Tuesday, October 16, 2012

REVIEW: Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead
Director: Tom Savini
Year 1990
Night of the Living Dead is an excellent remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie horror masterpiece, which takes the same tried and true premise of the original and amps it up with updated practical effects and a creepy tone that pays considerable tribute to the black & white cult classic. Directed by genre icon and special effects wizard Tom Savini, the film has a visceral quality to it that really brings this zombified tale to life. With an abundance of interesting characters and a line-up of wonderful actors to portray them, Night of the Living Dead is a remake that justifies its existence by presenting a story that is without a shadow of a doubt, equal to its originator.
The film follows a quiet and repressed woman named Barbara, who suddenly finds her world turned upside down when a zombie uprising takes the life of her brother, leaving her all alone to fend for herself amongst an ever growing army of the undead. Finding sanctuary with a small group of survivors in an old farmhouse, Barbara struggles to stay alive by fortifying her surroundings and taking as many of the dead down as she can. With the army of walking corpses surrounding the estate, Barbara quickly comes to realize that the masses of flesheaters are not the only things that can bring about her doom as the surviving group begins to implode from within. Night of the Living Dead tells a terrifying tale which emphasizes the failings of the human race, showing blow for blow that when we are not literally devouring each other, we are figuratively cannibalistic with each other when struggling to save our own skin.

Patricia Tallman takes on the role of Barbara, the poor unfortunate soul who finds that even amidst such chaos and horror, she can rise above the bedlam and prove that she is a fighter. Tallman is sensational in this film and her character arc from a passive and fearful victim to a badass zombie killing warrior is tremendously achieved thanks to Patricia’s heartfelt and genuine performance. Her acting filmography may not be as accomplished as some of her counterparts in the film, but she is a driving force within this production. I love the contrasting elements between the original Barbara character and Tallman’s iteration, and I find this version’s portrayal much more compelling and exceptionally interesting.
Finding equal footing beside Tallman’s Barbara is Tony Todd who perfectly encapsulates the character of Ben. With his intimidating presence and theatrical form of acting, Todd is another aspect of this remake that really ups the bar. His intensity is infectious and from the moment that he bursts onto the scene, with crowbar in hand, he brings a dire urgency to the progression of the film. The same can be said for Tom Towles antagonist character Harry Cooper, who wants nothing more than to stay locked up in the basement where it’s safe. Towles has always impressed me as an actor and the moments where he begins to clash with Todd’s Ben are explosive to say the least. You can really feel the tension between each opinionated character and for an intimate story such as this one that is a must. On a side note, the inclusion of Bill Moseley as Johnnie is pure casting genius and his short appearance in the film is one that will stay with you long after.

With Tom Savini at the helm, the movie goes for a more realistic take on the zombie genre in the vein of Romero’s last two entries in the Dead series. The graphic nature of the practical make-up effects, which were not created by Savini, and the harsh violence that is unabashedly on display, produce an end product that boasts a visceral take on George A. Romero’s undead masterpiece, highlighting the gorier aspects of its content in stark clarity. I love the classic way in which Romero realized the original film, but I’ve always been drawn to the horrific way in which this remake delves into the modern portrayal of the zombie film at that time.
After Romero created his legendary trilogy in the form of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead, a new resurgence of zombie styled stories began creeping out of the woodwork which took the golden rules that Romero set up and built off of it. With the escalation of realism and gritty nature in Romero’s trilogy increasing, we ended up with a movie series that progressed into a much darker and nastier sort of outlook on both the zombie apocalypse and the character of mankind as a whole. With the 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead, Savini continues in this tradition by adding realistic and disturbing make-up effects, a heightened brutality factor, and a visual style that falls more in line with Dawn and Day of the Dead. In its unbridled portrayal of a harsher world, this updated version of the black & white classic comes off as a perfect companion to Romero’s later entries in the series and fits quite nicely in the stylistic flow of things.
Just like its predecessor, The Night of the Living Dead remake went on to inspire pop culture, infecting a particular classic zombie video game franchise known as Resident Evil. There are numerous examples in the game that seem ripped right out of the look and feel of Savini’s version, especially when it comes to the inventive angles and the aesthetic style of the farmhouse’s creepy staircase with rotten corpses strewn about in various locations. What is most strange about this 1990 entry is that if you were to have played the game before watching the film, you would have sworn that Savini was borrowing heavily from the video game franchise, because the film really does feel like a live action version of the game. With its distinct feel and deadly serious approach, the Night of the Living Dead remake is a crowning achievement in cinematic reiterations and the film is a poster child for the correct way to pay homage to a classic property that still manages to maintain a unique vision of its own while staying true to the source material.

Night of the Living Dead is a retread of a classic film that defies the impossible in the fact that it delivers all the goods while adding its own twist to the formula. The ensemble cast is outstanding and each actor takes on their perspective character with a heightened sense of composure and adamant spirit. Patricia Tallman, Tony Todd, and Tom Towles especially bring the thunder, making for a collection of fully realized characters that really inject a shot of life into the production.
Toppled onto that, the film is filled to the brim with horrifically imagined zombies, grotesque special effects work, and a violent temperament that skyrockets the visceral nature of the story to unparalleled levels. Obstinate in its delivery and confident in its execution, Night of the Living Dead is a retelling that truly goes above and beyond the call of duty in bringing to light a zombie film that replicates the success of the original while at the same time allowing itself to branch out in new and uncharted territories. The fact that the tone and feel of the film matches that of Romero’s last two entries in the trilogy is just an added bonus and a cherry on this deliciously grotesque cake. If you love zombies and you’re equally fond of the universe that Romero has set up, then you owe it to yourself to get lost in this horrific epic. Night of the Living Dead is a…..

Screw the zombies! I'm gonna get your ass Barbara!

Now this is why it's not a good idea to give zombies piggy back rides.

Thanks for the ride lady!

Damn I hate bald zombies! Shit! There's one right behind me isn't there?

What's the matter Candyman?

Get off your lazy zombie ass and get a job!

Damn you! You blew it up! God damn you all to HELL!

Someone give this guy a hand.

I'm watching you.... you bunch of Yo Yo's!

Don't mess with Barbara.

These zombies just don't know when to take a hint.

Who the hell invited zombie Ghandi?!?!?!

Someone should tell this guy that you can't get reception in a basement.

Light em up! Smoke if you got em.

The perfect example on how not to pump gas.

It's dinner time!

Get that shit out of my face!

Look! It's the County Fair!

No comments:

Post a Comment