Night of the Living Dead ’90: The Version You’ve Never Seen [Paperback]

Full Disclosure: Although I am long time friends with author Mike Watt, I paid for the “Night of the Living Dead ‘90” paperback; the following review is 100% honest.

The making of “Night of the Living Dead” 1990 has become one of the most fascinating movie making tales of all time. George Romero teamed up with friend Tom Savini to direct an official remake of his 1968 horror masterpiece. What Savini found was no end of interference, intrusion and creative stifling from the studio that funded the film. Despite excellent creativity and clever ideas to bring to the table, horror icon Savini was turned off from filmmaking for so many years, and he wasn’t able to deliver the film he actually wanted. Ironically, “Night…” 1990 is widely considered a top shelf remake of the original, and is argued to be superior to Romero’s by some horror buffs.

In either case, Savini has very nearly disowned his version of “Night” at every front and has so many negative memories about making the film. You can feel that even to this day he’s raw about his experience as he refers to some producers as “slimy” and various other insults. Who can blame him? Everything from taking over the casting to refusing to allow the trademark gut munching scene of Tom and Judy, Savini lost all enthusiasm for any form of directing, since. From Happy Cloud Media, “The Version You’ve Never Seen” finds the one and only Tom Savini teaming with author Mike Watt and artist Brad Hunter to bring to page what Savini always intended for audiences.

Told through storyboards, Savini’s originally planned remake of “Night” was quite genius. It served as a love letter to Romero’s 1968 original, while also re-thinking and altering so many plot elements and set pieces that Savini admits to having a problem with. Savini also intended a lot more blunt violence in Barbara’s journey of survival, as Savini fully intended to direct a much more vicious prologue with Johnny smashing his head in the grave stone, and a rougher car crash when Barbara flees in to the farm house. A lot of Savini’s ideas are based around misdirection as he seemed hell bent on fucking with the movie going audience and giving us some genuine jolts. Considering how frightening the final product is, I think Savini might have delivered one of the most genuinely terrifying horror movies of the decade, if given a chance.

So much of “The Version You’ve Never Seen” is dependent on the readers’ interpretations of what we see on the storyboards and what we will take away from all of Savini’s ideas and plans. Is the 1990 final film ultimately better than what he had in mind? Or did we miss a big chance at far superior horror film? You can’t help but wonder about the alternate universe where Savini was able to deliver this in theaters and how different horror cinema would look today. There are a so many great ideas that Savini had in mind, and some ideas that I think would have landed with a thud on film. The whole idea of Barbara seeing her death mother felt kind of goofy at times and would have killed the momentum of the narrative.

However I love the way Savini kills Helen in the finale, and how he alters the death of Tom and Judy to make it slightly more painful. I also love the symbolism of Ben’s flashlight fading as he dies in the basement. In either case, I don’t want to give too much away, but “The Version You’ve Never Seen” is informative, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a classic tale of Hollywood refusing to just let creators create.

It’s an essential that horror buffs of all kinds should have in their library.