Tuesday, February 12, 2013

They're Coming To Get You ... Again, And Again, And Again : A Look At The Many Night Of The Living Dead Films!

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Today sees the release of a brand new Night of the Living Dead spin-off onto DVD, which brings the grand total of such films, at least according to my calculations, to a whopping nine.  There is no horror film in the history of cinema that has had more fingers inside of its proverbial vagina than Night of the Living Dead over the years (what a slut), a film which many moons ago slipped into the public domain through a loophole in the contracts of stupidity, resulting in it receiving not only countless DVD & Blu-ray releases, from countless different companies (it's even been released in color & in 3D!), but also the aforementioned handful of unrelated films, with the Night of the Living Dead title attached to them.

 Given the movie's public domain standing, it's all 100% legal.  In so many words, anyone can do anything they want with the film, and a whole lot of people have.

So tonight, hot on the heels of yet another new cash-in attempt, we take a look at all the Night of the Living Dead films; past, present and future!

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We of course begin our journey at the beginning, with the original 1968 classic that forever changed the art of the zombie movie, and launched the career of that dude in the goofy black rimmed glasses; Mr. George Andrew Romero.  You all know everything there is to know about the original Night of the Living Dead, so I trust I don't need to speak any further on the matter.

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The first (and only official) remake of Night of the Living Dead was made in 1990, and was written by Romero, who re-tooled the original script he and John A. Russo wrote.  In the director's chair, for the very first time in his career, was Tom Savini, who was fresh off of providing the incredible make-up effects for Romero's two sequels to Night; Dawn and Day.  Together, Romero and Savini created a more modern day version of the events from the original film, with the color turned on and the levels of gore turned up.  The result?  A remake that even the most hardened of remake haters can't help but love.

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In 1999, in what can only be described as a desperate attempt to milk some cash out of the property, original NOTLD co-writer John A. Russo made his own modified version of the film, with the goal of giving it a "more modern pace".  Dubbed the 30th Anniversary Edition, and released straight to DVD, this version of the movie featured nearly 20 minutes of new scenes, directed by Russo, as well as a completely new soundtrack.  Not surprisingly, Romero distanced himself from the release, and the revised cut was largely panned by critics and fans alike.



Just to humor you, here's a video that highlights all of the scenes that John Russo added, for this so called 30th Anniversary release of the film.  Shouldn't take you more than a couple minutes to realize how much of an abomination this incarnation of Night is!

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Night of the Living Dead was given the full on remake treatment for the second time in 2006 (though this time, unofficially) with this much maligned hunk of 3D junk, starring genre fave Sid Haig.  The "hip" new take on the material sees 'Barb' and Ben (a white dude) joining up, and finding themselves at the Cooper farmhouse, fighting for their lives.  Haig plays a new character called Gerald Tovar, a mortician who ends up being the main villain of the film, who is responsible for the dead coming back to life.  And yes, it sucks as bad as it sounds.

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A few years later, in 2009, something interesting was actually done with the public domain property, for the first time since Savini's remake, in 1990.  A man by the name of Mike Schneider (hey Mike!) gathered together a handful of artists, with the intention of giving the film a 'collaborative artistic re-invisioning.'  Artists from all over the world were each given a scene from the film, and the freedom to artistically recreate that scene any way they saw fit.  When all the submissions were handed in, they were strung together, resulting in a highly unique scene for scene remake of Night of the Living Dead that featured everything from claymation to CGI, all playing as a video track, over the music and dialogue from the original film.

An art exhibit and experiment, more than anything else, Night of the Living Dead : Reanimated pays tribute to Romero's film, rather than using it to make a quick buck, and for that, I appreciate it.  It's an interesting watch, which I recommend ya check out.

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Not to be confused with Reanimated, Night of the Living Dead 3D : Re-Animation hit DVD last October, a prequel to 2006's 3D remake.  Once again directed by Jeff Broadstreet, Re-Animation tells the prequel story of the Tovar family, with Andrew 'Wishmaster' Divoff taking over the role of Gerald, and Jeffrey Combs playing his brother Harold.



I've yet to see this movie, so I really can't comment on the quality of it, though I'd imagine it's not worth sitting through.  You can check out the trailer above, and decide for yourself.

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We now arrive at the incarnation of Night of the Living Dead which was just released today, on both DVD & Blu-ray.  I have no idea what the hell a Mimesis is, but dare I say this take on the zombie classic actually looks pretty damn interesting, or should I say sounds pretty damn interesting, on paper.

The plot of Mimesis sees a bunch of horror fans gathering together for a convention, and finding themselves 'unwilling participants in a nightmarish role playing game that pays homage to a classic horror film".  Essentially, fans of Night of the Living Dead find themselves literally inside of the movie, which is a pretty damn interesting idea, if you're asking me.

Check out the trailer below.



Though I'm certainly not going to set my hopes very high, you've gotta appreciate the creativity of this movie.  Even if it's a hunk of junk, the concept is quite brilliant.  Now that's what I call taking advantage of the film's public domain status, and actually doing something pretty cool with it!

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The Americans aren't the only ones re-making and re-envisioning Night of the Living Dead, oh no.  Night of the Living Dead : Resurrection hails from the UK, and is set for DVD release on April 30th of this year.  Characters named Ben and Karen show up on the IMDb cast list, and the plot centers around survivors being holed up in a farmhouse, fighting off hordes of the living dead.  Sound familiar?!



There be the trailer.  Watch it if ye care.

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The last film on this list is also set for release later this year (in October) and it once again takes the film into animated territory.  Utilizing state of the art motion capture effects, Night of the Living Dead : Origins 3D looks to be a pseudo-prequel to the 1990 remake, and features the voices of both Tony Todd and Bill Moseley, reprising their roles of Ben and Johnny.  Danielle Harris provides the voice of Barbara, with Day of the Dead's Joe Pilato (Capt. Rhodes) as Harry Cooper.  The events of the film will take place in New York City, unique for a Night of the Living Dead film.



Definitely has potential to be interesting, and pretty cool.  We shall see!
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Hopefully you're now a little less confused about all the remakes and re-invisionings of Night of the Living Dead.  One thing's for certain; we haven't seen the last of them .... not by a long shot!!

8 comments:

scott g said...

Thanks for clearing some of that up Terry!! Now if you could just explain the history of Robin Hood on film...

Zombob said...

Believe it or not, there's another NOTLD on the way! It's titled 'Night of the Living Dead: Genesis' and is from director Matt Cloude. Both he and the movie have a Facebook page!

Mike said...

Hey man, thanks for the shout out.
You missed a few though.

How can you forget NOTDOT?
'Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D' It takes the video track, chops it up then dubs it over. There are a couple of other parody dubs like the NOTLD:Laugh Tracks. I know of about 4 different edited/ dubbed versions. Still NOTDOT (1991) was the earliest.

Speaking of re-edited versions there's also Night of the Living Dead: Survivors Cut (2005). This version chops the movie apart and uses clips from other PD sources to flesh our new scenes. It's interesting when held up next to the 30th Ann... because instead of shooting new footage it appropriates clips from other old movies. The concept is interesting and it was slated to get a DVD release with some percent going to the creators ( so the press release said ) but the release date came and went. Still, at least one of the versions of it still haunts the internet.

You also don't have Matt Cloude's Night of the Living Dead: Genesis.
http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/63270/first-look-night-living-dead-genesis

There's also 'Night of the Living Dead: The Puppet Show'. http://www.angryyoungmenltd.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=3&vmcchk=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=7 The puppet show has done the rounds at different live events but they also shot and edited a DVD version. You can grab a copy for 10 bucks. I traded copies with them back in the day.

Chris Panzner also has his 'Creepy Night of the Living Dead' project. His French animation studio is rotoscoping key frames and select sequences then using those character designs to expand on things. The whole thing will then be redubbed so it takes the source material as a launching point. I've seen design sheets and test clips... it should be interesting if they get their back end sorted. Still, last word is hasn't taken up residence in development hell.

There is also a Canadian made unofficial 'Night of the Living Dead' remake. It was made in ~2001. I don't think it ever got a proper release... but I believe a print of it also haunts the internet.

I can keep going but they get a lot more obscure. The most obscure version I've seen is probably one of the sweded version from Norway. Being a geek with collaborators around the world has it's advantages.

-Mike

PS: mimesis ( in media terms ) = 'art imitating life imitating art'
Think of all the monster movies where a creature gets mistaken for a kid in a costume on halloween, Galaxy Quest where a 'Star Trek'-isque cast get pulled into a real intergalactic conflict, that episode of Supernatural where they end up at a Supernatural convention which is actually haunted, or My Name is Bruce where Bruce Campbell the actor gets pulled into the sort of scenario that is typical for a Bruce Campbell movie. You get the drill. It's not that original of a concept but it's a lot of fun when handled with the right sensibility.

Johnny said...

Thanks guys, figured there were a lot of them that I had missed! =)

@horrordad said...

Nice idea for an article & well done. It pretty much confirms my suspicions that all (excluding NOTLD '90) the non-animated item should be passed.

Did you consider Hinzman's "Flesheater" more of a close cousin ripoff than direct ripoff?

P.S. I love Night of the Living Bread. While it obviously didn't fit the format of your article, I am just curious, do people still watch that anymore?

jimmie t. murakami said...

Johnny, i must be the only person in the entire world who thought that the 1999 30th anniversary release was actually a better film that the original 1968 version, i especially liked the way in which the original film itself was edited to do away with some of the more boring moments, and how the new zombie footage (which was superbly and convincingly done in my opinion) melded in seamlessly with the older material.

Alex said...

Genesis looks good. It has a lot of people from Romero's Dead movies.

Anonymous said...

Johnny, just another example to prove that horror is THE best and most entertaining genre of all, the 2006 3-D version with Sid Haig is indeed a truly appalling film but even that has become a bit of a cult favourite of mine in the last couple of years, you see, even the worst horror movies can still be eminently watchable and cultish, what other genre can you say that about ! ?.