  • Director: Tom Savini
  • Starring: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley
  • Medium: SHUDDER (Streaming)

 

Synopsis

A re-telling of the 1968 classic. The dead suddenly start walking, and they are attacking and then feeding on any humans they can. The one benefit is that the zombies are slow and weak. The biggest problem is that their numbers keep growing larger.

Barbara and her brother are at a cemetery when they are attacked. Barbara escapes, but her brother does not make it out alive. Barbara finds an empty house for shelter and is soon joined by Ben, who is in the same boat. Eventually, they find out a couple families are holed up in the cellar. They must battle the zombies and each other to try to make it through the night.

notld90_ben
Tony Todd as Ben, trying to fight back a zombie

 

Review

I thought I remembered renting this back in the day shortly after it hit home video and don’t remember really thinking much one way or the other. I liked the original but just glossed over this one. Throughout the years, Night of the Living Dead (1968) grew on me more and more, and the tension is just amazing. I wanted to give the remake another shot and finally found it available through SHUDDER. I was doing my best to watch this movie on its own merits and stop comparing it to the original, but, really, can anyone get the source material purged from their memory before watching a remake?

With make-up effects maestro Tom Savini helming this film from the director’s chair, I expected some great effects and was not disappointed. With the film being in color, the effects could not be hidden in the shadows of black-and-white film. The zombies really seemed to be highlighted in this movie and with good reason. The blood, the decay – all done very well.

The story also takes some interesting turns thanks to some revisions by screenwriter (and original director) George A. Romero. He took the original script by himself and John A. Russo and fashioned it for a new generation. Whereas the original had a black lead (really unheard of in horror at the time), the focus shifts a little more towards Barbara this time, although Ben is still the driving force to try to save the group. Although the role of Ben was not written for a specific race, racial tensions were still high in 1968, and the film could be seen as a fight for racial equality. This film, with Barbara a much stronger character and hero, it could be seen as the feminist fight. It’s the only redeeming factor for a scene between her and Cooper towards the end of the film.

The acting is done well, with Bill Moseley doing a spot-on re-creation of the Johnnie character, and future Candyman (1992), Tony Todd, portrays the Ben character perfectly. The other bit-players do their parts well, although Tom Towles sometimes goes a little overboard portraying Harry Cooper. The big difference in character is Barbara. Instead of a mostly catatonic character, she becomes a strong lead and is believably portrayed by Patricia Tallman. I believe she could’ve kicked my ass.

notld90_barbara
Barbara kicking ass this time around

 

Maybe it’s my own maturation, but I think this film has aged very well, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t impressed my first time around.

Film Rating: 7.5 don’t say zombies out of 10 | I don’t see this version replacing the original in my rotation, but I don’t see waiting another 20+ years to view it again, either.

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