Review Date: October 6, 1999
Released by: Columbia Tri-Star
Release date: 10/5/1999
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 16:9: yes P&S: yes (side b)
In 1986 John Russo, co-producer of the original NOTLD, first started thinking about creating a remake of NOTLD. His actual intentions for doing the remake are unknown. According to Ross Streiner, co-writer of the original NOTLD and "Johnny" in the original, part of the reason for the remake was to "help copyright the original". As it turns out, when the original was first released there was no copyright notice anywhere in the movie. This caused all sorts of legality problems which led to a lot of people behind NOTLD (68) not receiving their fare share of the tremendous amounts of money NOTLD made back in 1968. What I find amusing about all this is that Ross uses the same excuse ("help copyright the original") to justify the creation of the NOTLD 30th Anniversary Edition (the one with the newly shot scenes). Oh well, I did enjoy the NOTLD (90) remake so not all is wasted (I won't comment on the NOTLD 30th Anniversary Edition here).
The film starts off with Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and Johnnie (Bill Moseley, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) visiting the grave of their mother. As they arrive at the cemetery Johnnie realizes Barbara is scared by the cemetery. Johnnie begins to taunt Barbara by chanting the now famous quote, "they're coming to get you Barbara". As a figure appears in the background Johnnie continues his taunting with, "look, there comes one of them now". Ultimately, after a little trickery on Savini's part, they both are attacked by a zombie and Johnnie ultimately perishes as he tries to save Barbara from the brain hungry zombie.
After crashing her car in an attempt to flee the cemetery zombies chasing her brains, Barbara makes her way to a small abandoned farm house. Here she meets Ben (Tony Todd, Candyman), a black man who has made his way to refuge at the farm house after the truck he's fleeing in nearly runs out of gas. They fight off zombies as they begin their efforts at boarding up the doors and windows to keep the zombies out of the house.
Next we're introduced to a small group of people hiding downstairs in the basement. A few of them decide to come upstairs to find out what's going on. These people consist of Harry (Tom Tole, Henry: Portrait of a serial killer), Helen (McKee Anderson), Tom (William Butler), Judy Rose (Kate Finneran) and Sarah (Heather Mazur). Immediately we start to see the conflict between Harry and Ben begin to develop as they argue where they should be hiding - up stairs or in the basement. As it turns out Harry was right all along - hiding in the basement probably would've been the best idea. Harry seems to want to take the cowardly approach while Ben seems to want to fight back, at least to some degree. Harry gives us numerous examples of him being a coward throughout the film. One such example being when he hesitates for quite some time before giving Tom some nails to board up an entrance that a zombie is trying to break through.
Throughout the rest of the film we experience this conflict between Ben and Harry rise to an extreme. Gun shots are ultimately fired between the two resulting in the death of one. An attempt to refuel Ben's truck causes the loss of two lives and the destruction of the truck - the only means for all of them to escape together. As the night progresses zombies start making their way into the house and more and more refugees lose their lives in the battle against the zombies and themselves. By morning only two refugees are left who have survived the zombies and only one lives past that morning.
Tom Savini did a terrific shop directing this film. I really enjoyed this remake, almost more-so than the original (yes, I'm a blasphemer...I know). Remember, George Romero wrote the screenplay for this remake so it had his blessing. Savini was hand chosen by Romero to direct the film. The twists and turns that Savini throws throughout the film are terrific. Anyone who loves the original and expects to watch a scene-by-scene remake of the original (ala Psycho 98) will be in for a big surprise. Savini misleads scenes throughout the film and uses your knowledge of the original film to manipulate you and throw in a twist or scare that you're not expecting. Savini also did a terrific job redesigning the way the zombies looked. I think the zombie look is much more effective in this film than the original. The zombies in this film are what I'd imagine dead people to look like if they decided to crawl up from their graves (at least recently buried dead people).
Another aspect of the remake that I enjoyed quite a bit was the rambo-like Barbara character. Probably the biggest difference between this remake and the original are the changes made to Barbara. In the original Barbara was helpless and wimpy throughout the film, never standing up for herself or fighting back. In the remake Barbara starts off being helpless and wimpy but by the end of the film she's kicking some zombie ass.
Overall this movie was terrific. A nice homage to the original I believe. While I'm generally against remakes I have to make an exception for this one. If you have yet to see this you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try.
Columbia Tri-Star presents Night of the Living Dead (90) in it's original Theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, enhanced for 16:9 TVs and includes a P&S transfer on side B. The transfer has definitely been remastered, since it has the 16x9 enhancement. However, I still noticed some scratches and speckles throughout the film. Nothing that severe where it hinders the enjoyment of viewing the film, but still a minor annoyance and not the usual pristine transfer that I've come to expect from Columbia Tri-Star. Certainly this is leaps and bounds over the old VHS, which is the only other version I've seen (never had a chance to see or own the laserdisc, but Columbia wasn't exactly known for producing great laserdiscs).
The colors and flesh tones are solid, and look to be an accurate presentation of how they should appear. The dark scenes are terrific, all the blacks were solid.
Soundtrack was nothing exceptional, though I can't point out any specific complaints about it because there really are none. It's presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound. It would've been nice to get a remixed 5.1 soundtrack, but Columbia opted not to do this for whatever reason.
I enjoyed the supplements on this DVD quite a bit. They consist of a 30 minute documentary titled "The Dead Walk", commentary from director Tom Savini, original theatrical trailer for NOTLD (90), original theatrical trailer for The Tingler and talent files on the cast and crew.
The documentary was great. It was around 20-30 minutes at my estimate. It consists of comments from Tom Savini, Ross Streiner, John Russo and Patricia Tallman. Tom's comments throughout the documentary was certainly the highlight of the documentary. He goes over the challenges of remaking a classic and the challenges of making the zombies scary again, now that zombies have become so common on television today (he references beer commercials, Michael Jackson's Thriller, etc) he felt it was necessary to give the zombies a makeover to make them "scarier". I think he accomplished this goal in the movie.
The documentary also contained a number of deleted scenes from the movie. The MPAA gave the original cut of the film an X and forced them to make numerous cuts to get an R. This documentary shows a number of scenes that were cut to bring the film down to an R. A few of the scenes consists of head shots to various zombies, with one of the head shots causing the head to explode with blood - kind of cool!
There was commentary throughout the film itself from director Tom Savini. Overall I found the commentary to be enjoyable, but not something that I'd listen to multiple times like The Evil Dead or Evil Dead 2 commentary tracks. There were some gaps in the commentary here and there but overall Tom kept talking and kept me interested most of the time. He discussed the various actors (including a lot of the zombies) and how/why they were chosen, the various special effects (or "illusions" as he calls it) and how they were accomplished and he discussed his thoughts on the cut scenes (which it sounds like he wasn't too upset about). You could tell he was genuinely proud his work and it sounds like they had a lot of fun making the movie. It's too bad they didn't include any of the actors in the commentary, or even George Romero himself. I find commentaries are always more enjoyable with multiple people involved (nothing beats Evil Dead 2 commentary - terrific).
Lastly, there's a small insert that explains the making of the film, when it was released, how much it costs and other various facts on the film. A quick read but still a nice little item.
I'd like to say the artwork for this release really sucks. They should've used the artwork they used for the 1990 release, which I've included below for you to see. Otherwise, terrific movie and a near perfect disc from Columbia. If you're a fan of the film then you'll no doubt love this disc. The minor visual problems on the film shouldn't prevent you from buying this disc. As said previously, this is certainly the best presentation of the film that exists today. Given the retail price of $24.98 and all of the extras you get on this, it's an absolute bargain. Add it to your collection today!
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 28 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- English Dolby 2.0 surround, Portuguese Mono
- English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai Language subtitles
- Trailer - NOTLD (90)
- Trailer - The Tingler
- Audio Commentary by director Tom Savini
- Documentary including interviews and deleted scenes
- Talent Files
- Productions Notes (Insert)