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Original Vs. Remake: Night of the Living Dead

04.22.2015by: Mike Catalano
It was pretty easy for all to agree with the winner of our last Original Vs. Remake that took place on Prom Night. No one showed any love for that dreadful remake PG-13 crapfest. And it was nice being reminded of the early 80's horror quality that the Jamie Lee Curtis original provided.

We are serving up some undead action for today's Original Vs. Remake and taking a big bite out of a genre classic. Yes, these days zombies are all the rage on the big screen as well as on TV and that is all thanks to Mr. George A. Romero who introduced the world to the ultimate undead antagonists with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. I'm sure many of you may know that 22 years later, horror F/X guru, Tom Savini, gifted us with a pretty strong remake starring the Candyman himself, Tony Todd. I say we put these two flicks in the ring and see who walks out. Lock your doors and aim for the head as we tackle both versions of Night of the Living Dead.

Story
A group of random people get trapped in an abandoned country house as an unexplained phenomena is unfolding outside across the country. The dead are rising and going after the living! Time is of the essence as the group tries to work together in order to fend off the undead and find a means to escape the house safely. But those zombie pricks are plentiful and persistent!
Not a great liberty was taken with the original story in regard to this remake. The entire plot of the 1968 version is basically lifted verbatim.
Special Effects
First off, let's be real clear about when this film was made and the fact that it is in black and white. Despite that, the use of practical effects is pretty damn astounding and really adds to the creepiness of the zombie antagonists. For a 1968 horror film, we get lots of surprising gore, guts, and blood! And the fact that it's black and white actually helps the realism factor!
With Tom Savini at the helm, you know for damn sure that the practical gore effects on hand are going to be bloody great! Of course, the dude does not disappoint as we are treated to a wide, icky array of festering zombie flesh which truly ups their scary factor. The attacks are equally violent and do not shy away from letting the red stuff fly!
Acting
Duane Jones is the shit here as he ushers in one of the great horror heroes of our time. He's so cool and strong and says a great deal with just his eyes. He is also backed up wonderfully by all the supporting players. Special mention to Judith O'Dea's fearful "Barbara", Keith Wayne's stalwart "Tom", and Karl Hardman's selfish jerk "Harry". The performances certainly elevate the film's low budget.
It's always a pleasure watching Tony Todd work in our genre. His stature and voice form a commanding presence. He was perfectly cast in this remake. Patricia Tallman has a nice scream queen quality in the role of Barbara which seems to have been expanded. The remainder of the cast is serviceable enough. Nothing outstanding, but all are competent enough.
Intensity
Again, for an older film, it's amazing how intense many of the scenes come off. The use of the musical score and different forms of lighting work at creating a very unnerving sense of fear. And seeing the zombies eating actual human flesh for the first time definitely packs quite a shock!
Thanks to the great makeup effects, we do get some pretty neat jolts out of the remake. There are a few nifty jump scares that occur when an undead fiend pops up suddenly out of nowhere. The fierceness of the zombies is much more intense which does make for a scary enough experience.
Hot Chicks
I was actually surprised how beautiful some of the women on hand here were for a black and white oldie. Judith O'Dea and Judith Ridley are both a couple of blonde cuties. The two seem to possess that old Hollywood starlet charm and actually come off as pretty darn sexy.
Patricia Tallman is the only real eye candy on hand here, but that is not necessarily a problem. She's got a super cute face with a short, sexy redhead 'do on top, plus a sweet, lean body! She is backed up in the hot chick dept by young Katie Finneran who ain't too bad on the eyes as well.
Directing
There's a reason why George A. Romero is considered one of the masters of the horror genre. His film created an era, a brand new form of terror. His work on Night of the Living Dead is a lesson in brilliant horror filmmaking. There's something beautiful, skillful, and terrifying in every frame. The lighting, the music queues, the fortitude to push the boundaries of gruesomeness are just exceptional. Not to mention the inner struggle between the remaining humans in the house. It all adds up to a singularly visceral experience.
Night of the Living Dead was actually Tom Savini's film directorial debut. Talk about pressure! Nevertheless, I think he still did an admirable job honoring the classic that came before. It probably helps that Romero wrote the script. Savini excells best at his zombie direction, allowing the walkers to come off as pretty darn frightening. The film has a pretty solid flow of tension once it gets going as the zombies start attacking the house.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The battle of the Dead has ended. And after clearing away all the bodies for the fire, it would seem that Mr. Romero's original reigns supreme. I agree that it would take some kind of friggin miracle for the uber-classic Night of the Living Dead to ever be beat, however the remake definitely deserves some style points. What do you think about both these films? Did Savini do Romero justice at all? Fire them bullets below! And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at mikecatalano@joblo.com.

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3:36PM on 04/22/2015
I'm in the minority, but I actually prefer the 1990 remake, for one reason: Barbra!!! I have a love for kick ass women, heroines, and final girls in the horror genre and the update on Barbra was just FANTASTIC and she is a personal favourite final girl of mine. So even though the original film is technically the better film (the directing, music score, and acting is better in the original), I find myself watching the remake more often, because I want some badass Barbra!
I'm in the minority, but I actually prefer the 1990 remake, for one reason: Barbra!!! I have a love for kick ass women, heroines, and final girls in the horror genre and the update on Barbra was just FANTASTIC and she is a personal favourite final girl of mine. So even though the original film is technically the better film (the directing, music score, and acting is better in the original), I find myself watching the remake more often, because I want some badass Barbra!
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2:31PM on 04/22/2015
I go with the 1990. I know the 1968 was low budget, but the editing was horrendous, which falls on the director.
I go with the 1990. I know the 1968 was low budget, but the editing was horrendous, which falls on the director.
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12:25PM on 04/22/2015
The original for me as well. It's been decades but the message and the atmosphere of the original are still relevant and work effectively in black and white. However, the remake is a much better remake than any average remake out there. The special effects and acting are top notch, especially Patricia Tallman. Tom Savini's remake can stand on its own with pride.
The original for me as well. It's been decades but the message and the atmosphere of the original are still relevant and work effectively in black and white. However, the remake is a much better remake than any average remake out there. The special effects and acting are top notch, especially Patricia Tallman. Tom Savini's remake can stand on its own with pride.
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