Night of the Living Dead (1990) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Tom Savini
Producers: John A. Russo and Russel Streiner
Writer: George Romero
Based on George Romero and John Russell’s original Night of the Living Dead (1968) screenplay
Date Released: October 19, 1990
Tony Todd as Ben
Patricia Tallman as Barbara Todd
Tom Towles as Harry Cooper
William Butler as Tom Bitner
Rating = 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and her brother Johnny (Bill Moseley) pick the worst day possible to visit their mother’s grave—the day when the dead begin to rise and prey upon the living. Barbara manages to escape to a farmhouse and is soon joined by a ragtag group desperate to survive.
The zombies look like real, animate, decaying dead, oozing pus and blood as one would expect. The practical effects make everything that much more believable and some zombies and their aftermath can be genuinely difficult to look at. And animal lovers, beware: one zombie tries snacking on a field mouse.
The Grave Review
Night of the Living Dead (1990) follows the same basic story beats as the 1968 original: a group of healthy humans are trapped together and are forced to work together to ensure their survival in the midst of a zombie outbreak. There are some updates to the story that make it work just as well for an audience of the nineties as the original did for the sixties, not to mention an audience of today. Updates to the budget benefit the story as well, especially in the effects department.
The cast does a great job updating the story and giving characters a bit more personality. A particular standout is Tom Towles, who plays Harry Cooper, the controlling patriarch of his family. He plays a relentlessly unpleasant man who actively thwarts everyone else’s attempts to protect each other simply because their ideas go against his ideas. Him meeting his end after all of his bullying and betrayals is unbelievably cathartic, though such a small moment in the overall film. Patricia Tallman also plays a strong Barbara that flies in the face of the Barbara from the original movie: although her grip on her sanity weakens, she transforms into someone entirely self-sufficient and strong as the situation requires. The characters as a whole feel like an accurate depiction of a motley crew reacting to unimaginable danger and changing due to it.
Remakes of cult classics are almost always controversial, and Night of the Living Dead (1990) was no exception to that. However, I think this remake holds its own and updates the story well. There are some story aspects that always bothered me in the original, like Barbara’s seeming descent into catatonia, that are tweaked that keep the story and characters engaging. Small details, like photos of zombies when they were still regular people, or characters recognizing some of the zombies as they attack, bring the horror of the movie home. Although I appreciate the work that went into the original and how George Romero created a cult classic with what he had, there are things Tom Savini could do in 1990 that Romero simply hadn’t been able to do in 1968 for a myriad of reasons. I would say that the diehard Romero fan should at least give the remake a chance: it’s not about one Night of the Living Dead versus the other, it’s about seeing how a story is interpreted at different points in a creator’s career.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Night of the Living Dead (1990) three graves out of five graves.
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