Sony // 1990 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 2nd, 2000
There is a fate worse then death!
When George Romero made the original Night Of The Living Dead, he created a classic tale of the dead coming back from the grave for revenge. Unfortunately, this was a bittersweet victory (for the filmmakers, not the living dead), for when the print was struck, the copyright was left off. In layman's terms this meant that any old Joe Blow could take Romero's classic, make a copy, then sell it for a profit without paying the original filmmakers a dime. Romero and his team didn't see shinola for all the effort put forth for the original (and were, understandably, not thrilled about this deal).
In 1990, Romero and original producers John Russo and Russell Streiner (who also played Johnny in the original film) decided to remake their original classic, this time attempting to make back some of the profits they lost the first time around. With this idea in mind they tapped make-up man Tom Savini to make his directorial debut, assembling a cast that included horror stars Tony (Candyman) Todd and Tom (Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer) Towles. With Romero penning the script, the dead once again walked and shuffled along the landscape of Pittsburgh. And we now have the 1990 remake of Night Of The Living Dead on DVD to prove it!
It's a new day of terror as zombies once again roam the countryside in search of human flesh, fresh bodies and a stick of deodorant. Johnny and Barbara (Patricia Tallman) are visiting their mother's grave one Sunday when zombies suddenly attack them. Barbara gets out, but Johnny is not so lucky; he's post-toasties pretty quick when one of those nasty lookin' undead get a hold of him. He has an "oh crap" moment as Barbara makes a run for it back to the car. She jumps in and JUST NOW realizes that Johnny still has the keys. D'oh!
Barbara makes a beeline exit towards a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (double doh!) where she finds lots more zombies walking through the house, looking through the farmers panties, taking the good silverware, et cetera. After a few moments Ben (Todd) drives up and pulls a Jackie Chan on a few zombies, then starts to barricade himself in the house. Oh, yeah, with Barbara inside as well. He didn't just shove her outside and say "keep me updated, cupcake!"
After a while we find out there were more people in the basement, they were just too busy being wieners to come up. Well, as fate would have it, Ben and one of the basement people, Mr. Cooper (Towles) don't shake-n-bake all that well (in film school, this is called...everyone say it with me..."conflict"). Suddenly, as tempers rise and everyone gets cranky, not only do we have conflict outside, but we got conflict INSIDE as well.
If ever there were a group of people who just need to sit down and settle their differences at an IHOP, this is it. But do they listen to moi? No way, Jose.
So, as one group wants to barricade themselves upstairs, the other wants to go downstairs. They start cat fighting, the zombies break in, lots of ouchies and boo-boo's happen.
Barrels of fun for the whole family.
Well, first off let's talk about the DVD and the features. Night Of The Living Dead is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. At first glance it looks pretty good. However, upon closer inspection, I saw a lot of grain on the transfer. Overall it's decent, but it sure could have been a lot better. I didn't see much artifact, and the blacks were sharp. However, there were a few places where there seemed to be some softness. These are minor complaints, but important for those who are nitpicky and anal about the picture quality for their DVDs. Also included on the flip side of the disc is a full frame presentation, with all the same qualities as the widescreen except in full frame (duh).
The audio is a 2-channel Dolby surround, and sounds good. There were a few spots where the dialogue sounded a bit low, but overall a decent sound mix. Also included is a Portuguese (mono) audio track. Where do they pick their languages? Do they have a little hat that they just pull a name out of? "Okay folks, we got Portuguese this time. Bob, what do you think? Sound like a winner? Okay then, lets mix this baby!"
For extras we get a bunch of goodies, more than you think you'd suspect on a small horror release like this. Aside of the usual stuff (talent files, production notes, interactive menus) we get a commentary track by director Tom Savini. I sat down and listened to the whole thing, and it was quite informative. Notice I didn't say "entertaining." Except for rare occasions, commentary tracks that are done by a single person never seem to be that fun. They usually tend to lean towards discussing the technical aspects and making of the film. But, when you have two or more people doing a commentary track, it usually becomes a lot more loose and fun (I think for some commentaries, likeEvil Dead 2, they pass out shots of tequila before hand just to spruce things up a bit). The Savini commentary on Night Of The Living Dead is good for information about the actors and how they did a lot of the special effects. We find out backgrounds on some stuntmen (one guy was really sick as he did a fall from a balcony) and what some of the motivation in the script was. However, Savini has THE most monotone voice I have ever heard. It's like he's trying to do a Barry White impression. I was thinking of having over a date and maybe bringing out some candles, a little incense, the Night Of The Living Dead commentary track...get a little lovin' going on. But hey, my pickle is tickled about the fact we even GET a commentary track for a film like this, so thank your Maker.
The other biggie that is included on this disc is "The Dead Walk," a 25-minute documentary on the making of the Night Of The Living Dead remake. Included are interviews with actors like Patricia Tallman, director Tom Savini, and producer John Russo. They talk a bit on where the idea for the remake came from, about director Tom Savini and his link to the "Living Dead" series, how they did the special effects, and the casting of the zombie extras. It's a pretty fascinating look at how this whole film came together, and as a bonus there's even some deleted footage (mostly scenes of gore that were cut to get an "R" rating).
There is also a full-frame theatrical trailer for the Night Of The Living Dead remake (which makes it look like it was a straight-to-video release) and a trailer for the Vincent Price film The Tingler, which is fun to watch for all you oldies horror fans out there.
Now, about the actual movie...
Hmmm...geez, this is hard. On one hand we have a remake of an old classic. Luckily, it was made by the same team who gave us the original Night Of The Living Dead. There are some pretty high profile horror stars in this who do a nice job with the roles they are given. The effects are much more vivid in this than the original, and for you gore hounds that's something to open your saliva glands for. It has a fair share of scares and horror moments in it, ones that stick with you after the movie is over. But...
...Something just doesn't quite gel. Although the script is generally identical to the original (with a few major differences), it seems very out-of-date. At one point one of the characters looks around, in anger, and shouts "You're all yahoos!" Another time he says "Dum-dums!" Okay, look Beav, it's not 1962. The last time I was yelled at for doing something stupid, I don't remember them saying "You goober brain!" That's just one of the examples of how the script tries to stay in the '60s yet meld with the '90s. Maybe back in 1990 this all sounded okay, but in 2000 it sounds hopelessly outdated. Also, many of the characters do things that just simply don't make sense. At one point Cooper asks Ben if his car has gas. "Almost empty" says Ben. Cooper thinks they can make it to town which is "only five miles away"on fumes." Ben asks, "Do you really want to take that chance?" Compared to what? Staying in a farmhouse with bloodthirsty zombies slowly surrounding it? And all this discussed AFTER one character says they are slow enough to just walk right by. People, get your fannies moving and jump ship!
What a buncha' yahoos.
As stated, the transfer could have been clearer, but I guess sometimes you take what you can get. I'll still never understand why studios give special treatment to one movie but not another. Apparently one of the great mysteries of the universe.
I'm gonna level with you. I can't really recommend this disc to buy unless you're a big fan of zombie movies. If you love the original Night Of The Living Dead, you may be really disappointed in this remake. Now, that's not to say this is a bad movie; far from it. But, when you compare Long John Silver's to Sushi, even though they're both good, one's just always gonna be of a higher class. Me, I'll eat any seafood that's put on my plate, especially lobster...wait, what were we originally talking about?
Oh yeah, the Night Of The Living Dead remake. Anyhow, the disc is fairly good in the way of extras. The commentary is interesting (if his voice doesn't put you to sleep) and the documentary is really informative. It's a ho-hum transfer, but passable. However, for $19.99-24.99, you're not mortgaging the house or anything to get it.
Now, I'll let YOU be the judge.
It's a hung jury. The movie is free to go, but there are lingering doubts in the courtroom.
Review content copyright © 2000 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track
* Production Notes
* Cast and Crew Info
* "The Dead Walk" 25-Minute Documentary