Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Kyra Schon
Directed by Mike Schneider
Distributed by Wild Eye Releasing
Night of the Living Dead has been bent over the proverbial barrel many times. Whether or not we’re talking about John Russo’s unspeakably infamous 30th Anniversary Edition or, more recently, that low-rent 3D pile of garbage, George Romero’s seminal horror film has been bastardized repeatedly by shameless opportunists. This latest ‘remake’,Reanimated, stands apart from its ostracized peers because it’s a narrative experience only in the most basic terms. Instead, imagine a wicked acid trip inspired by the 1968 zombie opus, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Reanimated isn’t so concerned with re-telling the story of Ben, Barbara, Mr. Cooper and cast. Instead, creator Mike Schneider has assembled a kaleidoscopic range of imagery synced against Romero’s original audio. This montage of claymation, rotoscoping, puppetry, CGI and other, more abstract means of presentation (Legos!) are threaded together into the familiar tale of strangers holed up in a rural farmhouse besieged by the undead.
Even if NOTLD – Reanimated doesn’t reek of desperation in the way every other rehash has, it never quite works as well as it wants to. The most iconic moments are the best, thanks in part to some truly inspired material – most delightful being the expository newscast recreated with sock puppets and, best of all, a shambling swarm of Furbies (yes, Furbies) descending upon the ill-fated farmhouse.
But these vignettes are over far too quickly – presumably because every contributing artist needed to be showcased throughout. Styles shift at any given time (often mid-scene), which is every bit as jarring as it sounds. Slower scenes are padded with some visually unappealing moments (still paintings and drawings, for example) and prove detrimental to the project’s overall success. But these guys weren’t trying to cash in on a well-established property, and the earnestness of the project is prevalent in every frame, even when entertainment is not.
As expected, Night of the Living Dead – Reanimated is a novelty, one that overstays its welcome at the bloated length of 101 minutes. Slogging through the duration in one sitting can be a bit of a chore, but it does make for an interesting conversation piece. Loop it in the background of your Halloween party for example. It seems pretty clear that this was always the intent of Reanimated’s creators. It’s an art show, not a film. And in that regard it works.
Wild Eye Releasing brings this curiosity to DVD with adequate audio and video. It’s difficult to appraise the transfer thanks to rapidly shifting film/video elements, but it’s a fine presentation of what’s offered. The original mono audio is decent. NOTLD isn’t demo material for your speakers, but there’s nothing wrong with Wild Eye’s offered track, even if it sounds a bit soft at times.
They’ve also loaded this disc with some nifty supplements. An audio commentary with creator Mike Schneider finds him sitting alongside writer Jonathan Maberry for an academic discussion/dissection of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and this artistic tribute to it. It makes for a very good listen, and I enjoyed their serious approach to the track. Schneider returns on a second commentary track to explore the technical side of creating this curiosity. Make no mistake; this was a huge undertaking for him, and this is a relatively interesting listen if you want to know how he pulled it off. Finally, a scene-specific commentary gives the artists a chance to sound off on their work. A bit schizophrenic but worth listening to.
The bundle of extras includes extended scenes, an artist’s gallery, some making-of featurettes, short films from the artists and an introduction by horror host Count Gore De Vol. All of it is worth a look for those interested in what went into producing this one, and I’m real happy that Wild Eye put together such a nice lot of supplements for fans.
Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated isn’t going to work for everyone, but curious parties should go ahead and give it a spin. This was never intended as another remake, and it shouldn’t be dismissed as such. Its flow is often clumsy but worth a glance nonetheless.
2 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5