The original The Night Of The Living dead has spawned one of the most complicated franchises of them all. George Romero, after a legal fallout with his co-creator (John Russo), was given permission to continue the franchise with the “of the Dead” moniker while Russo was granted rights to keep using the “Living Dead” moniker... and so both went forward creating sequels which tore the franchise into two directions. Romero's series continued with Dawn or the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead... Russo continued with the Return of the Living Dead series as well as a re-edited version of the original film and a direct sequel called Children of the Living Dead. And to confuse things even more there have been remakes and remakes of sequels... its a whopper to wrap your mind around.
So tonight I have watched two of the most recent entries to the franchise.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3D begins as a simple remake of the original film but soon diverts into it's own thing with new concepts and an entirely different genesis and conclusion. Neither Romero or Russo had any involvement and whats most strange about this film is that it takes place outside of the “Dead” universe. The characters watch the original black & white film on the tv and reference it throughout the entire movie... its weird and yet I enjoyed it. Of course it's hokey and cliched but I was prepared for the worst and found myself immersed enough to get a kick out of it. The dvd doesn't have an option to revert to 2D and so I watched the entire thing in it's intended 3D. My eyes are a little sore now but overall the 3D was well done. The director understands the format and makes good use of it. Rather the usual cheap pop-out tricks (except for the occasional one) the 3D is used more for atmosphere. The zombies are true to Romero's creatures, however the film seriously lacks gore. Whether this is a nod to the 1968 film or not, I don't know. I expected a piece of shit but ended up entertained.
The same director followed it up with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3D: RE-ANIMATION. It's a loose prequel to the previous movie and it's better. Andrew Divoff stars as a mortician (played by Sid Haig in the previous movie) who cannot bring himself to cremate corpses and so he stores them (hundreds) in a locked basement. They are exposed to toxic medical waste and as you would expect, they rise from the dead. This is a much more understated film that takes its time. Not a whole lot happens and the film focuses much more on Divoff's character dealing with his predicament. Divoff is surprisingly good, delivering an unexpected performance unlike any of the roles he's known for. Combs is also good and the pairing of these two is thanks to some clever casting. While little zombie action actually happens, the gore is certainly an improvement on the last movie and it's handled with enthusiasm for the genre. I really enjoyed the film, more than the other one, but felt let down by some of the self referential gags thrown in for the sake of it. The events of Romero's first 3 entries in the series are referenced as known outbreaks from the past and yet the previous movie lead us to believe that this universe was outside of Romeros... and to contradict these known outbreaks Combs asks whether the re-animated corpses are fast moving or slow... upon learning they they're slow he refers to them as “Romero Zombies”. I get that its a tongue in cheek nod to the audience but its distracting and removes the viewer from an otherwise decent story.
So yeah... two new movies added to a franchise of seemingly never-ending network of stories. I've just read that the 1968 film is, AGAIN, being remade and, AGAIN, in 3D. This time by Simon West (Con-Air, The Mechanic)... oh dear lord!