As I delved heavily into earlier this week, Night of the Living Dead's unfortunate status as a public domain film has resulted in countless spin-offs/remakes and re-edits of Romero's masterpiece, which are all 100% legal. The latest of those films to bear the Night of the Living Dead title, but have nothing to actually do with Romero or his films, is Mimesis : Night of the Living Dead, which was just released onto home video this past Tuesday.
It wasn't until just about a week ago that I even heard of Mimesis for the first time, and I was immediately won over by its brilliant concept; a bunch of horror fans get kidnapped from a horror convention, and become the pieces in a sick twisted game, where they are literally put inside of a recreation of Night of the Living Dead, and forced to live, and try to survive, one of their favorite horror films.
MIMESIS (NOUN); LIFE IMITATING ART.
On paper at least, Mimesis is without a doubt one of the coolest uses of the film's public domain status that I've ever seen. But again, that's on paper. And a brilliant concept only goes so far, and certainly doesn't always result in a brilliant movie. So let's look inside this book, before we praise it too much, based only on its alluring cover.
Mimesis begins at an old farmhouse, where a man (played by Children of the Corn's Courtney Gains) discovers his wife being feasted on by zombies, in their upstairs bedroom. We then find ourselves at a horror convention, where a horror fan and his non-horror fan buddy are taking in a discussion on real world violence vs fictional violence, which is being hosted by a horror filmmaker, played by Sid Haig.
Afterwards, they sit down to grab a bite to eat, and a stereotypical goth chick invites them to a party. Geeky horror fan doesn't want to go, because he's got work in the morning, but his buddy insists. And guess who's driving? They end up at the party, and along with one of the girls they meet there, wake up in the morning to find themselves in different clothes, living out their own version of a horror classic. They take shelter in the farmhouse seen at the start of the film, and engage in a battle to the death with the zombies quickly gathering outside.
Oh and did I mention that the horror fan wears black rimmed glasses, his friend is a level headed African American, the girl from the party is a blonde, and there are other survivors hiding out in the basement of the farmhouse, including a dickhead father and his young daughter? Sound familiar?!
Mimesis is essentially a very clever remake of Night of the Living Dead, and it's the cleverness of the concept, and the overall smartness of the script, that makes it watchable and enjoyable, two things that I personally found it to be. It's really fun to watch the characters essentially become the characters from Night, and to watch them unknowingly go through the motions the characters go through in that film, which are sometimes the motions of the characters they're 'playing' in this meta remake, and sometimes the motions of other characters from the film, to spice things up and keep it from being too predictable. The characters in Mimesis figure out what to do and what not to do in their situation, based on what works and doesn't work for the characters in Night of the Living Dead, and I really enjoyed the cleverness of that meta approach to this pseudo-remake. More than anything, that stuff is the strong suit of the film.
Now the thing here is, if you strip all that away, Mimesis is admittedly an amateurish and totally unremarkable effort, which drags on at times and suffers from some really terrible and highly annoying editing and sound choices. For no other apparent reason than to try and make the film "cooler", simple character movements are at several points throughout sped up and then slowed down, or vice versa, and the choice to do that is so bizarre and idiotic that the first few times it happened, I was pretty sure it was just a glitch with Amazon's instant streaming service. Alas, it unfortunately was not.
Nearly all of the kill scenes are also sped up in that flash-cut Saw sort of way, which is a real shame given the old school feel this movie was going for. I mean come on, this is a Night of the Living Dead homage we're talking about, it's totally counterproductive to the vibe to go all modern day ADD with the editing. Even more of a shame considering a lot of the kills were pulled off with old school style practical effects.
As for the sound, the sound effects are often ill timed with the action on the screen, and the score at times feels like it belongs in a different movie. Oddly enough, it is these post-production issues that are the film's biggest flaws. So whoever was in charge of post, shame on you. And you totally should've pulled a reverse Wizard of Oz and gone black and white with the film, once the characters wake up the morning after the party. Cause that would've been boss.
But the fact remains that the script is clever enough in the end that I was personally able to look past the shortcomings of the film, and overall have a good time with it. Does it live up to the awesomeness of the concept? Absolutely not, and I wish like hell that the concept was executed a whole lot better, as this movie really could've been something special. I think they tapped into something really interesting here, that could've been incredibly effective and powerful (particularly in regards to the explanation of why this is all happening, towards the end), but the execution was just a little too corny and amateurish, which prevents the film from being as memorable and impressive as it by all means should've been. But the bottom line is that it's pretty fun, and I appreciate it for doing something different, rather than being just another generic remake of a film that has been remade far too many times. So I've gotta give it props for that.
Brilliant concept with a decent enough execution. That's the best way I can describe this Cabin In The Woods style take on Night of the Living Dead. And ya know what? Considering I wasn't expecting all that much from it, that's good enough for me.
My advice? Plop down the $3.99 for the On Demand rental. It's at least worth that much.