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Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Directed by Tom Savini Screenplay by George A. Romero

  Any director knows that if handling a remake, an important factor being naturally to ensure you don’t piss off any fans of the original so as to avoid any backlash, it’s a rarity, but it does happen. With Tom Savini’s not only being a go to man for anything SFX, he has also completed a great justice Night of the Living Dead fans can appreciate along with the original. When asked to come work on the remake Savini had thought it would be great to finally do the special effects and was surprised when asked to instead, direct. Which may also say something about him if the creator of such, personally trusted you to take over his legacy, in a sense.

  The premise for the remake was similar to the original in all the right ways. It didn’t stray too far off and what they did change was able to withstand on its own. The only reason I can think of it not getting as much attention being the die-hard fans who left their heart with the original. So I’ll instead do my 5 reasons to why I believe this remake hit the nail in the head a bit more than the original.

Quick Premise: Zombies are taking over the world, again. Siblings attend their father’s grave and become intertwined with the wandering zombies that eventually catch up with them. Barbara leaves her brother to run off to a nearby house where she later runs into Ben (Tony Todd). He explains that while Barbara may be scared, she would have to fight now in order to save herself. Much unlike her counterpart in the original, she becomes the hardy bad ass and in fact makes it to the end. If you’ve seen the original and not the remake, they’re plenty good surprises worth withholding. If you’ve seen the remake but not the original, your probably too young to care or didn’t even know there was a remake…ah buh what? If you’ve seen both then there’s no need to reiterate what you already know and if you’ve never seen either, then where the hell have you been? Would you like to join the human race once again; shall we?

5. Director feature debut for Tom Savini: It’s more than just a shame that Savini didn’t go on to direct any further films. He did turn down directing Pet Sematary prior and as well had done episodes but this was essentially it. Now, obviously, I’m a bit sweet on the man so of course my opinion is completely bias and may not count. But because it’s my blog, I believe I shall choose to stick to my convictions. 😀 The King of Splatter or The Godfather of Gore, either way, the man is greatness. Intelligent and very well knowing about the business and completely intimidating; but that very well could have been while trying to calm my inner fangirl. Savini was supposed to work the SFX on the 1968 version though had been called off to the Vietnam War where he was a war photographer. His experience made him come back almost as a “zombie” as stated and instead of what he had seen getting the best of him, choose to use his experience to his benefit. Originally, Tom had wanted to start the remake in black and white and eventually fade into sepia and so forth which would have been perhaps a bit too much. Instead opening with a time lapsed shot of the moon that faded into the next day. Wanting to “pretend we didn’t see the original” and “emphasize death” in this remake.

4. “Unexpected was the new cliché”: Those of you who have seen Scream 4 may recall hearing this line. But such was the case with this film and he didn’t have to wait 21 years to come out with such a suggestion. Having already seen the original, you don’t want to see the same exact things again and again right? So what do you do? Misdirection being a component referred to most though it was nice to see the scenes from the original but done better or in a way that actually made you cringe. When the “zombie” attacks Johnny in the beginning scene, it was taken a step forward by having a dummy of Bill Moseley made so as to see his head crack against the headstone. Much more effective. The daughter that was sick and turns at the end was a great scare addition. While it may seem completely unnatural for the way she and some others walked, they were given instruction to walk as though trying to relearn the act all together…which essentially, they were. Instead of stabbing her mother (as in the original) we see her feed who allows so due to the shock of her baby girl having become a creature of the dead. The biggest change being the character of Barbara (Patricia Tallman) who ultimately ends as our heroine and witnesses firsthand what this new world would bring. Camps set-up throughout the grounds with other survivors using “zombies” for sport and target practice; definitely could see that going on if were to happen today. Yanno, after all the killings and everything.

3. The look and feel of the zombies second time around: Without a doubt this version was able to turn out some better graphics/effects. Unfortunately due to the MPAA, most of the exit wounds were removed from being shown but as Savini stated, would leave more to the imagination when done so in that manner. But hey, I never mind seeing the actual hit either. In the remake when Barbara reaches her car, she first sees a man who she thinks is “normal” but soon finds him to of be one of the undead. That particular “zombie” (Tim Carrier) ran a school for the extras to learn how to walk though it turned out become more damaging instead. There were also several zombies throughout in which had been chosen for the film simply by crossing paths with Tom. A cab driver and man seen while in a restaurant were both told they’d make great zombies and that was about it. Oh, to be so lucky. 

2. Cast: The story behind Tony Todd being chosen was that he had come in to audition and was given the script. He took it outside for 5 minutes and when he came back in, without the script, produced genuine tears and gave a great performance. Savini then shut the book and stated having found their Ben. Tallman is actually a stunt woman so doesn’t receive too many roles that she may be known for or remembered. Her character does go through a moment of shock but is able to pull herself together as we see her completely evolve from the first shot to the last. Tom Towles played the similar role from the original in that the entire time you were hoping to have Ben (Todd) punch him or do something to shut him up. Which someone does finally with the “double tap” rule. But we mustn’t forget the cameo of Bill Moseley as brother Johnnie. Giving the infamous “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” line which was a must to have back in the film. Though most known for his other work it’s always nice to see a familiar faces appearing in various films throughout the genre.

1. Keep it simple: When doing a remake there’s no need to get all “fancypants”; I’m looking at you Sorority Row. Though you never want to copy everything verbatim, Psycho! The “zombies” in this film were still slow, Barbara even states of being able to walk right past them to escape. Yet once in contact turned into unstoppable beast. Don’t get me wrong, I much like the fast and utterly scary walking dead that Robert Kirkman has ever so kind to grace us with. But I do believe something can still be “slow” or give leeway and be just as scary if not more-so. Which do you guys prefer? What are your favorite zombie flicks and would you rather your zombies be ravenous beasts or do you prefer the strong, silent type?