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Film / Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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The first remake of Night of the Living Dead (1968), directed by Tom Savini.

Two siblings are attacked by zombies when they go to visit their mother's grave. The survivor of the duo, Barbara, makes her way to a farmhouse that starts housing others like her. However, their solace is only temporary, and they are are soon besieged by the living dead.

The film was created, in part, as an attempt to restore the copyright of the original film, but Romero and Russo also took the opportunity to improve on some of the weaker elements of the original film, and to produce a more cinematic experience. The film did poorly critically and commercially, but has gained a cult following over the years.


This film has examples of:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: The heroes start frantically boarding up any possible entrance into the house, with Ben claiming "they will reinforce them later" but as the film progresses, the zombies keep either grabbing people through the gaps, or pushing the barricades over with very little trouble, at the climax of the film, their efforts are proven to be fruitless as the zombies easily push every single one down with no effort.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Barbara was blonde in the original and red haired in this.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Downplayed with Barbra, who is now Barbara.
    • Karen Cooper's first name is changed to Sarah.
    • Minor example. It was just Judy in the original. Now it's Judy Rose.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Helen was frequently at odds with her husband in the original. Here she's more submissive to him at first, only rebelling as the film goes on.
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    • Judy and Tom didn't have much personality in the original. Here they're country kids, with Judy taking on the role of a Screaming Woman more than once.
  • Adaptational Badass: The most notable change from the original is upgrading the character of Barbara from The Load into an Action Girl. Judy takes a while but gets there too. She seems to get over her trauma halfway through and calls Ben and Cooper out on their fighting. Likewise in the original she just panicked when Tom left the house and was forced to go along to the gas pump - whereas here she offers to drive to help Ben and Tom out.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film gives the protagonists a little more of a connection. For example, the house they're in belongs to Tom's uncle and cousin (who are the bodies Barbara finds when she arrives) - and Tom knows for sure that there's a key for the gas pump and knows the house better.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: In the first film, Judy just panicked and tagged along with Tom and Ben for no real reason. Here, she guesses that they need a third person involved; while Tom is working the gas pump and Ben is warding off the zombies, they need someone already behind the wheel - and she's used to driving trucks.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • Johnny's teasing was light-hearted in the first film. Here he's annoying Barbara for the whole trip to the cemetery, complaining about everything and nagging Barbara about her personal life.
    • Judy Rose compared to her kinder and softer portrayal in the first film. She's at odds with Barbara and shouts at Cooper and Ben. Of course in this case, they're more reasonable reactions to stress, making her a mild example.
    • The shooters who show up at the end get additional scenes where they prank Barbara and tie up still-alive zombies to lynch them. Beforehand they were just trying to keep the area safe from zombies.
  • Adaptational Villainy: While Cooper was an unlikable asshole in the original, he was still willing to help the others out after some grumbling, even if his fear and anger got the better of him towards the end, and he came across more as a scared, angry man out of his wits with fear and confusion. In the remake he is an utterly loathsome and useless slimeball.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: A minor example. Barbara is approached by the zombie of a little girl, who's actually still holding her doll and in a nightdress (giving the impression she was bitten and turned while asleep in bed). Barbara hesitates before tearfully shooting her dead, even wailing "oh God!" after she does so.
  • Big Brother Bully: Johnny. He bullies Barbara in the car on the way to the cemetery and doesn't stop when they get there. In the original he is more whiny and teasing than actually malevolent.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Barbara survives, but Ben doesn't. Harry also survives, but Barbara immediately executes him. Barbara's faith in humanity has been completely destroyed, causing her to say in regards to the dead, "They're us. We're them, and they're us."
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Helen (brunette), Judy Rose (blonde) and Barbara (redhead).
  • Boyish Short Hair: Barbara. What a coincidence - this is also the film where she becomes an Action Girl.
  • Brick Joke: The gas pump key is forgotten about after Tom and Judy get blown up in the original film. In here, it shows up in the cellar at the end as a final irony.
  • Car Fu: When Ben arrives to the farmhouse, the first thing that he does is to drive over a zombie.
  • Character Development:
  • Crowbar Combatant: Ben is armed with a crowbar when he gets to the farmhouse, and he uses it to beat up and impale three zombies.
  • Dangerous Windows: Even with the windows boarded up, zombies still manage to grab characters through them.
  • Darker and Edgier: Played with; the remake is much more violent and profanity-laced compared to the original, but the tone is largely the same.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Johnny's and Barbara's mother. In the original it's their father's grave and their dialogue confirms that their mother is still alive. In this version it's their mother's grave but no confirmation on whether or not their father is still alive.
    • A variation with Johnny. In the original he dies at the start but later shows up at the farmhouse as a zombie. He just dies in this at the cemetery and is found by Barbara in a corpse pile in the back of a truck. Though, to be fair, it's entirely possible that he revived into a zombie, and was shot down by the very men who tossed him into the back of the truck. Evidence for this can included, the sheer distance he is found from the cemetery, and the bullet hole in the center of his skull.
    • A variation with the Coopers' daughter. While she dies in both films, the reanimated Karen Cooper is never seen destroyed before Ben retreats to the cellar. In the remake, the zombified Sarah Cooper is taken out by Ben after she emerges from the cellar.
  • Death of a Child: One of the zombies that approaches Barbara is a young girl, still holding her doll. Barbara can barely bring herself to shoot her and screams "Oh God!" afterwards. And of course the Cooper daughter still becomes a zombie.
  • Deep South: There are strong southern accents on Tom, Judy Rose and the rednecks at the end. None of them had such accents in the original.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation:
    • Ben dies from lingering wounds sustained in a gun fight with Cooper. He's found the next morning as a zombie, as opposed to surviving the night and getting shot by the rednecks.
    • Helen was stabbed to death by her daughter in the original. Here, Sarah bites her on the neck.
    • Cooper is not killed and eaten by his daughter, but shot in the head by Barbara.
  • Digital Destruction: The film has an infamous restoration that added a thick blue tint to the picture beginning around when Barbara starts running to the farmhouse. It was used for the film's limited Blu-ray release from Twilight Time in 2014, to much outcry. The studio tried to claim that the film's original cinematographer, Frank Prinzi, had approved of the transfer. However Prinzi later confirmed that while he had briefly spoken to them about what he wanted, he otherwise had nothing to do with the restoration process. Twilight Time's Blu-ray was only limited to 3,000 copies, and, despite the controversy, had become hard to find and very expensive until Umbrella Entertainment released a region free edition in Australia that became easily and cheaply available in the US, with an older transfer, but the "correct" color timing.
  • Emergency Refuelling: The film has a group of people trapped in The Siege with the zombies outside, who have a car that could help them escape. Unfortunately the car has no fuel and the gas pump on the outside of the house is locked with key, so a significant side-plot is the frantic search for the keys to the pump's lock all over the house. Once a set of keys that may be the pump's have been found, the survivors implement a plan to refuel the car. Except the driver discovers the keys are NOT for the pump.
  • Final Girl: Barbara is the sole survivor of the besieged farmhouse. By her own hand, even: when she finds out that the cowardly Harry Cooper also made it, she shoots him on the spot.
  • Five-Man Band: The film plays with the traditional roles:
    • The Leader: Ben takes charge but it's implied taking charge is all he can actually do to stop himself from going mad. He frequently dismisses other ideas and insists everyone stick to his plans. Which it turns out, weren't good ideas at all.
    • The Lancer: Cooper is equally as stubborn as Ben and, instead of offering reasonable alternatives, insists that his way is the right one. The two of them pick fights simply because their egos won't allow them not to and other characters call them out on it.
    • The Smart Guy: Barbara. Initially falls to pieces but is able to eventually think clearly. She remains solid-minded while everyone else slowly goes mad. She suggests a plan that, if they had followed it, they wouldn't have died. In this version it's her who is the sole survivor.
    • The Big Guy: Tom. He's probably the straightest example, being fleshed out as a local country boy who can handle a gun and is able to fix up the house. He ends up doubling as The Face, often mediating between Ben and Cooper's rows.
    • The Chick: Judy Rose takes over Barbara's original role as the Screaming Woman instead of being calm and reasonable simply because she's a woman. However she reacts realistically to what's going on and becomes a little more proactive (going outside to get the gas pump keys, insisting that she drive the truck).
    • Team Mom: Helen mostly mothers her own daughter but is dominated by her husband. However she eventually resists him in the name of doing what's best for her daughter.
  • Gender Flip: Minor example. The corpse found upstairs in the house is a woman in the original, and a man in the remake.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: After Barbara is attacked by the first zombie, she loses her glasses. Strangely she doesn't seem affected by this for the rest of the film, unless she was just using them for driving and forgot to take them off.
  • Halfempty Twoshot: Something does lunge into the frame, but from the wrong side.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • Barbara says something to that extent when she notices the survivors lynching the zombies in the ending. This is also implied to have happened to Barbara herself when she shoots Harry and tells the two hicks that he's "another body for the fire".
    • Also implied by the photo montage at the very end of the movie: the photos of the militia hicks carrying weapons and burning zombie corpses look ghoulish indeed, repeatedly intercut with a shot of Barbara watching them, seems to ask — who are the real monsters here?
  • Improvised Weapon: Barbara beats a zombie with a fire poker.
  • Incongruously Dressed Zombie: There's a zombie of an overdosed junkie with a heroin needle still in his arm shambling around.
  • Irony: Ben spends the film arguing why it's better to stay upstairs while Cooper does likewise with the cellar. Ben ends up fleeing to the cellar while Cooper goes to the attic. Ben dies and Cooper lives (or at least until Barbara kills him).
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Cooper fervently insists only the cellar is safe and insists everyone get down there immediately. In the end, he was proven right: a massive horde of zombies try to get Ben in the cellar, but are unable to knock down (or even damage) the door. And they were all gone in the morning when the militia turned up to save them.
    • Naturally, that would also have led to the nasty issue of Sarah Cooper soon dying and reviving as ravenous zombie, in close proximity of all six survivors...
      • Easily remedied by taking the other option the attic, where Cooper hides out at the end and survives the night, at least until Barbara shoots him.
  • Large Ham: Cooper was already one in the original film, and becomes an even bigger one in this version. As Mike Nelson put it in his commentary, "It's an interesting acting choice to start with inexplicable rage and just build from there."
  • Laughing Mad: Ben as he sits dying in the cellar, once he realizes that's where the gas pump key was.
  • The Load: Almost the moment Judy Rose shows up, she takes this mantle from Barbara, who overcomes her own fear and starts kicking butt. Judy eventually gets over it and offers to drive the truck to the gas pump - as opposed to the original where she simply panicked and had to tag along because of it.
  • Meaningful Name: The farmhouse has the name "M. Celeste", in reference to the famous Ghost Ship Mary Celeste, whose crew disappeared without explanation in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Millstone: Harry Cooper might be one of the biggest millstones in horror movie, if not cinematic history. When he's not actively snarling or sabotaging the other survivor's efforts, he's yelling (constantly and all the time) about how stupid they are and how they're all going to fail, while offering no solutions beyond 'stay in the cellar'. He might be allowed a tiny bit of slack due to one line indicating he's scared for his injured daughter, but even with that he comes off as trying to be as disruptive as possible. One gets the sense that the overwhelming unnatural and horrible situation is causing him to condemn and interfere with the other survivor's choices in a desperate attempt to maintain control over something, ANYTHING, no matter what the consequences are.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Just like the original, one of the zombies is a nubile, naked young woman, who is shown only in one shot with the camera aimed towards her rather attractive backside. On the other hand, she appears to have been wounded or partially decayed prior to her reanimation.
  • My Car Hates Me: Tommy's and Judy Rose's quest for the gas pump is constantly hampered by the truck being unable to start in time. Judy Rose has to try to turn the engine over no less than six times each occasion. It's amazing the battery didn't die.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Barbara surviving in the end could be seen as this, considering that she was meant to survive in the original.
    • When a zombified Sarah bites her mother's neck, a splatter of blood is seen hitting a nearby trowel. In the original, Karen (Sarah's counterpart), used a trowel to kill Helen.
  • Not His Sled:
    • Used twice in regards with the original film's Downer Ending. Barbara survives and so does Cooper, but Barbara shoots him dead in the ending.
    • The first attack was changed to remain surprising. In the original, the man shambling in the background is a zombie that attacks Barbara (quite a shocker in 1968). In this film, the man is an alive but deeply confused hearse driver. Then a zombie appears out of nowhere to attack Johnny.
  • Only Sane Man: Barbara is promoted to this. Even when compared to Ben, she's the only one of the group who has any sort of common sense, trying to come up with more practical solutions rather than engaging in arguments (such as suggesting they should make a run for it considering how slow the zombies are). She's proven right, considering she escapes from the farm by merely walking away without even firing a single gunshot. She winds up being the Sole Survivor.
  • Rain of Blood: After Barbara gets inside the farmhouse, she discovers that there's a corpse upstairs when blood from it starts dropping on her face. This followed by a severed hand, and then an entire zombie.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In this version, the house they find is Tom's cousin's. His uncle is the zombie that attacks Barbara and Ben, and his cousin the corpse found upstairs.
  • Remake Cameo:
    • Bill 'Chilly Billy' Cardille played a reporter in the original, and plays one here in the remake.
    • Russell Streiner who played Johnny in the original, cameos as a sheriff who says "they're all messed up" at the end.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: When Tommy and Judy Rose reach the gas pump, Tommy tries to open its lock with keys, only to find out that they don't fit. Desperate, he shoots the lock, leading to his and Judy Rose's death in the resulting explosion from the spilled gas.
  • The Siege: Characters board the windows and doors to protect themselves from the zombies outside. Unfortunately, the noise from this lures more zombies to the scene.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Barbara changing into a vest and jeans marks her getting over her trauma.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Barbara in the original is dragged off and implied to be devoured by a horde of zombies (among which, her brother is included) during the final siege. In this version, she becomes an Action Survivor.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Barbara points out the zombies are slow and they could easily outrun them instead of just waiting for the house to be invaded, but gets dismissed by Ben. Guess who's the only one who survives the film?
  • Taxidermy Terror: Barbara is spooked by two stuffed animals heads, but not to the extent of the original film.
  • Title of the Dead: Like the original film.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Tommy fires a shotgun at the gas pump when he realizes that he took the wrong keys. Apparently, it doesn't occur to him that it would blow up both him and Judy Rose.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Judy Rose is heading this way before she dies. She spends most of the film as a Screaming Woman before eventually getting a hold of herself, calling out Ben and Cooper for their stupid arguing and offering to drive the truck to the gas pump, as opposed to the original where she just wandered outside and had to come along.
    • Barbara is a straight example; she, too, starts out as a Screaming Woman before buckling down and taking charge. She ends up the sole survivor.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The dazed Hearse Driver's fate is never shown. Though given his discombobulated state, it's extremely doubtful he survived much longer, especially wandering a cemetery shown to be crawling with zombies and also had a bleeding wound on his forehead.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In a sense, this film's take on the "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" scene: the guy stumbling in the background reaches Barbara and Johnny... but he's not a zombie. It's just some regular guy, implied to be a hearse driver, muttering "I'm sorry" over and over, greatly confusing the two... and then a zombie pops out out of nowhere to tackle Barbara to the ground.
    • Harry showing up alive at the end... and Barbara shooting him without any hesitation.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In the remake Judy Rose calls Ben and Cooper out on their childish arguing.
    "This is Tommy and me's house. Where would you be if we didn't kick you the hell out!"
    • Barbara also does this when Ben tells her she is losing it.
    "Whatever I lost, I lost a long time ago. You can talk to me about losing it when you all stop screaming at each other like a bunch of two-year-olds."
    "What do you hope to accomplish!"
  • Women Are Wiser: A few examples:
    • Judy Rose is one of the strongest advocates for everybody to stop arguing by telling them that the house is her family's property and if they cannot stop, then she's going to find a way to kick them all out (she also volunteers to be the driver in the attempt to refuel the truck, in comparison to her utter uselessness in the same sequence in the original).
    • Helen is downplayed (she remains down on the cellar panicking about her daughter and Harry really doesn't want to hear her), but she also keeps telling him that he should stop being a dick and help.
    • Barbara is the strongest example once she reaches the point she's utterly jaded about all of the crazy and provides the simplest solution to the current problem that leads to her being the Sole Survivor.
  • Zen Survivor: Once she gets over the shock of her initial zombie encounter and Johnny dying, Barbara gets jaded very fast and becomes one of the cooler-headed survivors (at least to a point — Ben yells at her that she's 'losing it' when she wastes ammo shooting one of the zombies in several normally-fatal spots to demonstrate to Harry, Judy Rose and Johnny that no, the damn things are not crazy people).
    Barbara: Whatever I lost, I lost a long time ago. You can talk about losing it when you all stop screaming at each other like a bunch of two-year-olds.
  • Zombie Gait: Lampshaded by Barbara.
    Barbara: They're so slow. We could just walk right pass them. Wouldn't even have to run.
  • Zombie Infectee: The ill Sarah Cooper dies in the basement, and becomes a zombie.


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