Double Feature: Night of the Living Dead (1968) & Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Its’s October!! And that means its time for the kick-off of the annual Halloween Marathon. This year is going to continuing on with the normal format of double features, released (hopefully) every other day. The focus in the the Living Dead franchise as well as finishing off the Insidious franchise which I had reviewed the first movie a few years ago.

Time for the first post of the marathon and of course, what other way to do it than to do a Night of the Living Dead original and remake double feature!

Let’s check it out!

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director (and co-writer): George A. Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon

A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of monsters who are ravaging the East Coast of the United States. – IMDB

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a movie that is a blindspot on my list. Everyone likes to refer to it when talking about classic zombie movies so it was time to give this one a go. 1960s film so its essentially a black and white film. Black and white does do horror quite a good favor as it boosts a bit of the creepiness which is the main focus of what Night of the Living Dead portrays in its story with its slow-moving zombies. The movie is a rather revolutionary film as Romero casts a black actor as his main male lead that delivers quite the performance. At the same time, some of the characters especially the female character is kind of useless who remains in still shock or screaming panic. At the same time, the the “damsel in distress” does add a little to the tension since she essentially can’t help with the situation much and probably creates more problems than solutions.

Romero’s zombies are slow and attracted by the sense of human flesh about. At this point, these people who end up at this house together don’t know what is going on except that the dead aren’t staying dead (I think one of the posters uses that tagline). Of course, at this day and age, what zombies have we not seen and perhaps because of how the zombies themselves have gotten so much better with technology its easier to nitpick on how not scary they all are. Its unfair to compare it to current technology but my point is that watching it as a first watch now is a little harder to appreciate it for all its glory when it was released in the 1960s.

However, Night of the Living Dead as I think back to this viewing does start to be one that I would revisit. I’m not a huge fan of black and white films, somehow it adds a little something to the horror element naturally perhaps because it plays with the darker tones and hides things in the shadows easier. At the same time, the main character Ben, played by Duane Jones is pretty good and resourceful. As the group splits up because of their own need to survive by what they believe is best for the situation, the story does turn up. I’m not a huge fan of this type of ending but its definitely a shocking and unexpected one. Credit where its due.

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Night of the Living Dead 1990

Director: Tom Savini

Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, McKee Anderson, William Butler, Katie Finneran, Bill Moseley, Heather Mazur, David W. Butler

The unburied dead return to life and seek human victims. – IMDB

Night of the Living Dead remake is exactly what it is. Its definitely one of the most similar-to-the-original remakes that is out there. There isn’t a whole lot of differences other than the female character’s personality and the ending. I can see that the writers probably were on the same wavelengths at the time as they changed the two things that I didn’t enjoy as much from the original. Its a coincidence but then did the changes make the remake better than the original? In reality, the two actually score about the same for myself after having some time to mull over it.

See as the story is the same with very minor details being changed (aside from the ending that I will talk about later), the first point will be to talk about the change in the female character Barbara played by Patricia Tallman who I found much more engaging and fun to watch since she’s a stronger female lead who works together with Ben, played by Tony Todd. While I understand in the 60s, it was normal for women in the original to be damsel in distress, in the 90s its a different story that does work fairly well. With that said, Tony Todd is not just the Candyman and its nice to see him in this role (which I didn’t know about prior to the viewing) since he’s a decent actor and takes on the role pretty well. I actually did think the role of Harry was better portrayed in this one also. There are some bigger scenes with bigger moments as the characters try to survive.

If we take a look at the second significant change and that being the ending, the original might be a little more surprising than this one. This one was a tad predictable. While its a more acceptable ending for myself, is it really better than the original? That is really based on preference. In general, the remake is a decent one although there were some parts that had some scenes that were a little meh showing especially its age as well. Plus, perhaps its the fact that this one is in color that the flaws and eeriness of the zombies is less effective than its original. Its hard to not compare the two films seeing as its essentially the same movie but done in a different decade with a better developed cinematography and effects.

5 thoughts on “Double Feature: Night of the Living Dead (1968) & Night of the Living Dead (1990)

  1. I love the remake (not as much as the first) and I loved the ending because the character arc of Barbara is well more established than the original. She goes in kind of weak and leaves a badass ready for the zombie hordes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Double Feature: Diary of the Dead (2007) & Survival of the Dead (2009) | Tranquil Dreams

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