Night of the Living Dead (1990)
There IS a fate worse than death.
Year of Release: 1990
Running Time: 88 minutes (1:28)
Director: 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
Heather Mazur ... Sarah Cooper
Seven strangers are trapped in an isolated farmhouse while cannibalistic zombies - awakened from death by the return of a radioactive space probe - wage a relentless attack, killing (and eating) everyone in their path.
Night of the Living Dead, remake version, remindin' us that a shotgun is no substitute for bolt cutters when flammable liquids're involved. Ya know, for farm folk, these guys sure dunno much about rural problem solvin'. You can do just about anything if you've got a pair of vise grips, bolt cutters, an a roll of duct tape, but a scatter-gun's only good for settlin' domestic disputes an bringin' down dinner. An speakin' of people who couldn't solve their own problems even with a how-to video starrin' MacGyver, I finally hadda come outta hidin' to help Skunky Hernandez get his Sage Maze up an ready for the teenage boys who'll be pretendin' to get lost in there so their girlfriends' terror hormones'll kick into overdrive. But this year, I decided to do things a little different, cause let's face it, I ain't gonna get paid diddly squat if'n we can't pack in more yard monsters than last year. So I started thinkin' about how we might generate a buzz with minimal effort on our part, an decided to go with the time-tested method of condemnation from authority figures. This method is pretty well fool proof, because the only thing that can stop it is the hypocrites actually believin' it's more important to put a stop to whatever they're protestin', than their gettin' to be the center of attention. So once that part was sorted out, I told Skunky that instead of runnin' the city council off with his .30-30, I'd throw together a temporary special attraction tailor made for each of 'em to inspect, while he an his cousins from Snoochflunk worked on erectin' the scarecrows, rubber spiders, an whatever other crapola he'd gotten outta the discount bin at Dollar General on November 2nd of the previous year. Then I called together a meetin' of my fellow pariahs an close personal friends (Sadie Bonebreak, Billy Hilliard, an Tetnis) over at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks to come up with a scheme to get those cantankerous old cranks to hate us enough to call for a boycott, an frankly there were so many plausible solutions to this that we ended up goin' through seven pots of coffee tryin' to whittle down our options. We concluded that, in this day an age, even though there ain't that much that's scary anymore (at least in the traditional sense), public humiliation still works as well as it ever did. But first we hadda marginalize our competition, which, 'round here consists mainly of Hell Houses. For those of you that dunno what a Hell House is, they're essentially places run by fundie Christian groups where they perform little skits that attempt to shame children into obedience by tellin' 'em that if they masturbate their genitalia'll shrivel up into a piece of dried onion loaf an fall off, or somethin' equally implausible. Still, they're big hits in these parts, so it was pretty easy to get the city council to show up on inspection day to make sure nothin' sacrilegious was afoot, specially since us ruffians was involved.
So once they showed up an scowled awhile about their proximity to Skunky's personal hygiene practices, we explained that they'd each be singled out so they could individually sample a piece of the overall experience on their own an compare notes later, otherwise the demonstrations might take too long an cause 'em to miss their Murder, She Wrote reruns on TV Land. Now, for you foreigners out there that dunno, our representative body's made up of Reverend Dollarhide, Abel Pankins, Nan Anderson, an Buster McGarnagle, an they've all got what our citizenry would consider lengthy rap sheets if they had the slightest clue about what really goes on. Of course, they don't, cause these indiscretions tend to be known only to what you'd call the "out crowd," due to said infractions generally involvin' us or people like us, in one way or another. Anyway, we broke 'em up an each of us took one councilman to a different corner of the maze. Unbeknownst to them, I'd paired 'em up with someone they barely knew or didn't know at all, but who knew them real well. This was more diabolical than switchin' somebody's regular coffee with Folger's crystals, but they don't call it trick or treatin' for nothin', an we sure's heck weren't about to share our treats with these old grouches. Sadie I paired with up with Buster, who I don't think I've ever mentioned before because he's an aging dudebro who coaches the high school football team an is more or less a buttnugget. To give you an idea about the kinda guy we're dealin' with, he don't just swallow his chaw juice, he swallows the entire plug when he's done with it. Course, what Buster wasn't prepared for was Sadie gettin' into 'er high school prom dress an tellin' 'im that his son'd secretly paid 'er $300 to go to the prom with 'im back in 1991 so he wouldn't find out he was gay. I guess the kid moved down to San Francisco to pursue a career as a dental hygienist or somethin', an Buster was so P.O.'d he almost raised a hand to Sadie before realizin' he was in the middle of nowhere an nobody'd ever find his body if he tried anything. Tetnis I sent out with Nan Anderson, who happens to be one of our most ardent defenders of prohibition. She didn't remember Tetnis at all, even after he came out from behind a tall piece of brush in the surgical mask an butcher's apron he wears durin' procedures. But he certainly remembered her bein' dumped off at his "clinic" out behind Walleye's Topless Dancin' & Bait Shop after last year's 4th of July celebration, where he hadda use a souped up vacuum cleaner to pump 'er stomach when she packed away two fifths of Jack all by 'erself. She'd refused to go to the hospital on the grounds that the nurses might become loose lipped about what they'd seen.
Billy I sent out with Abel, an since Abel had/has no idea whatsoever who the father of Bambi's triplets are (he claimed it was me for years until he ponied up the scratch for a paternity test that blew up in his face, at which point he told everyone they were conceived in the same manner as Jesus), I had Billy pretend it was he who'd fathered the children. Now, under sane circumstances, this'd never matter, cept Abel's one of the most racist guys in Chickawalka County, so the idea of the whole town believin' Billy was the father of his grandkids'd prolly drive the guy to suicide. Course, bein' that I was at the Prime Creek Theater the night those little monsters were conceived, an might've been the one who flicked the fire alarm that caused the panic ejaculation leadin' to said conception, I was able to give Billy the details regardin' the date of conception that nobody else could possibly know, leavin' Abel with no choice but to believe the story. I went with Dollarhide myself, an although I didn't have a costume per se, I was wearin' the same clothes I was wearin' the day he stood me up in front of the church an attempted to publicly shame me for my attempted propagation of cinema that was deemed unfit for general consumption. So once we got to the last corner, I simply offered him a seat an asked the old codger if he believed all 10 Commandments were of equal importance, or if there was any one that maybe was less crucial. Naturally, he stood up an started shoutin' that only a man who was guilty of sin would ask such a question, an that he would undoubtedly burn in Hell at some undisclosed date. That's when I pulled out a copy of the small piece of paper that'd slipped out of his vestments while he was ridiculin' me on that aforementioned afternoon. It was a bettin' slip from the dog track over in Wumpsuggle, Idaho, that'd been paid for with the church's checkin' account. If you've ever seen this guy before, you'd think it'd be impossible for 'im to get any whiter, but it happened, an even more bizarrely, he seemed completely incapable of condemnin' me to Hell. Was like his throat had a hair clog so thick that even extra strength Liquid Plumr couldn't get it out, so I took the opportunity to explain to 'im that the theme of our Hell House was how even the "best" among us could be corrupted if they strayed from God's teachins, but by the time I'd finished he was already beatin' cheeks outta there. He did finally get his voice back when he'd reached his car, an what he hollered pretty much echoed what the rest of the cast told me their own audiences had said, which was that they'd see to it that no one would ever see our show. The best part is that none of 'em can even explain why they're forbiddin' the church congregation, bridge club, huntin' lodge, or football team from attendin' without outin' themselves. Of course, in truth, we have no intention of disclosin' any of these things. Even social miscreants have too much integrity to snitch, but I'll tell you one thing, I know of at least four people who're gonna have a frightenin' Halloween.
Anyway, given that I just rambled on for a whole lot longer than I would normally, an the fact that Night of the Living Dead is an honest to goodness remake for once rather'n a "retelling," "reimagining," or a "reboot," it seems a little senseless to talk about what one might learn from watchin' it when I've already been over the main themes in the review of the original movie. So let's go ahead an skip to the plot for the sake of non-redundancy. It's the little things that set these two movies apart anyhow.
The movie begins with these two siblins drivin' out to make sure the earth coverin' their mean ole Mama's grave's bein' kept salted, all the while the brother (Johnnie) is tauntin' his sister (Barbara) about how "they're comin' to get" 'er. It's not entirely clear who they are or what they're comin' for, but I'm guessin' it's Ashton Kutcher comin' to reclaim his haircut. But once they get there, Reverend Kane from the Poltergeist series bumps into 'em to ask if they've seen a little blonde girl around anywhere, an once he wanders off they're attacked by some guy who looks like he's bein' paid in finished goods for his work as a meth lab assistant, an anytime Johnnie tries pullin' the guy offa Barb she ends up pokin' 'im in the eye or kneein' 'im in the groceries like they're practicin' a Three Stooges skit. Eventually, their gangrenous guest fails to pick up his blue suede shoes, trips, an uses Johnnie's face to break his fall against a headstone, an Barb hasta climb into 'er car an take in the bitter irony that not only is it not safest of all, but that it's actually a damn sight more dangerous than just runnin' for it when she realizes she ain't got the keys. Fortunately, she slaps the brake release while she's tryin' desperately to get Michael Savage off the radio an fend off the necrotic nuisances invadin' 'er personal space at the same time, but that relief is short lived when she ends up rollin' downhill into a tree an smashes the Christmas Story leg lamp she had in the trunk into a million pieces. So she hops outta there an runs/rolls 'er way over to a nearby farmhouse that looks like Leatherface's prolly inside slow roastin' a rack of Pam in the oven, only when she heads inside she finds the decayin' remains of Elmer Fudd peekin' down at 'er from the second story, an he just about belly flops onto 'er when the railin' gives way like Michael Moore's girdle at an Old Country Buffet. Then Tony Todd shows up an runs over this jaywalkin' zombie in the middle of the road an gives Barb shaken lady syndrome to try an get 'er to pull 'erself together, but he can't get nothin' out of 'er before he hasta peel off an ninja kick this other zombie that's pawin' around the kitchen lookin' for some Billy Beer an then go shove his crowbar into its mushy potato head. Barb don't really wanna watch that, but when she heads into the livin' room she ends up havin' to club Elmer to death with a fire poker when he tries sniffin' 'er hair. By this point, Tony needs a little time to clear his head, only there's no fresh air to be had on the front porch cause the reanimated corpse of Ben Stiller has risen from the grave an started stinkin' up the place with his necrotized flesh an excessive hair gel, so Tony hasta release the slime in his coconut an then go spearhead the zombie that he creamed in his truck to regain his composure.
Then he heads back inside an tells Barb not to go fallin' apart on 'im cause this whole end of the world thing's already startin' to stress 'im out so bad that he's thinkin' of cheatin' on his New Years resolution to quit smokin'. Eventually, night falls, an Tony gathers Barb around the fireplace to tell 'er about how he was in a diner when it was attacked by a herd of reality TV fans who thought he was part of the daily special, an that he watched some redneck walk in to try an live out the ultimate NRA fantasy. Only the dead heads tryin' to eat 'im didn't seem to mind bein' riddled with bullets or the baffling question of why the redneck couldn't seem to learn from his mistakes, til one eventually took a shot in the melon an hit the deck. Then Tony goes upstairs an finds the corpse of some guy who was practicin' fellatio on a double barrel til things got outta hand, an right about that time the basement door creaks open an Tony hasta run back down an crush Tom Towles' (or Mr. Cooper's if you prefer) drinkin' arm with the doorknob an interrogate the hayseed (Tommy) he's been hidin' out in the basement with. Tony don't like the way Tommy's been hangin' with Mr. Cooper all this time when he really coulda used a hand keepin' the zombie hickeys off his jugular, but listens to Tommy tell the story about how his uncle had one chicken fried steak too many an kicked off, before risin' from the dead to eat his cousin's arm with a side of country gravy. Barb's not really listenin' cause she's a little distracted by a not-so-fresh herd of zombies headin' their way, an Tony tells Cooper he ain't about to pin 'imself down in that cellar like a dead butterfly to a chunka styrofoam an that if Cooper wants to he's more'n welcome to go suck the sump pump. So Tony, Tom, Barb, an Judy (Tom's girlfriend) start boardin' up the windows like they're tryin' to hide a speakeasy from Eliot Ness, while Cooper broods in the basement with his wife (Helen) an their wounded offspring (Sarah). Cept about that time the zombies start givin' the upstairs crew grief about the "you must be this alive" sign they've erected on the porch (with helpful picture of Dr. Ruth), an start teachin' 'em why you don't try nailin' things to the walls without the use of a stud finder. Then Tony an Tom head upstairs an start flippin' through all the TV channels to see if Andy Griffith's on, but all they can get is the Emergency Broadcastin' Station's zombie apocalypse test pattern, til Tom remembers there're a buncha old doors down in the cellar that they can use to reinforce their perimeter an liven up the soundtrack. I'll bet if Jim Morrison were still alive he'd even snort charred zombie remains, that guy was seriously messed up.
But anyway, Tony's just a little bit P.O.'d when Cooper won't let 'im into the basement to get the doors, so when he finally opens it up after Tony threatens to shotgun it into kindlin', Tony grabs 'im up by the nape of the neck an starts tellin' 'im how things're gonna be, til Judy freaks out an gives this big speech about how this's Tommy's house an that they're both startin' to push the boundaries of their country hospitality, resultin' in their winkies shrivelin' up into little dried up anchovies outta shame. The new found civility lasts about seven or eight seconds, til they encounter another security breach an Barb hasta start puttin' slugs into more dead heads. Then Judy starts goin' apeshit about how Barb whacked the guy from up the road who was prolly just stoppin' by to challenge Tommy's uncle to a banjo duel, an Barb hasta pump a few rounds into the reanimated torso of Lord Voldemort to prove the guy's already dead, before splatterin' its brain an kidney pie fillin all over the porch. It's hard to tell whether Judy's convinced or not, cause by this point she's duckin' an coverin' like Mrs. O'Grady's home economics class durin' an A-bomb drill, but at least she's quiet now. While all this's goin' on, Cooper hears voices upstairs, an upon investigation finds the zombies' Nielsen ratins're pretty well through the roof, an that Mike Wallace is tryin' to convince the leader of the zombie nation to come on 60 Minutes. The anchor's also readin' news updates when he ain't havin' to wipe the sweat off of his bald spot, an he reveals that the scientific community thinks the bodies of the recently deceased're returnin' to life, even though the CDC's sayin' it's just a buncha zoned out iPhone fanboys tryin' to find their way to the nearest Apple store. Cooper prefers the second theory, but he's got the heebies bein' upstairs all by 'imself, so he tries sneakin' the set downstairs like a Hurricane Katrina looter, where he's immediately hassled by Tony an the set ends up rollin' down the basement stairs like basket fulla underoos on laundry day. Then they decide to root through Elmer Fudd's overalls for some keys since Tom just now thinks it might be a good idea to mention the locked gas pump out back, an they're eventually able to locate 'em after goin' where no woman who wasn't bein' paid has gone before. Unfortunately, by now the zombies all know where the party is, an much like high school Seniors preyin' upon naive Freshmen with insecurity issues, they start swarmin' the place for fresh meat. That's alright though, cause Tony's got his plan all kinda formulated, an he takes Judy, Tom, an a flamin' piano leg out to redeem their Texaco points.
Least that WAS the plan, cause about halfway to the pump Judy tries executin' a three point turn without ever puttin' the truck in reverse an Tony ends up gettin' pitched outta there faster'n a washin' machine secured with a rubber band, an Judy's got too much road hypnosis to notice. Really though, Tony's the lucky one, cause it turns out that the keys they've got actually unlock the porno barn, an when Tom tries shootin' the lock off with his scatter-gun there's this minor towerin' inferno that roasts the kids alive like cockroaches in a Chinese casserole. So now Tony hasta start choppin' Adam's apples an sweepin' legs like he's in Cobra Kai en route back to the house, cept while Cooper's inside tryin' to wrestle the gun away from Barb, Helen's headed into the cellar to find that Sarah's gone zombie on 'em, an ends up gettin' 'er neck turned into a Trapezius sammich. This's a real downer for Tony, since he's literally been left out in the cold dead grasp of a buncha putrefied Pittsburghians, but eventually Cooper simultaneously gets the gun away from Barb an groped all over by undead deviates, which allows Barb time enough to get the door open for Tony. Only problem is, even in undeath the cops're racially profilin' Tony, so he an Barb end up havin' to let this thick blue line zombie inside the house so they can club 'im an steal his gun, while Cooper wastes about a half a clip tryin' to blow the fingers offa whichever zombie it was that violated the sanctity of his sphincter. Then things get real awkward when Sarah comes hobblin' up outta the cellar, cause when Tony tries doin' what hasta be done, Cooper an Tony end up puttin' so much lead into each other that they could pass as Chinese toys. Barb dispatches Sarah while the guys're havin' their shootout at the o-slay corral an tries to get Tony to make a run for it with 'er, but Tony's unable to get the lead out an tells 'er to get 'er hinder outta there an drop 'im a post-mortem card once she's made it to safety. This's about the point where the wheels start comin' off, cause all the barricades end up givin' out like a Louisiana levee, forcin' Cooper to hide out in the attic, an Tony to eat crow an take refuge in the basement, where Helen ends up gettin' in his face an bein' dispatched faster'n mall security attemptin' to deal with teenage punks at the Hot Topic. The last thing we see before the dawn is Tony kickin' on a portable radio an findin' the gas pump keys hangin' on the wall in the basement, an really, what else can you do at that point but have a good laugh? Sometimes fate decides to let you know how hilarious it thinks it is at the most inappropriate moments. Gonna cut it here, even though you're prolly thinkin'; "Remake, right? We already know how it ends, jagoff." Nope, Savini changed the ending, so if you've only seen the original, think again.
Alright, well, what we've got here is an example of the remarkably rare and elusive remake which bests the original. You can probably count the number of remakes that've managed this on one hand (at least when the original was a legitimate hit), and even then, the originals tend to come from the black and white era where you've instantly got at least one area where you could conceivably make improvements. Of course, if you've ever seen Psycho from 1998, you know that this is in no way a guarantee, but when that condition is met, there's at least a chance. Remakes were not nearly quite so repellent an idea back in the '80s and '90s, because we hadn't yet gotten to the point where a studio's sole motivation for making it was to cash in on the name recognition of the original, so the '80s managed to produce a few other exceptional remakes like The Fly and The Thing. Something else that's reassuring here is that Tom Savini was/is a close friend of George Romero, and had worked with George on Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, so you know that the guy is not only a fan of the original, but that he also understands what made it so successful. This is also made clear by various tips of the hat, such as the scene near the end with the zombies hung from a tree being used for target practice. That was a scene that never made it into the original movie, presumably due to the racial tensions of the era, but Tom included it here as an homage. You've also got several cameos from cast members of the original, and the blood splattering onto a garden trowel during the basement scene where Sarah kills her mother. In the original, Sarah uses the trowel to kill her. There are, of course, at least a few significant changes that Savini made to the original Romero/Russo story, the most obvious of which is that Barbara's character goes from a cowering liability, to a much stronger, take-charge style character who isn't content to have the menfolk save her skin. Presumably, that's why she has the shorter, more practical hairstyle, and why we get that simple, yet defining scene in which she changes out of her dress and into a pair of pants. She's ditching that victim bullstuff and taking control of her life, and I think that not only makes for a much more interesting character, but also makes the movie better in general. The other big thing, of course, is the ending. Now, I'm not gonna spoil it, but I'll say this much; changing the ending in a remake of a classic horror movie takes a whole lot of guts (for good or for ill), and in this case, I think just about everybody (even people who prefer the original) would have to agree that the ending of the remake is far more satisfying. For me, the ending of the original was nothing short of infuriating, but that's been well remedied in Savini's version, and that's one of the biggest reasons why I prefer it.
Okay then, let's crowbar this thing's skull and find out if it's got a mind of its own, or if it's skatin' on George Romero's genius. The plot is of course, a classic, and despite being a little unfair, any remake based upon a classic flick starts out with the advantage of a great plot. Sure, by 1990 this premise had been used time and again by the originators and many imitators, but for me, this story just never gets old. As a bonus, due to the setting, even the passing of 22 years tends to hold much of the original story in tact, as things tend to change a lot slower in the country than they do a city. The acting is one of two areas where the remake improves on the original significantly. Partly because when you've actually got a budget, you can hire actors that're decidedly more talented, and partly because acting as an art form had come a long way over the last couple decades. Tony Todd is the guy that really makes this movie what it is, cause I'd put that scene where he's sitting next to the fireplace telling Barbara about how he came to be at the house up against anything anybody's ever done in this genre on the acting front. Candyman was a great movie, but I think that this was Todd's defining moment as an actor. Of course, the protagonist is only as good as their nemesis, and Tom Towles is about as hateable as they come as Harry Cooper. Savini definitely cranked the asshole dial on the Cooper character up to 11 for the remake, where he was mostly just marginally annoying in the original, and Towles' portrayal inspires a significantly greater emotional response on the part of the viewer. And of course, Patricia Tallman knocks the character of Barbara out of the park. Despite not being what I liked best about the movie, I think she had to have the greater range, because in the beginning she's pretty well cracked before Tony Todd gets ahold of her and tells her to get it together. Her hysterical acting near the beginning is excellent, but her transition to the psychologically hardened ball buster later on is equally impressive, so basically what we've got here is an extremely well acted movie, where the acting only has to be decent for it to succeed. William Butler and Bill Moseley are pretty good too, but the other three are on a whole other level.
Here's who matters and why (less Tony Todd and Bill Moseley, cause they're pretty well established genre regulars at this point): Patricia Tallman (Army of Darkness, Jurassic Park, Dead Air, InAlienable, Babylon 5: Thirdspace, Babylon 5: The Gathering, Monkey Shines), Tom Towles (Blood on the Highway, Halloween 2007, Home Sick, House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, Groom Lake, The Prophecy II, Fortress 1992, The Borrower, The Pit and the Pendulum, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), William Butler (Gingerdead Man 3, Dead Country, Watchers III, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Buried Alive 1990, Arena, Spellcaster, Ghoulies II, Friday the 13th Part VII, Terror Night), David Butler (The Dark Half, Dawn of the Dead 1978), Zachary Mott (The Mothman Prophecies, The Dark Half, The Majorettes), William Cameron (Day of the Dead 1985, The Dark Half), Pat Logan (Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh, Day of the Dead 1985), Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille (Night of the Living Dead 1968, Day of the Dead 1985), Greg Funk (Wishmaster), John Hamilton (The Last Horror Film), Dyrk Ashton (The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy), Stacie Foster (Cyber-Tracker 1 & 2), John Skipp (Nightbreed, Death Collector), Vini Bancalari (Day of the Dead 1985), Rik Billock (The Dark Half, FleshEater, I Am Number Four, Gorgasm, Monkey Shines, Dawn of the Dead 1978), Don Brockett (The Silence of the Lambs, Day of the Dead 1985), Butchie (Dawn of the Dead 1978), Earl Ellis (Night of the Creeps, Spirits), Chris Gore (Carnosaur), John W. Iwanonkiw (All Saints Eve, Lucifer's Unholy Desires, The Dark Knight Rises, River of Darkness, 6 Souls, Sorority Row, My Bloody Valentine 2009, 12-24, Of the Flesh, The Mothman Prophecies, The Stand, Innocent Blood, Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh, The Silence of the Lambs), Frederick E. Kowalo (My Bloody Valentine 2009, Spider-Man), Ralph Langer (Day of the Dead 1985, Dawn of the Dead 1978), Sean P. McCarthy (The Dark Knight Rises, My Bloody Valentine 2009, The Screening), Bill McCue (The Dark Half, Post-Mortem), Craig Spector (Nightbreed, Death Collector), Russell Streiner (The Majorettes, Night of the Living Dead 1968). Patricia Tallman also played Lyta Alexander on the Babylon 5 TV series, in addition to the aforementioned movies.
The special effects would be the second area where the passage of time allows for a significant opportunity to improve upon the original, having 22 years of improved special effects technology. Many of which, ironically, were pioneered by Savini himself. I'm not gonna shill for it though, and I must acknowledge a few less than stellar effects that do crop up throughout the course of the movie. The first one I'd mention is the dummy Patricia Tallman is pelting with that fire poker near the beginning. That thing, despite not looking too bad, sounds, and reacts like it's inflated with air when she strikes it. Additionally, in that same general time frame, the severed hand is way too light weight and jiggly when it moves, again, despite not *looking* bad, it handles poorly. You've also got the dummy legs on the zombie that Tony Todd runs over in the truck, which are intended to give the appearance of a broken pelvis. I'd assume the actor was actually up to his torso in a hole they'd dug, but those fake legs are downright lousy. And lastly, the dummy that stands in for Bill Moseley when it hits its head on the tombstone bounces noticeably when it does so. As is always the case, it looks good, but the material just reacts poorly when called upon to perform. Seems like that's a recurring trend. That said, this movie is a special effects bonanza, and just about everything else is amazing. All the zombies look fantastic, and we get a pretty good variety in terms of stages of decay. Maybe not quite as good as the ones from Day of the Dead, but much better than those from Dawn of the Dead. Also, the corpse of William Butler's cousin with the shotgun in his mouth and brains blown all over the wall is spectacular, probably my favorite effect in the movie. Helen's torn out throat is also well executed, as are the barbecued corpses of Tom and Judy that the zombies drag outta the fire and proceed to munch on. I'm probably forgetting some of the positives, but don't let those less than effective props I mentioned earlier fool you, cause when you've got as many effects as this movie has, it's pretty unlikely that everything would turn out perfect.
The shooting locations are pretty good, and just like the original, we've really only got two of them; the cemetery where Barbara is initially attacked, and the farm house that she escapes to. As far as the house goes, I think I actually prefer the look of the house in the original better. Not because the new house looks bad (and actually, they do a much better job here of displaying the layout so that you know exactly where everyone is in relation to each other), I just like the original a little better. Strictly a personal preference that's of little consequence to the overall score of the movie. The soundtrack is a huge improvement, in that it wasn't a bunch of loud, intrusive public domain music that someone well versed in cinema could recognize from other movies. I think my favorite track is prolly the one that plays over the opening credits. Immensely atmospheric, ominous, and unnerving. It's perfect. The other tracks don't stand out as much, but they're all very enjoyable as well, appropriate to their individual scenes, and they all seem to have this retro twinge to them that doesn't actually make them seem dated, but at the same time, makes it clear that this movie is intimately connected to Romero's original Dead Trilogy titles that preceded it. One piece even has a little section that reminds you of the theme from the original Twilight Zone, but isn't so blatant that it distracts from the scene. Overall, Savini's remake is a masterpiece, and criminally underrated by mainstream audiences. Any horror fan can go on and on about how good it is, but I really think it's good enough that it oughta get more love from the general public. It's an easy recommendation to anybody that enjoys zombie movies, and even casuals who only dabble in horror when they're pretty sure they've got something great on their hands, so check it out if you haven't. And check it out again if you have.