Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Night of the Living Dead (1990)
  • Time: 88 min
  • Genre: Horror | Thriller
  • Director: Tom Savini
  • Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles


A remake of George Romero’s 1968 black-and-white classic that begins in a cemetery, as the recently-dead return to life – from an unknown cause – and attack the living as their prey. One woman escapes the frightening zombies to take refuge with others in a farmhouse, as every cadaver for miles around hungers for their flesh. Will they make it through the night…that the dead came back to life?

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  • Remakes and reboots by far are one of the most despised and looked down upon ideas and concepts that many film goers and critics a like do not enjoy sitting through. Whether it’s because Hollywood is trying to cash in on people’s nostalgia or running out of ideas, nobody really favors their beloved pieces being redone. Another problem most fans have with these plans is that the people who make these decisions have no understanding of what made the original so beloved. Then they hire a group of people who have no knowledge either, it just insults many viewers’ intelligence. But there have been occasions where the exact opposite happens. Take this project for example. To this day, director George A. Romero is best known for his feature film debut with Night of the Living Dead (1968). Being the first of his “dead” franchise, it was quite the groundbreaker. It reinvented horror for filmgoers at the time and had interesting characters to follow and sympathize with; a classic. Why would anyone remake it? Apparently Romero thought it could use an update.

    The majority of the plot itself, written only by Romero, remains largely unchanged. Groups of people end up crossing paths at an abandoned house after they are driven away by cannibalistic dead people known as zombies. The characters involved are also the same. The leads Ben (Tony Todd) and Barbara (Patricia Tallman) work together to defend themselves in the home. They also meet couple Tom (William Butler), Judy Rose (Katie Finneran) and the Cooper family headed by Harry (Tom Towles) who wants nothing but to hide in the basement. Bill Moseley best known at the time for playing “Chop-Top” Sawyer from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986) even has a small role as Barbara’s brother. Aside from these similarities, Romero does pen in some new ideas and changes up several events. One of the new ideas thrown in is Barbara being a strong female lead. Unlike her 1968 counterpart, Barbara takes charge and even questions as to why staying in the house is good idea if you can just walk past a zombie quick enough. All valid points.

    Having a strong female lead in a horror movie was not a new thing by the 1990s, but for Romero’s remake it was. Tony Todd as Ben plays it up well as the no nonsense type and isn’t willing to play games. Even William Butler plays an empathetic character. Lastly, Tom Towles as Harry Cooper plays his role well as the antagonist of the group looking not to fight back. The characters are developed enough as well to where if an individual makes a mistake, the consequence is tough to accept. What’s also appreciated is how first timer Tom Savini (who normally does special effects) directed the film. Savini takes Romero’s script and helps bring the changes to certain events with ease making the execution almost feel like an alternate reality if things were to happen in a different way. However the film does suffer from its issues. A blatant problem is some of its continuity for unexplained reasons. There are certain things that happen to some characters that don’t get an explanation to what exactly happened.

    The overall effects to this remake look great too. Everett Burrell served as the special makeup effects supervisor to this project and as a stand-in for Savini, it’s fairly decent. Before this Burrell also worked on well-regarded films like Re-Animator (1985), Aliens (1986) and Glory (1989); all of which had a significant amount blood squibs and dismemberment. The zombie designs in this creature feature are much more grotesque than before and that’s good. However it’s not even the kills in this movie that make this a zombie film, but more of the all the ways a zombie can be displayed. Here there are some severely gnarled up zombies that are quite comical to look at because of their persistence no matter how banged up they are. For a normal horror fan, the shock and scare value aren’t much to be seen but there is enough tension buildup to make the viewer wonder “how are these people going to survive?”. The solution may seem trivial but from the past three “dead” films, in greater numbers, zombies aren’t easy to fend off.

    It is surprising to know that the MPAA gave the original cut an X rating and required certain scenes to be cut. After all the gory films that appeared during the 1980s, it’s amazing Romero’s still received the deadliest of all ratings. There were other infamous films far worse than his were. Frank Prinzi was hired as the director of photography for this remake. Since the 1960s many filmmakers moved to color and seeing a retelling of the classic story in a different color tone is a nice touch. Prinzi keeps the scenes well lit even for night and keeps the camera focused as well. The musical score was a disappointment however. The composition was scored by Paul McCollough and looking at his prior work, it’s rather unimpressive. The score is entirely made up of synthesizers and rarely does it work. With no main theme this remake feels like it has no identity. A signature tune somewhere would’ve helped but instead the listening experience is just garbled mess of sporadic tones. It could’ve been worse though considering it’s a remake.

    It’s music feels largely uninspired and the script does suffer from continuity errors. But for a remake (which many do not support) it’s rather decent. The updated script changes, the added color visuals and overall situation is enough to keep the audience engaged for the hour and a half.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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