Today's Pick: Night of the Living Dead (1990)
For starters, it's directed by effects wizard, Tom Savini, who provided the zombie makeup for (and awesomely acted as the original Machete) Romero's masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead. It also has one of the film's original screenwriters as a producer. This definitely gives the film a level of credibility missing from other remakes. Since the story and setting is a simple one to replicate, this film is all about what new elements the filmmakers can bring to the table.
The makeup on the zombies is naturally more gruesome, but there's nothing game-changing about it. I do like the milky eyes they are given, which are uniquely creepy. One of the film's strongest pieces is its ensemble. You have a lot of actors that horrors fans will instantly recognize (Tony Todd, Tom Towles, and Bill Moseley), and they all bring their own distinct styles to these characters. They manage to be very faithful to the original versions while not feeling like a copy-and-paste job. However, the biggest change comes in the character of Barbara, and she is the reason the movie is worth watching.
In the original film, Barbara seems to start off as the protagonist, but immediately fades into the background once the other characters are introduced. She's portrayed as hysterical and eventually incapacitated by her fear. In the 1990 version, Barbara is the definitive lead character and actually ends up becoming the most determined and even brutal of the survivors. Patricia Tallman's transformation from a scared victim to a strong soldier is fairly compelling. Both films have very grim endings, but the ending in the remake has a much more mean-spirited feel to it. In a certain way, I kind of prefer it to the original.
I definitely don't want people thinking I like this film more than the initial film. I don't, but I do think this version deserves recognition for how it changes very key elements of the story, and those changes result in a very different emotional arc. If you have time, you should watch both films this season, but if you're familiar enough with the 1968 classic, this movie is a great way to experience a familiar story in a new way.
That concludes Zombie Week! Tomorrow is Halloween week, and while our first film doesn't directly feature the holiday, the title will definitely feature a sweet treat. See you then!
31 Days of Drew 2 (2014)
31 Days of Drew (2013)