FEBRUARY 26, 2011
Luckily for the cast and crew of Night Of The Living Dead 3D (or Night Of The Living De3D, which is too stupid for my fingers to type with any regularity), I just watched the 30th Anniversary edition of the original film, and thus used up all my ability to hate a film for “butchering a classic” or “raping my childhood” or whatever the hell else people will toss out whenever reviewing a remake that they wanted to hate from the minute they heard about it (I just hated the music and editing, myself). So I think it’s mainly because of that that I was able to get through this one with minimal eye-rolling and annoyance.
I mean, it’s not a very good movie, but it’s less hacky than I expected, which after yesterday’s debacle made it look like a goddamn classic in comparison. And even without that in mind, there’s a lot to like here: the makeup is good, the zombies are slow, the lead actress is fetching (Timber Falls’ Brianna Brown), and unlike Savini’s version, they don’t just make minor variations on the original movie – it’s more like Dawn 04 in that it takes the same basic concept and changes most everything else (it even has a sort-of explanation for the zombies). In short, it’s basically just another mediocre 00s zombie movie, but shot well and cast with a few real actors.
And in 3D, of course. I didn’t realize it when I bought it, but there is actually no option to watch it in 2D on the disc, like most 3D releases have. Since the red/blue style is unwatchable at home (the red always overpowers the blue, giving a weird flashing effect over lighter/white areas of the frame), I couldn’t watch the entire movie like that lest I get a blinding headache, but it was just as annoying watching it without the glasses and seeing red/blue “shadows” everywhere. So I spent most of the movie alternating between glasses on, glasses off, and glasses on but covering my right (red) eye. Headache kept at bay! However, I should note that the 3D DESIGN is actually quite good – there are some requisite ‘pop out’ gags, but nowhere near as intrusive as Friday the 13th Part 3, and director Jeff Broadstreet and his DP/3D team really put effort into creating depth with the shots and lighting it appropriately so that the glasses don’t dull the image too much. I also quite like how they “introduce” the 3D element, by starting on black and white footage from the first movie (in 2D), only to zoom out and pan to reveal it’s just playing on a TV in this (now) 3D world. Very cool.
However this leads to one of my problems with the movie. It takes place in the real world, where NOTLD is a movie, and yet even though the characters in this movie are watching it, no one notices how strange it is that they all have the same names (Ben, Barbra, Karen, Helen, Tom, Judy.... Harry is changed to Henry, however). Since they were more or less doing their own thing, I am baffled why they kept the same names, especially with the original film playing in the background a couple of times. It certainly doesn’t help in the case of Ben – in a bit of unintentional irony, not only is he white, he’s a fucking terrible actor (Duane Jones got the role because he was a great actor, not because he was black – the role was written without a race in mind). I assume this guy only got the gig because he was handsome, but whatever the reason was, I wish someone had the foresight to change his name, because it just invites unfavorable comparison to the original.
My other main problem was the drug humor. In this version, the farmhouse is actually a weed farm, and the occupants are stoner/hippie types. This sort of comedy has never appealed to me, and I certainly don’t think it has any place in an otherwise serious horror movie (there isn’t a touch of humor in the film until the pot farmers are introduced). One of the film’s biggest “Comin at ya!” moments is a guy offering a joint to Barb and Ben, holding the oversized thing out in the foreground with a Franco-esque dumbass look on his face – this would inspire a huge round of applause on a college campus, I am sure, but I just sighed and lost interest for the next few minutes. I also particularly hated the Henry character, who runs the farm, and was shocked to discover the actor playing him was a stand-up comedian – he was the least amusing of the lot. I did feel a little better later, when I learned that this stuff was at the insistence of one of the executive producers (screenwriter Robert Valding was opposed to it, in fact).
It could have done without Sid Haig as well. I like the guy, but the best zombie movies don’t stop to explain everything in the middle of the climax, which is precisely what his character does here. The zombies are in fact the folks who should have been cremated at Haig’s mortuary, but he didn’t have the stomach to burn them so he just kept them all. He also keeps his father “alive” as a zombie by feeding it, Seymour Krelborn style (though why this doesn’t make him turn into a zombie is beyond me). One of the things I was sort of enjoying about the movie was that it toned down the human in-fighting (Cooper and Ben argue briefly but never really become antagonistic toward one another), but then Haig comes along in the 3rd act (he only appears once before then) and does the whole “evil human” shit we’ve seen in a zillion other zombie movies, with a plotline that barely even makes any sense to boot.
The DVD bonus material is largely on the technical side, including the commentary, which despite the number of participants (4 including Haig, who shows up late) is primarily joke-free. Much of the talk is about the 3D process and other shooting nuts n’ bolts stuff, and then Sid discusses his performance with minimal self-deprecation. Not a bad track, but more geared toward 3D junkies and/or those who truly loved the film, of which I am neither. There’s also a Q&A from the New Bev (2nd bonus feature of its type this week! Both of screenings I can’t even recall taking place let alone why I missed them), which is worth a look for HMAD aficionados (if there are any) for the moment where Haig bemoans A Dead Calling’s direct-to-DVD release (fans know that I consider that to be one of the absolute worst movies I’ve reviewed yet). Then there’s a making of, a quick bit about working in 3D, some trailers, and a blooper reel which is not only unfunny, but almost sort of uncomfortable because no one seems to be amused when things go wrong (it’s also missing the audio on several clips, rendering it impossible to understand what exactly went wrong). Not a bad package, all told, but I’d dump nearly all of it in order to afford the disc space that would allow the 2D version to be included (apparently it’s available on a separate release, but the design is worth at least sampling, I think).
Overall, it’s not as successful as Savini’s version by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hardly a train wreck, either. Compared to the likes of House of the Dead (hey, Haig appeared in that film’s sequel!), Dorm Of The Dead, or Pot Zombies, it’s a classic. And when my biggest problem with a film is humor that I’m just not a fan of in general (humor that was forced upon the film’s creative team to boot), I have to factor that into the equation. And again – these guys did a better job of “re-imagining” Romero’s film than his own partners did with the 30th anniversary thing. That’s gotta be worth some credit, right?
At any rate, NOTLD week is over! I can go back to watching movies sans any sort of planning or focus on a theme. I can also hopefully go a week or so without hearing any variation on “They’re coming to get you, Barbra!” (speaking of which – giant UGH on the “modern” version of that in this movie, luckily the trailer had already spoiled it so I was prepared). Plus, my “overdose” gave me an idea for my next Terror Tuesday column at Badass Digest, so it was all worth it!
What say you?