Directed by Jeff Broadstreet
Distributed by Lux Digital Pictures
Is George A. Romero being punished for something? First there was the abomination that was John Russo’s Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition, an experience we wouldn’t wish on Hitler. As if that weren’t enough, we were then hit with two unofficial sequels: Children of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (which, by the way, is STILL not a word), both of which proved once and for all the existence of Satan. Now the rape of a legacy continues with the arrival of the fourth horseman: Night of the Living Dead 3D.
To be fair, this film is slightly more professional than the previous examples, and there’s an honest attempt at paying homage. Too bad it doesn’t numb the pain of seeing a classic completely eviscerated. Everything that made the original great is sucked into a black hole: Gone are the wonderful characters and atmosphere while any trace of social commentary is replaced with bad one-liners and dated pop culture references.
The film starts by using the exact opening shot from the original. The familiar title fades up, twirls around, and flies off the screen; and it’s all downhill from there. We join up with “Barb” and nerdy brother Johnny on that familiar road as they drive to their aunt’s funeral. One god-awful dialogue scene later, the two arrive at the cemetery and are baffled to find the funeral service devoid of people (“Maybe we got Punk’d!”). We all know what happens next. Sadly, Johnny gets dispatched before he can utter his famous “Coming to get you, Barbara” line, but he does text message it to her cell phone when he’s in zombie form. Aren’t modern updates swell?
As Barb runs for the hills, she’s rescued by the story’s classic hero, Ben – a twenty-year-old White boy on a motorcycle! Now let’s meditate on that. This is a role made famous by Dwayne Jones and has gone down in history as one of those ground-breaking moments in cinema. At least Tom Savini had the good sense to a substitute a charismatic pro like Tony Todd in his version of Night. What do we get here? A blank-faced GQ model. Way to pay tribute, fellas.
Ben and Barb haul ass through the countryside and wind up at a farmhouse owned by the Coopers, who are now a family of ganja-growing hippies. They laugh off all warnings of the impending zombie attack, opting to smoke pot and watch the original Romero movie on television. If that weren’t bad enough, the filmmakers have also added Owen, a comic-relief stoner character who acts like a reject from Half Baked and constantly hands his joint out to the viewer (how clever!). As for Tom and Judy, they’re a couple of horny teenagers who screw out in the barn and are quickly devoured by the arriving undead horde.
You’d think a farmhouse full of people who just watched Night of the Living Dead would have some notion of how to fend off a zombie attack, but no. They don’t so much as board up a single door or window. All our characters do is stand around and babble how shocked they are about their predicament. The writing and acting in these scenes are particularly cringe-worthy, and they take up the bulk of the movie.
This brings us to the Night 3D’s one token of good faith: Sid Haig. Aside from a quick appearance at the beginning, Haig doesn’t show up until the final act, playing a crazed mortician with a connection to the undead. We here at Dread Central love and support Sid, but to say he boarded the wrong ship is a grave understatement. In fact, he looks completely out of place in this film by the sheer fact that he can deliver dialogue, unlike his uncharismatic co-stars who act as if they’re constantly trying to remember lines.
Maybe that’s too harsh. You really can’t fault the cast when the captain is unable to steer the ship. The man in question is Jeff Broadstreet, who previously directed such horror movie titles as Dr. Rage, The Alien Interviews, and Sexbomb. Haven’t heard of ‘em? Well, there’s probably a reason for that. Mr. Broadstreet’s vision is dull and anonymous, and he directs every scene into a coma. While the lighting and cinematography are above average, Night 3D lacks any trace of tension or energy, and the single piece of music that comprises the score is enough to lull you to sleep.
Zombies in 3-D. It’s a match made in heaven, right? We can all imagine the possibilities: gushing brains, flying heads, spraying blood, etc. Too bad you won’t find any of that here. In fact, Night 3D delivers some of the most limp and goreless zombie carnage to ever grace the screen. It seems that the crew were so preoccupied with their 3D technology that they forgot to spend any money on prosthetics. Any time someone is bitten or devoured, it happens off-screen. The filmmakers seem content to simply wave inanimate objects out to the audience as if they’ve never seen a 3D image before.
While Monster House showed all the wonderful uses for the technology, this film reminds us what killed it in the first place. Failing as both a homage and a gimmick, Night of the Living Dead 3D only succeeds in taking us to new dimensions of boredom.
That’s another one for the fire.
1 1/2 out of 5