They're dead, they're hungry, and they're NASTIER than ever in the new improved version of "Night of the Living Dead"
By Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas
See if your favorite person, TV series or motion picture is available: video/DVD/books
I admit it, I was a scoffer.
I didn't believe they could do it.
Me of little faith.
"Night of the Living Dead"--regarded by the drive-in-going public of the world as the greatest movie ever made--was rewritten two years ago, and a remake was announced. Not only did it have the blessing of George Romero, but George Romero was gonna WRITE and PRODUCE the remake.
Excuse me, but this would be like Mark Twain waking up one morning and saying "You know that Huck Finn thing I did? I don't like it anymore. I'm doing it AGAIN."
And so everbody went "George! No! Please! You must be senile! Don't try it!"
But he did it. He turned over the direction to Tom Savini, his special-effects makeup guy, the man whose made a whole career out of building slimy pus-filled ghoul faces.
We kept trying to talk him out of it. "George, don't do it! We LOVE the black-and-white! It won't work in color!"
But he kept on.
Menahem Golan, the Israeli king of the ninja flick, announced he was producing the remake.
"No! Menahem! Please! This will be a bigger turkey than 'Treasure of the Four Crowns'!"
And Menahem said, "What is 'Treasure of the Four Crowns'?"
And we yelled back, "'Treasure of the Four Crowns' is a 3-D Indiana Jones ripoff full of Spanish extras that you made in 1982!"
And Menahem said, "I made that?"
And then they got to the point of no return: they started casting the lead roles--in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh, the city where it all started. 1967. George Romero was an unknown director of TV commercials. One day he wrote a script called "Night of the Flesh Eaters." He hired some amateur actors. He conned a crew into working for him. He got investors. Seven months later, the modern horror film was born. (The distributor retitled it "Night of the Living Dead.")
One night, for no reason, the zombies rise up out of the earth and start devouring the United States. Seven people are holed up in a Pennsylvania farmhouse, trying to decide which is worse--fighting the flesh-eating zombies or fighting each other.
And zombies have never been the same since.
The "Zombie Stomp," the herky-jerky movement of Romero's drunken, stumbling zombies, has been adopted by zombies in every movie since then. Brain-eating first became a staple of the American zombie diet in this flick. And it was the first movie where the white guy wasn't the hero. Women did the clear thinking. The black guy did the fighting and protecting. And the white males just got in the way.
In other words, it was also the first DEMOCRATIC zombie movie. In the fifties, all the heroes were Republicans, fighting against Russian-type space aliens that were trying to take over our minds, and the women all stood by their men. In George Romero's movies, the women have to knock the men out of the way with a rifle butt to get a good crack at the mostly white, mostly male zombies. (Actually, the zombies are pale yellow in the remake, but I don't think George is making an Asian statement yet.)
In 1968 George had a hard time getting anybody to release "Night of the Living Dead," but by 1970 it was already considered the greatest horror film in history. Romero has made two sequels, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, and one of the original producers has done an excellent comedy version, Return of the Living Dead. The original movie has probly been seen by more people, worldwide, than any other horror flick except Psycho.
And now they've done it again.
They've not only done it again. They've done it better.
This time, with professional actors, with color, with special effects, with zombies that out-zombie the original zombies, they've told the exact same story, with about five minutes of changes in the plot, JUST ENOUGH to give it a great surprise at the end, and even though you've seen it before, and even though you know what the zombies are gonna do, and even though you know what each of the people inside the house are gonna do, it still scares the bejabbers out of you and satisfies the first rule of drive-in moviemaking: Anybody can die at any moment.
I'm humiliated that I was such a doubter.
I apologize to Mr. Savini and Mr. Romero.
Wheel in the Academy members from Palm Springs. Hook up their IV's. Force em to watch this.
Because, as Barbara says, "They're us. We're them and they're us."
No breasts. Twenty-one dead bodies. Exploding pickup. Exploding supporting actors. Neck-crunching. Zombie corral. Zombie target practice. Zombie bonfire. Eighteen gallons blood. A 74 on the Vomit Meter. Kung Fu. Zombie Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Patricia Tallman, as Barbara, one of the greatest screamers in moviedom, for slowly going crazy with a shotgun in her hand, and for saying "What's happening?"; Tony Todd, as Ben, for doing the impossible, surpassing the original starring performance of Duane Jones, and for saying "This is hell on earth"; Tom Towles, best known as Otis in "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," as Cooper, for stealing the TV, barricading himself in the cellar, slapping his wife around, and screaming "You bunch of yoyos!";
and for Tom Savini, the director, for perfectly preserving drive-in history.
Four stars. Joe Bob says check it out, and then later tonight we've got ANOTHER drive-in classic, the immortal Swamp Thing starring Adrienne Barbeau and her very wet rayon blouse. Great night on "MonsterVision." Let's get to it. Night Of The Living Dead is available on video and DVD
JOE BOB'S ADVICE TO THE HOPELESS
Communist Alert! The historic Kaufman Pike Drive-In in Dallas is now a "police substation." David Ouldhouse of Balch Springs, Tex., got the last photos of the Kaufman Pike before the wrecking ball and reminds us that they've fled Eastern Europe and begun infiltrating our most sacred institutions, even the cops. Remember, without eternal vigilance, it can happen here. To discuss the meaning of life with Joe Bob, or to get free junk in the mail and his world-famous "We Are the Weird" newsletter, write Joe Bob Briggs, P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221, or leave your name and address on his comedy line: 1-900-4-JOEBOB ($1.50 first minute, 75 cents each additional). Joe Bob's 1990 Fax line: 214-368-2310.
Dear Joe Bob,
What's the deal with this summer? There have been almost absolutely no drive-in movies. The Arnold stuff and Bruce Willis stuff and RoboCop stuff don't count because anything that costs over 30 million bucks doesn't deserve drive-in space.
Man, there ain't nothin' out there. No Italian splatter. No Kung Fu. Not really any gratuitous breast action. Even big Jack Nicholson's film wouldn't cut the drive-in mustard--Two Jakes--pffft! Okay, okay, there's Sam Raimi's Darkman, which is great. And David Lynch's "Wild At Heart" and Big Chuck's Delta Force 2. But these are just flukes. The prime drive-in material is a goin' straight to video, and good drive-in features are disappearing as fast as the drive-ins themselves.
What the fudge is a goin' on, Joe Bob? Is this a big Iraqi conspiracy, or what?!
Didn't you see "Betsy's Wedding," directed by Alan Alda, and starring Molly Ringwald?
Best horror film of 1990.
Is this your ex-wife or mine?
"POLICE CHASE NUDE WOMAN FOR 35 MILES
"Los Angeles -- A naked woman eluded officers for nearly 35 miles yesterday by hitchhiking, climbing center dividers and dodging traffic on the Golden State Freeway before she was caught in suburban Newhall, authorities say.
"'She's lucky to be alive. She must have jumped in and out of traffic 100 times during the time we saw her,' said California Highway Patrol officer Doug Villars, who tackled the woman north of the Lyons Avenue overpass.
"The 23-year-old Bakersfield woman was taken to Olive View Medical Center in nearby Sylmar for medical and mental health evaluation, Villars said.
"Authorities received reports at 2:40 a.m. yesterday of a naked woman running on Interstate 5 near Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. She was seen about an hour later on I-5 in the area of the San Diego Freeway interchange near Sylmar, Villars said.
"'We don't believe she ran all that way,' said officer Steve Cortes of the CHP office in Newhall. 'We think she probably made part of the trip by hitchhiking.'
"Villars said officers next saw the woman at I-5 near Roxford Street.
"The woman was captured about 10 minutes after officers shut down the southbound lanes of the freeway at the McBean Parkway exit, he said."]
She told me she PREFERRED to walk. I swear she did.
Dear Joe Bob:
I'd rather watch the shower scene in "Debbie Does Dallas" than the one in "Psycho." I guess that makes me depraved. Why is violence okay and sex wrong?
You mean "Psycho" has a shower scene, too?
Dear Joe Bob,
I think you're one of the most clever fellows I've ever read, so I figure you will know the answer to my question. In the videos "Faces of Death," one of the series of two showed a San Francisco Bay Area cult that eats bodies (human bodies). I remembered it quite vividly, and they showed them actually eating this guy, laughing and generally enjoying themselves. Was this a real body in the video??? !!!!! If so would you know where a person could pick one up on a Scotsman's budget??? I'm getting released soon and I'm going to start my own cult. I figured body-eating would be a good attraction for prospective pledges.
Pleasanton Federal Detention Center
Are you implying that the producers of "Faces of Death" would FAKE something like that?
We weren't actually swallowing, though. We were just TASTING it for the camera.
Dear Joe Bob:
Do you think you'll ever get around to looking back on some of the lesser known (well, okay, forgotten) drive-in gems of the previous decade or two? I speak mainly of films like Blood Freak (70?) which was recently released onto video. It features a bad actor turning into a giant turkey-headed vampire mutant after mixing experimental drugs and marijuana. The monster gobbles and has sex with a white-trash party girl. The monster turkey-vampire head is made out of papier-mache and looks like something left over from a Thanksgiving Day parade. "Blood Freak" has a strong Just Say No theme: the turkey monster saws off one of the drug dealer's legs (the guy had an artificial leg anyway, so it looks disturbingly real). It also has the funniest drug overdose/epileptic fit I've ever seen. I dare anyone to watch it without wetting their pants. It was shot in Florida and looks it, if you know what I mean.
Nancy A. Collins
You don't mean "Blood Fiend" with Christopher Lee, do you? Because I've never heard of "Blood Freak."
Did you by any chance play the turkey monster and write me this letter just to get publicity?
Dear Joe Bob:
How could you leave Day Of The Dead off the best flick list why wasnt it called Day Of The Living Dead was it called Night Of The Dead or Night Of The Living Dead instead of the Living Dead I'd be impressed if it was called Nightmare on Living Dead Street but it wasnt and I wasnt real impressed do you think there will be a Twilight of the Living Dead without a flyboy in it how about an Evening of the Living Dead with a really big breast count how about a Breast of the Living Dead where all those living bras get infected and chase the lead female Since they're doing a Texas Chainsaw Massacre part two and want to use the original cast but cannot since most of them were killed off in the movie why dont they make it The Texas Chainsaw Massacre of the Living Dead could they get Bub to make a cameo appearance.
DOUG LIVING DEAD NELSON
DEAR DOUG: Raleigh Hills really works.
[This letter is a real letter it really appeared in the Dallas Slimes Herald back in the 1980s but I dont know if Doug Living Dead Nelson ever got the help he clearly needed]
"Just because I'm showing somebody being disembowelled doesn't mean that I have to get heavy and put a message behind it."
Not technically undead (though there continue to be sightings) Forbes.com reports that Elvis is the world's richest dead celebrity. His estate made $49 million in 2007, up more than 10% from the previous year, which also had Elvis #1 on the dead celebrities earnings list. Though Shakespeare's name & works are not copyrighted or trademarked, lawyers estimate that his estate would be making $15 million a year if they were.