The 1990 version of this 1968 George Romero production begins almost exactly as its predecessor: with a shot of a car driving along a winding, deserted road. An extended voiceover offers one of the original film's most memorable lines--"They're coming to get you, Barbara."--and
establishes Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and Johnnie (Bill Mosley) as the squabbling siblings on their way to visit their mother's grave in an isolated cemetery. It all seems like an elaborate homage to Romero's very low-budget, very creepy original, but it's not...not exactly. Directed by makeup
artist Tom Savini, a longtime Romero collaborator who created the ground-breaking splatter effects for several Romero films, this NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is virtually a shot-by-shot recreation of the first film.
Barbara and Johnnie are attacked by men who behave very oddly. Johnnie is killed, and Barbara escapes to a nearby farmhouse, where she teams with Ben (Tony Todd), who tells her the dead are rising from their graves as cannibal zombies. After seeing some of the walking dead up close, she realizes
he is right. They discover other people hiding in the cellar: bossy Harry (Tom Towles), his wife (McKee Anderson) and sick daughter (Heather Mazur), and a teenaged couple, Tom (William Butler) and Judy Rose (Katie Finnerman). One by one, zombies gather outside as the besieged argue over the best
way to proceed; Harry wants them to barricade themselves in the basement, while Ben favors staying upstairs, where they'll have a chance to run for it if the zombies break in. Tom and Judy are killed in an abortive attempt to get gasoline from a nearby pump; Harry's child dies, becomes a zombie
and kills her mother; Ben and Harry shoot one another and Barbara strikes out to look for help. When she returns in the morning with a posse of locals, Ben has died of his wounds and returned as one of the living dead. Harry has survived through the night, but Barbara shoots him dead.
The primary difference between the original and the remake is that the latter is in color, though a deliberately subdued color. In addition, the zombies created by Everett Burrell and John Vulich, are far more elaborate than those in the first film. Finally, an attempt has been made to add some
depth to the characters, with Barbara undergoing the greatest transformation. In the original film the shock of seeing her brother killed leaves her almost catatonic, while in the remake she becomes the strongest of the characters trapped in the farmhouse. In most other respects, the 1990 version
is so similar to the 1968 release as to be uncanny. As such, it is an often chilling effort, but hardly the breakthrough film the initial work was.
Given that the 1968 film was an enormously popular and influential film, the natural question is, why did Romero bother to produce a virtual remake? The answer is largely one of economics. When he created the first film, Romero was a Pittsburgh advertising executive who was quite naive with
respect to the movie business. He and his fellow investors neglected to properly copyright the property, so that the film could be copied and sold without permission, and without any of the profits going to the investors. Moreover, it led to two films, Dan O'Bannon's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
(1985) and Ken Widerhorn's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2 (1987), which cashed in on the title, but in which Romero had no involvement. Romero did, however, create his own sequels, DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979) and DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). He has said he saw the 1990 remake as a way of compensating
investors in the original film who missed out on the profits that movie has generated over the years. The film marked Romero's first collaboration in years with original investors John Russo (co-writer of the 1968 film), and Russell Streiner (Johnnie in the '68 movie). Romero wrote the new
screenplay and served as executive producer while Russo and Streiner were given producer credits. Given the reasons behind its production, it's hard to fault the second NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for being what it is. Perhaps audiences who hate black and white will find it even more appealing than
the orioginal. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: The 1990 version of this 1968 George Romero production begins almost exactly as its predecessor: with a shot of a car driving along a winding, deserted road. An extended voiceover offers one of the original film's most memorable lines--"They're coming to g… (more)