Night of the Living Dead (1990 film)

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Night of the Living Dead
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tom Savini
Produced by Declan Baldwin
Menahem Golan
Christine Forrest
Ami Artzi
Russell Streiner
Screenplay by George A. Romero
Based on Original screenplay:
George A. Romero
John A. Russo
Starring Tony Todd
Patricia Tallman
Music by Paul McCollough
Cinematography Frank Prinzi
Edited by Tom Dubensky
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
October 19, 1990
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,200,000
Box office $5,835,247

Night of the Living Dead is a 1990 US horror film directed by Tom Savini. It is a remake of George A. Romero's 1968 horror film of the same name. Romero rewrote the original 1968 screenplay co-authored by John A. Russo.[1][2]


The film begins with siblings Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and Johnnie (Bill Moseley) visiting their mother's grave in a remote, rural cemetery. During their visit, Barbara is attacked by a zombie. Her brother comes to her defense but is killed in the struggle. Barbara flees the cemetery and discovers what at first seems to be an abandoned farmhouse. She seeks shelter there, only to find a mutilated corpse and another pack of zombies. She is joined there shortly after by Ben (Tony Todd) and the two clear the house of the dead and begin the process of barricading the doors and windows.

They discover that other survivors are already hiding in the cellar of the house: Harry Cooper (Tom Towles), his wife Helen (McKee Anderson), their daughter Sarah who was bitten on the arm by a zombie and has fallen seriously ill; teenage redneck Tom Bitner (William Butler) and his girlfriend Judy Rose Larson (Katie Finneran). What follows are the attempts by the survivors to defend the house under siege from the undead. The group is left divided over what their next course of action should be. Harry believes everyone should retreat to the cellar and barricade the door to wait for the authorities. Ben thinks the cellar is a "death trap" and that they would be better served fortifying the house, which at least has alternate escape routes, and Barbara suggests that they should all leave the house on foot while they still can after she notices that the zombies are very slow and that they can just "walk right past them". An argument between Ben and Harry leaves the Coopers in the basement tending to their ailing daughter and the remaining members of the group upstairs to continue their work reinforcing the doors and windows; the loud sound of hammers hitting the nails into the wood attracts more zombies to the house.

A plan is ultimately devised to escape using Ben's truck, which is out of fuel. There is a gas pump on the property but it is locked. A search of a corpse on the property produces a set of keys. Judy Rose, Tom, and Ben proceed up the hill toward the gas pump but their plan begins to unravel when Ben falls from the back of the truck and is left to defend himself against the undead. After discovering the key to the gas pump is not among the bunch they brought with them, Tom attempts to shoot the lock off. The falling gasoline is ignited, trailing after them in the truck. The resulting explosion kills both Tom and Judy.

Ben returns to the house to find things beginning to dissolve into chaos. Harry has wrestled Barbara's gun away from her and is now armed. Unbeknownst to the survivors upstairs, the Coopers' daughter Sarah has died from the bite on her arm and has become a zombie; she attacks and bites her distraught mother, who does not defend herself. When Sarah makes her way upstairs she triggers a shootout between her father, who is trying to protect her, and Ben and Barbara, who are trying to protect themselves. Both Ben and Harry are badly wounded, and Sarah is shot by Barbara. Harry retreats upstairs to the attic, while Ben makes his way to the cellar, where he shoots a reanimated Helen. Barbara leaves the house, now being overrun by the undead, to attempt to find help.

Barbara eventually joins a posse of locals who are attempting to clear the area of the undead. She returns with them to the farmhouse the next day to find Ben has died of his wounds and reanimated. He is shot in the head by one of the posse members. Harry emerges from the attic alive, Barbara kills him in a fit of rage and turns to leave the house, telling the vigilantes they have "another one for the fire." The film ends as Barbara watches the bodies being burned in the fire.


Production and release[edit]

The film was handled by the same team as the original, with the exception that directing duties were handled by famed special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, who originally signed up with hopes of doing the make-up effects as he was not able to for the original film. Romero served as producer for the remake, and he recruited some of the original camera and sound crew to participate. According to the study of the film in Cinemetrics website, the remake has exactly the same Average Shot Length (5.4 seconds) as that of the original film made in 1968.

In addition to this, two stars of the original film make cameo appearances during the climax. Bill Cardille, plays a TV reporter, much as he did in the 1968 version, and he is seen interviewing Sheriff McClelland, played by the original Johnny, Russell Streiner. Streiner, who also produced the original, acted as executive producer on the remake.

To avoid an NC-17 rating, Savini had to cut several scenes from the film, some of which can be seen on the DVD. Savini sometimes shows the entirety of the cut scenes at conventions. A Blu-ray version was released in a limited edition of 3,000 in October 2012 by Twilight Time.


Initial reaction to this remake was mixed to mostly negative. Roger Ebert awarded the film a mere one star out of a possible four stars.[3] Leonard Maltin assigned it two out of four stars.[4] More recent criticism has been more appreciative, however; as of 2014, the film currently holds a 68% "fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


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