Night of the Living Dead Was Great!
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed horror movies forever. It’s impact on the genre is jaw dropping, and is revered by most of us to be a masterpiece. It was made in 1968, it was black and white and it gave us a new spin on the zombie. We may take flesh eating zombies for granted nowadays, but if this movie hadn’t came to be then we would simply have living cannibals at best to worry about. Now that I have said that, let me ask you this… If it was so great, Why has it been remade? Well as many of you know, imitation is a form of flattery. That, and George Romero lost the rights to the movie making it fall into the public domain ‘GASP!’. So in this edition of remakes head to head, we will be covering the movie that started it all, the Genesis of the ‘flesh eating’ zombies, ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ and the inevitable remakes that followed. What I won’t be covering is the colorized re-issue, the terrible extended footage in the 30th anniversary edition, or the cartoon version that used the original sound track. Three movies enter… only 1 will reign supreme! But, who’s it going to be?
They’re coming to get you Barbara…
The Original – Night of the Living Dead (1968)
We start out with a woman named Barbara and her brother Johnny on the way to leave flowers on their father’s grave. Barbara gets attacked by a zombie and her brother hits his head and dies trying to defend her. Barbara makes her way to a farm house and meets a black man named Ben. Barbara is basically in shock the entire time while Ben takes charge which was a big deal in the 60′s. Although the word ‘zombie’ is never actually muttered in the movie that’s what they were and of the new ‘flesh eating’ variety. The zombies are slow but eventually gather in mass outside the house. After nightfall we find out that there were a group of people in the basement the entire time.
Cooper, his wife, their daughter, a teenage guy and his girlfriend begin to help fortifying the house. Cooper and Ben have a territory war of sorts and Cooper takes the basement along with his wife and daughter while Ben and the rest take their chances upstairs. Over time we learn that the plan is to get to the gas pump with Ben’s truck so they can get to safety. They get to the pump and the truck explodes, killing the teenagers. Cooper and Ben have a fight and Ben shoot’s him. The zombies start to take over the house. Cooper goes downstairs and dies next to his sick daughter and his wife followed down later. She is killed by her now zombie daughter with a garden trowel, and dies. The still catatonic Barbara gets taken from the house by her zombie brother Johnny and dies, leaving Ben to fend for himself. He goes downstairs and kills zombie Cooper and Zombie Cooper’s wife. The next morning help comes but when Ben makes his way out of the house, the rednecks outside mistake him for a zombie and shoot him in the head. The End.
The Remake – Night of the Living Dead (1990)
We start out with Barbara and Johnny heading to their mother’s grave in a remote rural cemetery. Once there they are attacked by a zombie and in the fight, Johnny is killed. Barbara makes her way to a farm house and finds a few zombies around. She meets a black man named Ben and together they kill the zombies inside the house and begin to settle in. After a very brief period of Barbara being in shock, she begins to help take charge. When Ben goes to investigate the upstairs, the cellar door opens to reveal there are several people in the basement. Henry Cooper, his wife, their sick daughter, a young guy and his girlfriend join the crew. Cooper and Ben start a turf war that just HAS to end badly. Cooper and his family take the basement and the rest stay upstairs.
The plan is to find the gas pump keys so they can flee in Ben’s truck. After a while of boarding up the windows the find some keys and Ben and the teenagers go to fill up the truck. The teenage girl can’t drive for shit and Ben falls off the truck. The teen’s find that they have the wrong keys and then proceed to shoot the lock off of the pump like a genius. The resulting shot blows a hole in the tank and the gas ignites on a torch Ben left in the back of the bed as he was bucked off and the truck explodes. Ben makes his way back to the house to find that the place is in shambles. Cooper had stolen the rifle from Barbara and Cooper’s wife had went downstairs to be munched on by their zombie daughter.
The zombie daughter comes upstairs and when Ben goes to shoot it, Cooper shoots Ben. Barbara shoots the zombie girl, and Cooper goes to shoot her. As he turns away from Ben, Ben shoots him and he flees upstairs to the attic to hide like a pansy. Ben goes to the basement and Barbara leaves to find help. Ben kills Cooper’s zombie wife and sits in a chair. As he goes to light his last cigarette, he sees some keys on the wall clearly marked ‘Gas Pump Keys’ and laughs as the lantern fades out. Barbara meets up with some rednecks kicking zombie ass. That next morning they make their way to the house and find Ben a zombie. Cooper runs downstairs and Barbara shoots him in the head saying ‘Here’s another one for the fire”. The End.
Remake #2 – Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006)
Barbara and Johnny make their way to a rural cemetery for the funeral of their aunt. Johnny is attacked and drives off, leaving his sister there alone. Barbara runs off to the funeral home to find the proprietor fending off zombies. He strongly suggests that she leaves and she does but is attacked by zombies on a dark dirt road and saved by a guy on a motorcycle. He takes her to a farm house where everyone smokes pot. What’s that on the television? Oh it’s a real movie, the original Night of the Living Dead. Zombies come to the house, blah blah blah the people die little by little. Yada yada, kill a zombie, smoke some pot, yada yada.
The funeral owner comes over and we learn that he is afraid of fire and hasn’t been cremating people for the last year due to his fear. Also, some dangerous chemicals he was supposed to burn also didn’t get disposed of as well because of his same fear. The chemicals mixed with the bodies and created zombies, omg! We learn that the man on the bike was a pot dealer out to deliver product to the house, not that it really matters or anything. As the funeral guy, the drug dealer guy, and Barbara get in the car after everyone else dies we learn that the funeral guy is crazy and he subdues them both.
He takes them back to the funeral home to reveal his zombie father. Barbara lights him on fire and hides in a car oh no! The funeral guy gets eaten by zombies and the drug dealer gets stabbed with a tire iron at some point. Barbara uses her last bullet to put him out of his misery. The overhead door to the funeral home’s garage opens to reveal several zombies inside. Instead of running she just stands there and looks at them and they eat her. The End.
The Battle of Night of the Living Dead
The films want to put you in a specific situation in a specific setting while showing us a few things.
- The dangers of being trapped in an isolated rural town in a zombie epidemic.
- Getting to shelter and fortifying it
- Keeping your wits inside while the world falls apart outside
- Being forced to leave your shelter to a questionable future
It also has to entertain us with a few things as well.
- The over all story
- Entertaining actors
- Cultural significance
The dangers of being trapped in an isolated rural town in a zombie epidemic.
The Winner = The Original.
Why? Because the house was just a house. Nobody in the group is really familiar to it making it a total mystery. In the 1990 remake it was the young guy’s uncle’s house and in the horrible 3D version it was Cooper’s house.
Getting to the shelter and fortifying it.
Winner = The 1990 remake.
Why? When Barbara gets to the house, there are zombies inside and outside. Her and Ben have to clear it out, THEN board it up. That extra step puts it ahead of the original in the danger level.
Keeping your wits inside while the world falls apart outside.
Winner = The 1990 remake.
Why? Because in the original, Barbara was in shock and useless and Ben shoots Cooper in some dumb fight. In the ’90 remake, Barbara actually does stuff and although Ben and Cooper get into a gun fight it was over a better reason (Cooper not being able to kill his zombie daughter).
Being forced to leave your shelter to a questionable future.
Winner = The 1990 remake.
Why? Because Barbara ran off by herself at night after the fit hit the shan. She just so happened to find help and ended up ok, but still she had to leave alone at night. In the original they didn’t get a chance to leave because of the zombie break in and Ben had to flee to the basement after everyone else died. In the 3D remake, they left in a car and there were three of them. Safety in numbers puts this one lower on the totem pole.
The over all story
Winner = The original.
Why? The lack of a budget made the story rely on the old fashioned skill of story telling to scare us. The original’s use of slapping strangers into an unknown house was just meatier. The remake also had a great story, but the original’s story was just a tad scarier.
Winner = The 1990 remake.
Why? Simply put, actual actors typically mean more compelling acting. Tony Todd for instance is just a great horror actor. The original had no name actors that couldn’t really act, and the 3D remake was just a big pot joke.
Winner = The Original.
Why? A black leading actor in the 60′s was a big deal. Nobody in the film commented on race and he lead the group. In the 1990 remake the cultural significance was a strong female taking charge which wasn’t as big of a deal in comparison (sorry feminists!) and the 3D movie had literally no cultural significance other than smoking pot, but they were doing that back in the 60′s too so who cares?
The 1990 Remake of Night of the Living Dead Wins!
Night of the living dead (1990) wins with 4/7 of the categories or about 57% of the over all wins.