Zombie Horror Classic Gets Ruined By Star Wars Special Edition Treatment

By Zack Zagranis | Published

Although they may not look like it on the surface, Night of the Living Dead and Star Wars have a lot in common. Both films are considered highly influential classics in their respective genres. They both spawned several sequels and countless inferior imitators. The most unfortunate element both movies share is that they both celebrated a milestone anniversary by releasing a butchered “Special Edition” featuring awkward new scenes spliced into the original narrative via CGI.

Worse Than The Star Wars Special Edition

night of the living dead

The Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary Edition (1999) may not be as well known as the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope that George Lucas created for the film’s 20th anniversary, but it is every bit as bad. In fact, the Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary Edition might actually be more offensive than Star Wars. At least George Lucas had a vision for the “improvements” he made to his earlier films—no matter how misguided that vision was.

John Russo, co-writer of the original Night of the Living Dead, just wanted to make a quick buck by copying Lucas.

Adding New Stuff For No Reason

If you’ve never seen Night of the Living Dead or just need a refresher, the movie starts with a brother and sister—Johnny and Barbara—visiting their father’s grave. Suddenly, a Zombie attacks the pair and kills Johnny, leaving Barbara to flee for her life. She comes across a farmhouse where other people are hiding out, and the group tries their best to fortify their shelter as more and more zombies appear to menace them.

It’s a fairly simple story that really didn’t need improving, but when has that stopped anyone?

For the 30th Anniversary Edition, Russo filmed a new prologue to the original film set during a funeral for the first iconic zombie who chases Barbara through the cemetery. The prologue goes out of its way to let the audience know that the zombie was a murderer and a child molester because, apparently, being an undead flesh-eater wasn’t a good enough reason for the audience to hate him in Russo’s eyes. This depraved ghoul escapes his coffin and bites a priest in the face before lumbering off to attack Johnny and Barbara like in the original.

Just… Why?

night of the living dead

This scene is just atrocious. The acting is beyond bad. The makeup used to make the zombie—played by original actor Bill Hinzman—look like he did 30 years prior is stiff and expressionless.

Worse, the prologue adds nothing of value to Night of the Living Dead. The scene is there solely to set up the new epilogue Russo tacked onto the end of the film.

Most of the movie plays like it always did, but with extra zombies inserted here and there. If the only changes Russo made to the original was the new footage it would be easier to give the film a pass. But like Lucas, Russo just couldn’t help himself from messing with the film itself.

Old Scenes Were Cut To Make Way For The Bad

What truly elevates this version of Night of the Living Dead from simply a bad idea to an utterly worthless, flaming bag of dog excrement is Russo’s decision to cut scenes from the original movie to make room for his additions. Apparently, he wanted the old footage to “flow” better with the new scenes. It doesn’t.

What’s With Cramming Religion Into It?

As for the prologue we mentioned above? The movie ends like normal before jumping forward a year and revealing that the priest from the beginning is still human despite having a zombie chomp on his kisser. The priest explains that God saved him from becoming a zombie and… we’re sorry, what?

At this point, we’d like to point out that the original Night of the Living Dead has no religious undertones, and Russo’s decision to incorporate God into it was his alone. The holy angle is ironic seeing as how everything Russo did to the George Romero classic—including replacing the soundtrack—is absolute sacrilege.

Let’s Hope This Zombie Stays Dead

night of the living dead

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is that it was done with no input from George Romero himself. The copywriter was mistakenly left off of the earliest prints of Night of the Living Dead, resulting in the movie being public domain right from the get-go. That means anyone can do whatever they want with the original Night of the Living Dead, remake it, make sequels, etc., and no one can stop them.

Luckily, this version of Night of the Living Dead is largely forgotten now, scrubbed from the pop-culture landscape like the visual vomit it is. The entire thing is on YouTube, so you can see how bad it is for yourself. Just be warned: If anything, this article understates just how bad this version of the movie is. Watch at your own risk.

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