Some Long Overdue Love for Night of the Living Dead (1990)

As much as I adore the original Night of the Living Dead, Tom Savini's remake from 1990 always impresses with its subtle tweaks and sure handed direction. I often wonder why Savini did not go on to bigger and better directoral jobs after NOLD 90.

Be that as it may, let's take a look at some of the moments in the film that I enjoy:
The first thing that always gets me, is the fake out in the cemetery when the shambling old man approaches Barbara and just when you think he's going to attack her, he says, "I'm sorry". What's he apologizing for? Of course, as soon as he stumbles out of frame, the attack is on when the first real zombie pops up....and when said zombie attacks Johnny, and Johnny falls head first into that granite marker ...ouch, that's gotta hurt.When that other cemetery zombie pops up, and walks right out of his burial suit. It's laugh-out-loud funny as well as creepy as hell.The first glimpse of the house seems somewhat Andrew Wyeth-like.When Barbara enters the house, the first thing she does is turn off the burner under a frying pan in the kitchen ... I don't know why, but this seems like such an honest moment - does that make sense to anyone other than me?The moment that Uncle Reg welcomes his house guest by doing that off the top rope drop from the upstairs banister always makes me jump.Check out the composition of this shot from when Ben first shows up. His stance, the crowbar, and Barb's gam on display.This time around, Ben is too cool for school - the way he blows out the puff of smoke, that tailored suit all rumpled, the fancy tie pin......not to mention the way he Karate kicks that pesky house zombie into next week.Later, Barbara quickly snaps out of her stupor and does in Uncle Reg with a fire poker to the head. It's as if we are now being told, this ain't your mother's Barbara.I love when Ben beats up the porch zombie, and we see dust fly from it's body - it's a small detail, but it works!And then there's the matter of that creepy fucking driveway zombie, the one that Ben ran over with his pick-up truck earlier...Ben does the bastard in with his trusty tire iron......and that's followed by both Ben and Barbara doing an abbreviated sign of the cross.Ever noticed the name plaque by the front door of the house?Helen and Harry Cooper are a majorly fucked up couple this time. Not only is Harry a racist ("You don't look much like neighbors yourself") he's also physically abusive to his wife, as we witness later on in the film.How about Barbara's first revelation: "They are so slow, we could just walk right by them".
And then there is this freaky deaky zombie - the one who shows up in the broken window as if he were saying, "TA DA!"The smirk on the newscaster's face as he reports that the recently deceased are now walking, and eating, always makes me want to deck the guy - of course in this scene, Harry is watching and smirking as well. This moment alone, seems to sum up a lot - the dawn of the angry white middle aged male who can't think outside of the box.
Tom and Judy Rose's ill fated trip to the gas pumps signals the beginning of the end.Even though Karen kills her mother with out a weapon, Savini paid homage to the trowel!Meanwhile, Ben is doling out right-hooks to the living dead......while zombies feast on the roasted carcass of poor Judy Rose.When it all goes to hell at the house, Barbara, walks - WALKS- away through the mob of flesh eaters to safety ... though she does have a run in with that creepy zombie lady with the baby doll......and I have to mention that the ghoul who eats the mouse, well that scene always makes me gag.With the house now overrun by the living dead, and Harry safe in the attic ( a retractable staircase - I've always thought that an attic was the perfect hiding spot from zombies, just sayin' is all), while Ben is in the basement. Then, Ben looks up and sees something: this is the film's punchline, such as it is.Now, the rednecks are having fun playing with the zombies by stringing them up from trees and shooting at them, which causes Barbara to have her second revelation:"We're them, and they're us" - amen

The next day, when Barbara and some of the posse show up, they find Ben has been zombified, but Harry is alive! Barbara shoots him in the head and then announces coolly,
"One more for the fire".

Writing credits

John A. Russo (earlier screenplay) and
George A. Romero (earlier screenplay)

George A. Romero (screenplay)


Tom Savini


Tony Todd ... Ben
Patricia Tallman ... Barbara
Tom Towles ... Harry Cooper
McKee Anderson ... Helen Cooper
William Butler ... Tom
Katie Finneran ... Judy Rose
Bill Moseley ... Johnnie (as Bill Mosley)
Heather Mazur ... Sarah Cooper


Matt-suzaka said...

NOTLD is one of my top ten favorite horror film, and I have always thought that Savini’s remake was pretty spot on, It follows the basics of the original film, but brings a few new tweaks and touches (as you brought up) that make the movie very much it’s own.

I think it’s a slightly sad film in a way and in comparison to the social commentary of the ‘68 version, you can see how much worse we are as a society in the 90‘s remake with the amount of wrong that is pointed out by the movie.

Also, Barb is way less annoying in the ’90 version!

Ninja Dixon said...

I consider the remake a minor masterpiece and it's up there together with Romeros own zombie-movies (well, he wrote and produced the remake, so I guess it's still one of his zombie-movies). The original ending is powerful, I kinda like this one even more.

My biggest wish would that they would insert those nice gore-scenes in the movie again...

Carl (ILHM) said...

NOTLD 1990 did a fantastic job, and took all of the right turns to make it fresh and topical rather than just being a shot for shot remake. Savini's FX work is top notch as well, an all around awesome zombie flick

Alana said...

Pax-y, thank you for the post. I love this remake too. Awesome.