These days, when it seems that every single classic Horror film that my generation grew up on is getting the remake treatment, we can't help but roll our eyes and sigh in despair. Most are quick, studio cash grabs, designed to capitalize on an already established title, almost guaranteeing a successful opening weekend brand recognition. Some have legs and generally surprising: 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2004's Dawn of the Dead, and 2006's The Hills Have Eyes. Others, more likely, are absolute misfires resulting in cinematic garbage: 2006's When A Stranger Calls, 2008's Prom Night, and 2010's A Nightmare on Elm Street, among many, many others unfortunately. However, in the 80s and 90s, Horror remakes weren't churned out by studios on an almost monthly basis.
The genesis of the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead started with the best intentions: to make some money off of the name for its original creators who infamously lost out on untold profits due to a copyright error. Original director George Romero, along with co-writer/producer John A. Russo and producer Russ Streiner were again at the helm behind the scenes. Having directed several episodes of Romero's Tales From The Darkside television series, it seemed like there would be a surefire hit with Tom Savini in the Director's chair (this was, after all, the beginning of special make-up effects gurus dipping their toes into the film-maker pool). It seemed all the stars were aligning, so . . . what the hell happened?
|Savini, Tom Towles, Patricia Tallman and a makeup artist on-set (from Savini.com)|
|Tony Todd as Ben and Tallman as Barbara|
|"For the last time: I don't want your damn pamphlets! Get off my porch!"|
The cast is strong and believable too: Tony Todd as Ben, Patricia Tallman as Barbara, the late Tom Towles as Cooper, McKee Anderson as Helen Cooper, William Butler as Tom, Katie Finneran as Judy Rose, Heather Mazur as Sarah Cooper, and of course, Bill Moseley as Johnny. Romero's script makes some surprising changes by having Barbara transform into a sort of Sigourney Weaver-type of survivor in the film's second half, but it also alters other characters a bit; Helen is more of helpless housewife in a loveless, abusive marriage...Tom is more of a redneck, good ol' boy...and Judy Rose is a lot more annoying, as she's always screaming and frantic. However, these character types work, just as the original did in the sense of "Which one of these characters would you yourself be in this exact situation?" Plus, it goes without saying that Towles nearly steals the show every time Cooper is on-screen, with his performance nearly rivaling the Karl Hardman in the original!
|William Butler, Katie Finneran, Todd, and Tallman|
|Greg Funk as the remake's Cemetery Zombie|
Unfortunately, upon its release, critics didn't agree and many fans were left scratching their heads with a resounding "Why?" Sure it's a little too close to the original's storyline, but then on the flipside, if a remake strays too far from the original storyline (like a certain 2004 remake of a zombie film set in a shopping mall), diehard fans complain and boil with outrage. Here, at least the original creators were involved and, to that extent, the right hands and hearts were in place with their intentions of remaking a classic. In fact, I remember back in the early 2000s, a friend and I went to a midnight screening of Night of the Living Dead, billed as "the original classic" on the marquee outside...however, once inside, eyebrows were raised by the mylar clearly displaying the logo and rating for Night '90....as soon as the Columbia Pictures logo popped on-screen, many fans left in disgust and demanded refunds (we, of course, stayed and a had a great time!).
|What?! They remade Night of the Living Dead? Those bastards!|
|Cooper: You got a problem with this remake? Ya buncha yo-yo's!|
|Do I have any food on my face?|