Why the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead is one of the best in horror


Mixing cabin fever, zombie sand a slasher feel, Night of the Living Dead (1968), was director George Romero’s stunning debut into the world of horror. Inspired partly by Romero’s experience in commercialization filming and Richard Matheson’s book, I Am Legend (which would be adapted into its own movies), Night of the Living Dead follows a group of young individuals as they seek for a place to hide and protection from re-animated corpses that have risen from a local graveyard, looking to chow down on some fresh meat. Considered to be one of the best films of 1968, and listed at #397 in Empire Magazine’s 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, Night of the Living Dead has had an immense impact on horror and horror movies.


In 1990, an official remake of the film, directed by Tom Savini (with the help of George Romero) was released. Normally (trend-wise), remakes tend to not be as well-received as their original predecessor. But with Night of the Living Dead (1990), that trend may have been bucked. While received negatively upon release, the remake has aged quite well, receiving much better reviews. Here’s why Night of the Living Dead (1990) is one of the best horror remakes.

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When George Romero made the original Night of The Living Deadhe’d never made a feature film before, as this was his directorial debut. And while he had obtained serious success with his first film, he was still fresh in the industry. With the twenty-two years between films, Romero gained immense experience, adding 12 more films to his filmography. So, when he re-wrote the script for the 1990 edition (more so to regain financial losses from the first film), Romero made some adequate changes to improve the film. One of which, was making Barbara a much more active and participating character, rather than the passive version in the 1968 film.

Making Barbara a Better Character


One of the biggest complaints audiences and critics had with the first film, was how one-dimensional Barbara (Judith O’Dea) was as a character. How she did nothing but scream and point as the living dead struck the home. With the 1990 remake, Romero took the chance to re-write Barbara, and it made the remake and story all the better for it. 1990 Barbara (played by Patricia Tallman this time around) was much more action-oriented in this story. She actively takes on and fights the zombies, creating some truly awesome gore and battle scenes, and her as an overall participant was wonderful to watch. Tallman also does a good job portraying Barbara’s loss of sanity throughout the night, and makes it much more terrifying to see now than in the 1968 version.

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More Exciting and Suspenseful Tension


Having to fend off zombies while being trapped in a house is always going to be terrifying for people, regardless of anything else, but with Night of the Living Dead (1990), Tom Savini turns the knob up to eleven. Watching as the group slowly give in to fear and cabin fever, as they try to escape the living dead, is immensely well done. Seeing each character try to fend for themselves, rather than working together, is the epitome of human nature. Ben and Cooper incessantly argued over the little things, only adding to the overall frustration. The MacGuffin of not being able to find the truck keys, only to be tragically revealed in death, only an arm’s length away. Though the tension is great in the original film, it is on another level in the remake.

The Special Effects


While the 1968 edition is beloved because of its blood, gore, and guts, the 1990 remake improved on and made higher level special effects for its graphics. Producers brought in director Tom Savini, known as the “Sultan of Splatter”, a groundbreaker in the world of special effects and someone who had previously worked with George Romero on previous projects. Savini did not disappoint. Though it was not as gory as the original (due to the team saying it would have been “disrespectful”), the zombies and their designs were terrifying to see (inspired by autopsies, real corpses, and even death camps), including the horrifying corpse of Sarah Cooper making an appearance. The deaths were brutal to see as well, and just a fantastic job done by the special effects team.

Though remaking classic films is always a risky, and Herculean effort, and may not always turn out well (Point Break 2015; The Mummy 2017), Tom Savini and George Romero were able to expand, flesh-out, and improve on the original Night of the Living Dead with their remake. With better and exciting characters, realistic special effects, and terrifying tension, Night of the Living Dead (1990) is one of the best horror film remakes out there.

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