[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 30 – Night of the Animated Dead (2021)

Director: Jason Axinn
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Dule Hill, Katharine Isabelle, James Roday Rodriguez, Katee Sackhoff, Will Sasso, Jimmi Simpson, Nancy Travis
Screenplay: George A. Romero, John A. Russo
71 mins. Rated R for bloody/gruesome zombie violence.

I’m all for checking out a new interpretation of an old classic. I mean, how many versions of Dracula exist out there, and I like a good chunk of them enough to make the constant re-adaptations worth it. Night of the Living Dead is another classic staple, THE zombie movie, and due to some copyright snafus, it’s pretty easy to adapt or remake however you see fit, and that’s exactly what happened here.

You know the story: when Barbara (Katharine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps, American Mary) and her brother arrive at a faraway cemetery to leave flowers for her late father, they are beset upon by a man who kills her brother and sends her fleeing for her life. She holds up in an old farmhouse with another man experiencing the same thing. They soon come to learn that the dead have risen up all around them, and they are in search of human flesh. Now, they have to survive the night in the farmhouse as they are attacked from all angles by the undead.

I was immensely disappointed in Night of the Animated Dead, and I was so hopeful, too. The front cover looked artful and stylish, and I was really interested to see a very unique visual flair to the film, but what we got looked more like introductory-animation-course and not a feature film being sold at Target. The animation looked very jerky and unrealistic (and I know, animation does not need realism, but this animation lacked detail in its movement and really lost my attention quickly.

There are a few things that help to save the film, however unsuccessful. One of them is the screenplay, pulling heavily from the source material to the point that Romero and Russo have been credited for the story. I also liked that there’s an ever-so-slight expansion to the material where we see what happened to Ben (Dule Hill, Hypnotic, TV’s Psych) at the gas station early on in the film. Not much is done with it, but I appreciated the attempt. I also think the voice work is admirable, but I’d wonder why so much money was spent on getting named talent to voice these characters and then animating them so poorly.

I’ve seen three distinct takes on Night of the Living Dead in my life, and this is by far the worst. I can’t ever see myself choosing this film over the 1968 or even 1990 versions of this classic tale. Had the animated been done with care, perhaps I’d feel differently, but this is an adaptation that is ultimately a loss in almost every way.

2/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 18 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

nightofthelivingdead1968a

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Bill Cardille, Kyra Schon

Screenplay: John A. Russo, George A. Romero

96 mins. Not Rated.

 

Night of the Living Dead is perhaps the most famous name in the world of zombies, as is its creator George A. Romero (Bruiser, The Dark Half). He brought the modern zombie into the fold. Previously, the term “zombie” was used in voodoo films for someone under the control of a curse or possession. The modern-day cannibalistic zombie is a product of 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, which is the story of a night of terror as an unknown source causes the dead to rise up and feed on the flesh of the living. Much of the zombie lore was created in this film, and much more was refined ten years later in the first sequel, Dawn of the Dead. Barbara (Judith O’Dea) is one of our leads, who is visiting her father’s grave with her brother Johnny when they are suddenly attacked and Johnny is killed. Barbara escapes toward an abandoned farm house where she meets Ben (Duane Jones) and several other survivors. Now, they must hold up in the house while hordes of the undead prey on them in a night of shocking terror.

nightofthelivingdead1968c

I love this movie. I love this premise. The originality is less noticeable in today’s age, but this movie was incredibly envelope-pushing. The idea to have a film limited to one very comfortable place and having such horrible things happen to these people as they deal with an unimaginable situation coming to light before their eyes is just staggering. The fact that George A. Romero was able to take this story and use it to show the real fears of the 1960s was another reason it stuck with us.

Lead actor Duane Jones also began a recurring theme of strong black characters in Romero’s Dead series. This would continue throughout the original trilogy.

While the cast and crew are mostly comprised of people who knew Romero is noticeable, but the performances are still strong enough to carry the narrative.

I remember reading an article from Reader’s Digest written around the time of the release where the writer warned against viewing the film as it was cannibal pornography, promoting the consumption of human flesh. I remember finding it to be an odd fear. That was 1968. The world was changing. The space race was currently being run. We had fears of government secrets, wars on the horizon. It was a scary time to be an America. It was a scary time to be human.

nightofthelivingdead1968b

Night of the Living Dead began a series (or several series) of zombie/undead films and franchises that still exist and influence popular culture and cinema today. It still stands the time as a film that touches on fear, paranoia, and death in a way that few films since have been able to touch on. I love this movie, much more now than when I was a kid. I don’t entirely think younger audiences will understand that impact, but I don’t think that it feels aged. It is still relevant to our world, and it is still majorly unnerving.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑