Night of the living dead’s real crime is being a fairly average movie. Tom Savini was tasked with remaking and thereby reclaiming the rights to one of the most beloved zombie films of all time. Standing on its own, Night of the Living Dead is very professional, quite adequate. But that’s not what the fans wanted, they were hoping for something that was spectacular. Something that took the original and pushed it to the next level. Part of the problem here is the period in which it was made. The MPAA was really cracking down on violence and gore, a cycle we wouldn’t really see broken until Ronny Yeu directed Freddy versus Jason and took the blood and gore up to cartoonish levels so that it wouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s a tactic that didn’t quite work for Evil Dead, but changing times, changing attitudes.
Savini did attempt to update the story however, by making Barbara a stronger character at the end. I consider this to be a mistake. It’s so jarring to see her transformation. We’re so used to her being the victim, the freaked out almost catatonic young woman of the black and white film. She almost lessens the impact of the brilliant Tony Todd in this film. It’s such a small change though, I don’t know that it went far enough. What we saw from the remake of Dawn of the Dead was a great updating of the classic Romero zombie film. They took the premise, a bit of the concept, and they ran with it, literally. They ramped up the blood they made zombies far more interesting looking and much more direct. I can get into fast zombies versus slow zombies here, but it is undeniable that Dawn of the Dead was a very successful remake, in one of the models that we should be looking towards. If we hold that up against the Night of the Living Dead remake, what we see is sometimes you can go too far in respecting the original material. I think to reboot this remake we need to do is go more extreme, taking the original premise a group of people in an abandoned farmhouse, strife, internal struggles, and an relenting force outside. But really, I don’t know there is a great way to update this classic period something is perhaps, should just be left alone.