In 1968, a young special effects master by the name of Tom Savini had his first gig working on the George A. Romero Classic, The Night Of The Living Dead, though that never came to be since he was called on duty during Vietnam. Now 22 years, at the top of his prime, he recaptures the same intelligence and masterful effects in his 1990 remake, which is incredibly awesome.
What was so great about the original was it's strong political message hidden in the film. It was a rarity to have a black male hero in a horror movie and have him to be the rational, resourceful, quick-witted thinker, among the irrational and not so smart white cast. By the end of the movie, nobody lives and it has an all around bleak ending. At the time, it's one of those horror movies that will make you think and think till this day.
So It was probably a challenge to have that same political message in a 1990 setting and in Technicolor. But the political message still works in this movie as we see it through Barbra's eyes, shifting much more towards a feminist perspective, which is great because it adds a fresh new take on the story while putting much more action and conflict between the characters and the situation.
The Story: Unbeknownst to a plague turning people into walking corpses, Barbra and her brother Johnny are on their way to visit their mother's grave. Suddenly, a zombie appears out of nowhere and attacks them both. Unfortunately, Barbra's brother doesn't make it. Almost barely escaping from yet another zombie attack, Barbra hides out in an abandon house where she meets Ben, one of the survivors from the zombie outbreak. With five other survivors joining along the way, the group of strangers must find a way to prevent the zombie from killing them and from killing each other.
The cast is fantastic, along with horror veterans Tony Todd and Tom Towles. The biggest change in the new Night Of The Living Dead remake is the characters. They're still the same, just updated in a modern way.
Ben played by Tony Todd is still a competent leader but rather flawed. he's just as scared and irrational as everybody else and not taking the time to listen to anybody's ideas, especially Barbra and Cooper's, knowing in the spur of things they could be right. He realizes this tragic mistake in the end and eventually seals his fate.
Tony Todd is just awesome in this and there's even an iconic shot in the movie when he first appears. Just to let you guys know this came out BEFORE Candyman. Anywho, Tony Todd gave a head-on performance and knows how to do karate well.
Then we have the true star of it all.....Barbara! She is just all kinds of kickass! I like how they make her a strong capable heroine who holds her own this time and that's probably the best change that the filmmakers did with the movie. Looking at Barbra from the 1968 original, she was kind of meek and useless, just sitting around being in a dazed, confused state. To be honest, Women in films back then weren't as progressive as they are now.
So It was really refreshing for Barbra in this version to get angry, aggressive and take charge with a firey haircut, giving off a Ripley vibe. Hell Yes! it's about time.
She does, of course, starts off kind of meek and scared but it makes since because it's real human emotion and she doesn't understand what's really going on.
Though once she takes wind of things she gets a lot tougher and stronger and is pretty good with ammo, too. By this time, she is just as much of a capable leader as Ben is and a lot much smarter than the 1968 Barbra who was kind of....well....idiotic in some places. Okay guys, I'm going to spoil it for you a little bit but for those of you who haven't seen it, go watch it now!.....
Barbara is the sole survivor which is very fitting in my opinion. Since the 1968 movie had a strong political message with racism, Vietnam, and social class issues. This version has a sort of feminist message as it focuses on Barbra and how she grows as a character through the crisis that she's experiencing but it still has the important new world issues that it had in the 1968 film. Once Barbra escapes with a new group of survivors, she looks at the people, as they torture the zombies like toys in playful glee, and says, "We're them and They're us." Which is something to think about when watching this movie. Patricia Tallman is the strongest actress in this. She can be vulnerable and tough at the same time and it takes a good actress to handle that emotional range. Overall, Barbra is an awesome character with an even more awesome actress.
Tom and Judy are a lot more active in this as opposed to them being typical lovelorn teenagers in the original. Tom is now a local good o'l boy who knows his way with guns and Judy is taking Barbra's old role, but even though she's usually whiny and screaming most of the time, that doesn't mean she's totally useless. After all, she IS a teenager in this situation.
And I would like to say that William Butler was at his prime as a Scream King. He starred in a Friday The 13th sequel, starred on a Freddy's Nightmares episode, starred in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, and now is being attacked by zombies. He actually gave a good performance and quite the looker, too.
Harry Cooper in this version is way much worse. He berates his wife whenever she desperately tries to find a way to help her sick daughter, even slapping her, fights constantly with the other strangers, especially Ben, and selfishly goes up the attic for Ben and Barbra to fend for themselves. In the original, his jerkassery came from how scared he was in the situation, scared for his family. But in this, he's just a plain o'l asshole. He doesn't get off easy though once Barbra finds him, she says 'fuck it' and shoots him in the head. Tom Towles does a good job and was able to add more layers to the character which is why he's honored as a veteran in the genre.
The suspense is at a high and so is the action. It makes the experience of watching this movie much more enjoyable.
And since this was directed by Tom Savini, His special effects is great on display, making the zombies very nasty and menacing-looking.
The movie was met with negative reviews at the time, which I don't understand. I feel it should have the same praise as the original. Though years later it has received a cult following and the horror community greatly appreciated it.
The verdict? Yes, watch this! Both movies should be watched and analyzed. They both have a strong political message yet the 1990 version is much actionized, having it's own spin to it. Both movies are definitely worth-seeing.
My Last Word: Like I said go watch this and the original. Definitely a good time.