Ranking the “Night of the Living Dead” remakes from “Inspiring” to “What Were They Thinking?”

notld-posterAt the moment there are almost five remakes of “Night of the Living Dead” in the works, as well as another attempt to remake “Day of the Dead.” One of the “Night” remakes is being tackled by Romero’s opportunist son, who wants to give us an origin of some kind. And there is just no stopping indie filmmakers from digging in to Romero’s masterwork and fiddling around with it to mold their own film out of it. There are many more indie filmmakers right now who think they can do better than Romero ever could, and we’ll just keep seeing more “Night” remakes. Especially now that making movies is so easy and accessible. What was once a tough task that required immense resources is now something that can be accomplished on a fucking cell phone. A cell phone!

Here is the list of “Night” remakes ranked from “Inspired” to “What Were They Thinking?” We’re not counting sequels, remakes of sequels, unofficial sequels, or loose sequels. We’re talking about movies that attempted to completely redo the 1968 “Night of the Living Dead.”

What is your least favorite “Night” remake?

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

What Worked: Tom Savini’s remake is actually damn good. Arguably as good as the original Romero film. You’d think making the film color wouldn’t have worked, but the stark and grimy film quality make the film seem nightmarish and absolutely desolate from beginning to end. The performances all around are top notch, from Tony Todd, and Patricia Tallman, to Tom Towles and William Butler. Savini reportedly butted heads with producers left and right, from wanting to make the movie black and white, to including a gut munching scene. This film allegedly turned Savini off from directing movies again, which sucks since Savini had real potential. As explored in “Doc of the Dead,” this movie was an effort to get the rights back to Romero. It failed, but you know what? It’s fucking good.

What Failed: There are zero scenes of the dead eating people. Absolutely none. You could kind of almost count the scene of Tom and Judy in their charred states, but the scene is quickly cut away from, and we instead see the dead eating worms and stuffing field mice in their mouths. Disappointing. There’s also the transformation of Barbara from catatonic victim to Xena Warrior Princess over night which just felt far fetched.

Grade: Inspiring

Night of the Living Dead: ReAnimation (2010)

What Worked: What better way to understand the influence “Night of the Living Dead” has had on artists than by garnering their interpretations of the movie? Featuring the work of over a hundred artists, various scenes from the film are reworked to garner various perspectives, and even feature some form of satire. It’s a fascinating glimpse in to artists minds, as some of them perceive Ben as a muscle bound hero, some depict the flashbacks of Ben at the diner before he landed at the farm, and there’s even some wonderful puppetry. The movie plays out like normal, except we gain a new look at various moments in the narrative through new eyes.

What Failed: It’s really just another remake, when you get right down to it. And you have to wonder if Romero actually liked what was pulled off or if he if has more irritation toward another reworking of his masterpiece.

Grade: Inspiring

Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (1999)

What Worked: Nothing works here.

What Failed: This is an abomination. It’s unwatchable, it’s insulting, it’s amateur, it’s ridiculous, and I refuse to ever watch it again. You can probably polish a turd, but you can not polish perfection. As if “Night” needed it, the producers behind this idiocy decided to add to the story by completely eliminating all the mystique of the original film and explaining everything. There’s a prologue with the original zombie Bill Hinzman (may he rest in peace), there are needless scenes of zombie desolation, and an epilogue involving a mad priest.

Worse, every emotional nuance of the film is cut, and scenes are re-edited. The movie was perfect the way it was, why did we have to see all of this nonsense to give us a better idea of the zombie apocalypse? We pretty much had it cemented in our minds thanks to the television reports, the radio reports, and oh, the walking dead lurking outside the doors. Everyone involved in this movie should issue an apology to horror fans and anyone with good taste. Don’t watch this. Don’t experiment. If you ever see this in a store, put it down, turn around, and let it collect dust.

Grade: What Were They Thinking?

Night of the Living DE3D (2006)

What Worked: It’s hard to dislike Sid Haig, even when he’s starring in crapola like this. Haig gives it his all every time, and you have to appreciate that.

What Failed: 3D is about the only thing this film has to offer of any remote substance. This is another embarrassing remake, involving a young girl named Barb who retreats to a farm house after her brother and she are attacked at a cemetery. The house is home to pot growers Tom and Judy, and much of the dynamic is gone in favor of a very boring and cheesy storyline where characters are picked off one by one. Ben is now a white motorcycle rider, and Barb receives a text from her brother on her phone reading “Coming 2 Get U Barb.” The budget seems to be lower than the original film, and it offers nothing new for fans. There’s no new angles introduced, no interesting characters, and all of it is laughably stupid.

Grade: What Were They Thinking?

Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (2012)

What Worked: Setting the zombie carnage in another country has potential. From a talented filmmaker, that is.

What Failed: This is a “remake” set in Wales that follows a British version of character Ben for about thirty minutes before he’s murdered. And in a rather cheap ass fashion I might add. From there on in, we follow a group of original characters, all of whom are locked in their farmhouse waiting out the zombie apocalypse. The performances are wretched from beginning to end, the movie lacks any pacing, there’s zero tension, the zombie attacks are lackluster, and the attempts at social commentary are clumsy and amateur. To make matters worse, what ensues in the house is not a battle for survival so much as it’s a melodrama centered on a disjointed family. There is just nothing salvageable in this nonsensical horror movie that piggybacks on Romero’s namesake.

Grade: What Were They Thinking?

Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (2015)

What Worked: Casting Tony Todd and Danielle Harris as Barbara and Ben are spirited choices. Harris does her best to portray a vulnerable but head strong Barbara, while Todd is back as Ben, and giving it his all for such an abysmal movie.

What Failed: This feels suspiciously like a failed video game that was turned in to a movie at the last minute. Everything is just too convenient, from the opening that feels like “Resident Evil 2,” to the introduction of Ben, and most sequences, which feel like missions to complete in a video game. Level 1: Secure the house. Level 2: Get to the gas station. Level 8: Make it to the helicopter to flee the city. It’s horrific and lacking in any substance or suspense. I’m not sure who thought a CGI remake would be a good idea either, as the animation is piss poor. It’s another terrible reworking of the classic film.

Grade: What Were They Thinking?