Even with the added "dimension," Judge Bill Gibron still hated this unnecessary revamp of the classic George Romero film that started the modern zombie craze.
Our reviews of Elvira's Movie Macabre: Night Of Living Dead / I Eat Your Skin (published June 14th, 2011), Night Of The Living Dead (1968) (published May 31st, 2001), Night Of The Living Dead (1990) (published October 2nd, 2000), Night of the Living Dead (1990) (Blu-ray) (published October 5th, 2012), Night Of The Living Dead (Colorized) (published October 15th, 2004), Night Of The Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Limited Edition (published September 7th, 1999), Night Of The Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition (published June 6th, 2008), Night Of The Living Dead: Millennium Edition (published May 1st, 2002), and Rifftrax: Night Of The Living Dead (published May 15th, 2009) are also available.
An All-New Dimension of the Horror Classic…The Crap Dimension
For those who need a refresher on how the living dead dynamic started, or for anyone who has been living like a hermit in an Adirondacks cave for the last four decades, here's the scary movie scoop: Barbara and her belligerent brother Johnny are headed out to attend a family funeral. When they arrive graveside, the cemetery is empty. When theyâre suddenly attacked by a group of pasty passersby, Johnny runs like a coward and Barbara escapes on foot. She lumbers over to the local mortuary where Gerald "Junior" Tovar (Sid Haig, The Devil's Rejects) warns her to get out. Attacked once again by ghoulish grievers, our heroine heads for the hills. As luck would have it, college kid Ben is blitzing by on his bike. He dukes it out with the undead and the two head off to the Cooper farm. There, an illegal marijuana-growing concern finds the family doing bong hits and giggling a lot. No one believes Barbara's stories—not even Ben, who actually beat up a couple of the zombies along the way. Suddenly, the house is under siege, random relatives are dropping like dope-dealing flies, and everything is blurry and slightly out of focus. When Tovar shows up, mouth filled with mindless exposition and blame, we soon realize that this isn't any normal Night of the Living Dead. It's going to try for an added XYZ aspect and, as usual, it fails miserably.
Though it offers very little in the way of actual cinematic entertainment, there is in reality a fun little genre game one can play with this new "three-dimensional" reimagining of the George Romero classic. Let's call it the "List of Awful Ideas." First one to fifty wins. To being with, let's start with the sole good thing about this otherwise dreadful drone—and it's not the two-strip 1950s-style stunt shooting style. No, all blue/red ridiculousness aside, good old goof Sid Haig is present and accounted for, and his ability to wrap those Captain Spaulding tonsils around the horrid dialogue here, making the whole experience seem almost sensible, is astonishing. If you want proof that the man is a genre gem, just watch him tell the story about how his non-cremated bodies suddenly started coming back to life. It's legitimate B-movie magic. Everything else here blows bent Beckham balls. It's the horror film equivalent of a sulfuric acid sitz bath. For the sake of aggravation driven argument, here are 10 things about this unnecessary update that stink like a reanimated corpse's dress shields:
1) The decision to make Barbara a know-it-all shrew. She could care less if they're "coming to get her." She'd just nag the zombies back into the grave.
2) Johnny is now a coward, wetting himself and running off at the first sign of cemetery unrest. It renders his mandatory reappearance completely pointless.
3) Somehow, a mortuary run by a former schlock macabre icon plays an important role in the reanimation, for reasons best left unspoken.
4) The lone farmhouse is not filled with survivors, but pot-smoking stoners who sell a little home-grown on the side. No, really!
5) Ben is no longer black, and is now a college-age drug mule who rides a motorcycle and rationalizes his every action with an pouty, hurt puppy look.
6) The young adult lovebirds who died in the first film's gas station explosion are now a couple of fornicating fools who walk right into a flesh feaster's open maw.
7) Our young girl victim is no longer an injured waif, but a smart-alecky tween who wants to be involved in everything going on, including the cannibalism.
8) During the direst of circumstances, when every decision is life or death, our collection of characters respond to the growing threat how all normal human beings would…by talking each other's ears off.
10) The ending is completely pointless.
Oh, and there's plenty more where that came from. Crafted by unknown auteur Jeff Broadstreet (responsible for some cinematic "things" called Megalomania and Dr. Rage) and written by self-proclaimed YouTube "star" Robert Valding, the cobbled-together collection of stalwart scary movie clichés deserves to be dropped on its head like a retarded infant. This is a fontanel-pushing production, driving you batty with its lack of legitimacy. Unlike the terrific Tom Savini remake from 1990, which used modern technology and expert direction to tell a smart and splattery update of the original, this ain't-it-cool atrocity argues for keeping geeks away from the typewriter. The hemp angle does not bring this movie into the 21st century. Instead, it stifles everything with a red-eyed set of mediocre macabre munchies. It's beyond aggravating. And since all the actors sans Haig are as interchangeable as mannequins in a mall haunted house, we feel no emotional or metaphysical connection to them. So when they die, we yawn and wonder how much longer the movie can maintain such sloth. The answer is forever, apparently.
Not that the novelty of 3D helps matters much. It has to be said that there is a good amount of forced perspective here, backgrounds moving freely in the frame. But the standard shocker gags—pitchforks, guns, bullets, zombie arms—aimed at the audience don't work. Even worse, even on a high-tech monitor, the two-color process mutes all other motion-picture pigments. We end up watching a film that feels like it was shot in brown and gray. Yet the biggest crime committed here is the utter lack of gore. The undead may look mean, but when it comes to flesh feasting, they prefer to do most of it off camera. Clearly, the budget wasn't large enough to accommodate stereographic imagery and Karo syrup. So the sluice lost out—which is odd, since most people coming to a zombie flick, especially one named after the Romero original, are expecting a little arterial spray. The minor amount offered will definitely disappoint. But that's par for the cinematic course when considering this pointless cash grab.
This is a lose/lose proposition for Lionsgate. On the one hand, anyone who actually likes this junk would be too dim to enjoy any of the company's more likable mainstream movies. Those insulted by such video vomit, on the other hand, will have any remaining goodwill built up in the studio completely and utterly destroyed. From a technical standpoint, there is really nothing to piss and moan about. As mentioned before, the 3D looks fair to middling, and additional visual elements—color, detail, contrasts—are unintelligible. One assumes the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks good enough sans dopey '50s finagling. On the sound side of things, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is halfway decent. The dialogue is easily discernible (lucky us) and there are a number of ambient elements that add to the overall mood. In the area of added content, we get a self-serving audio commentary (featuring Broadstreet, Valding, and, midway through, Haig), a behind-the-scenes featurette (interesting), a screening Q&A with Broadstreet, Valding and Haig (ho hum), a look at how the 3D was achieved (actually quite thorough), and a selection of bloopers (ZZZZZZ). Toss in trailers and a 3D gallery, and you've got a fine selection of extras. None of them are absolutely stellar, but most get the publicity piece job done.
Since their introduction decades before, zombies have become the butt of many a homemade horror fan's cinematic joke. They're no longer scary. In most cases, they're mere props to prove a movie's gore quotient mantel. Night of the Living Dead 3D sticks with this dysfunctional formula, and then removes the funk. It's nothing more than stupefying skin snacking.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Director Jeff Broadstreet, Screenwriter Robert Valding, and Actor Sid Haig
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