Night of the Living Dead (1990) **
D: Tom Savini
C: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, McKee Anderson, Heather Mazur, William Butler, Katie Finneran, Bill Moseley, Russell Streiner
Plot Synopsis: The unburied dead return to life and seek human victims.
Review: Practically a scene for scene remake of the original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead with the only differences being an alternate ending, additional gore & violence, a tougher heroine and that it's now presented in color. I'm not against remakes per se. I'm not against additional gore & violence as long as it's in service of the story. I'm not even against the alternate ending.
My problem comes down to one thing: it's in color. Now, you might be asking: Does presenting something in color really make that much of a difference? The answer, in short, is a resounding YES! Black & white photography makes you focus in on the subject (or in this case, the character). When something is presented in color, your eye has a habit of looking all over the screen, to absorb all of the details and colors in a setting. This creates a distracting effect. By removing color, your focus is pulled towards the characters instead of whatever is in the background. With your focus pulled towards the characters and their emotional state, the tension, the fear, the apprehension & the claustrophobia of them being trapped in a remote farmhouse, with slim hopes of making it out alive, became all the more plausible and immediate in the original version.
Now that things are in color, in the 1990 remake, your eye wanders to look over the makeup effects applied to the zombies. Your eye wants to absorb all of the various gore effects. Your eye wanders to look over what the characters are wearing, how their styled and their appearance in general. It even trickles down to smaller things, like the overall look of the house or how it's decorated. While all of these elements are executed in a technically proficient manner, it takes you away from focusing in on the characters and their state of mind since you're busy looking at everything else.
Also, with black & white, darkness and shadows are amplified. Since the greater majority of the film takes place at night, the two went hand in hand with one another. The other benefit of having amplified shadows and darkness is that the greatest common fear among people is darkness. Think back to when you was a kid. You had some kids who were frightened by a monster under the bed or the boogeyman in the closet, but the one thing that almost everyone experiences in their lifetime is being afraid of the dark and what may or may not be lurking in that darkness. By switching the format to color, the power to frighten people simply with shadows and darkness has been removed.
In reviewing this, it would be easy to point out that by making the heroine tougher, it removes one of the principal analogies of the original - that when characters are placed in situations of violence, that forces them to work together, they end up working against each other. In turn, they become brainless zombies much like the brainless zombies that surround the farmhouse. I could've gone the easier route and say that remaking the original was pointless and, quite frankly, it was. This is yet another attempt at milking a classic horror film for some additional money. However, that would be unfair to this production. It should be judged on its own artistic merits, not on the intention of the people involved.
With that said, they've recreated and re-staged all of the scenarios from the original, but they've re-staged & recreated these scenarios without an understanding as to the strengths of the film that inspired them and why it continues to frighten so many people. [R] 92 minutes.
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