At this point, damn near every beloved horror franchise has been remade and bastardized by Hollywood studios looking to make a quick buck by cashing in on fan nostalgia. In few, if any, cases do the new versions have anything interesting to offer, or even attempt to do anything different. We’ve seen everything from Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes fall victim to this approach. Zack Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead is solid, and remains his best movie to date, but for every strong Evil Dead, you get a Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Psycho 1998, or The Wicker Man.
George Romero’s classic, zombie genre defining Night of the Living Dead has already been remade numerous times, most notably special effects guru Tom Savini in 1990. That’ll happen when you don’t know how to copyright your movie very well and it becomes public domain. Then anyone with a camera and some corpse paint can come along and use your title. Savini’s version had Romero’s blessing, but I think it’s safe to say that the people behind what is about to happen, do not.
Simon West, the man responsible for the like of Con-Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, plans a 3D “reimagining” of the 1968 film that ushered in the age of the modern zombie. That sounds like a thing, right? I can’t even work up the energy to mad about one of my all-time favorite movies being screwed anymore because so many have already have. Since West remade Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic a few years back, all I can muster is a vague sense of disgust and disappointment.
The most interesting part of this is not that a remake of Night of the Living Dead is happening, it’s who is in it. They didn’t cast some hot young star, or even some hungry up and comer. Instead, they tapped Bollywood star R. Madhaven to take the lead. He joins a cast stacked with B-movie star power, including Tony Todd, Tom Sizemore, Danielle Harris, Sarah Habel, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Bill Mosley, and Joseph Pilato.
As with every remake, the first question you have to ask is why? What new elements are they bringing to the table in order to stop this from becoming just a straight rehash? Snyder, for example, made his zombies fast, and while I have a definite stance on that issue, he did it well, and though familiar, it helped his film feel somewhat fresh. Hopefully West, and director Zebediah de Soto (Wardogs) can do something with Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, which is the unfortunate title they’ve given their movie.
The original takes place, largely, in a single location, a house where group of survivors hide out when the dead begin to rise. Within this limited setting, Romero cranks up tension, including along racial lines, to create a layered narrative, giving the characters more to deal with than just monsters. At least on the surface, the remake will follow a similar pattern, following a group of survivors barricaded inside a New York City apartment building. This sounds almost exactly like the plot of Bob Fingerman’s zombie novel Pariah.
West says, “This movie represents a whole new way of visualizing the classic zombie genre. It has a fresh and exciting style that sets it apart from all other horror films seen up until now.” This is where the real concerns rear their ugly heads. The whole film is being shot on a CG set, in stereoscopic 3D. When I hear that collection of words, the only though that comes to mind is ugh.