Directed by Tom Savini. USA. 1990.

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The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies (ed. Phil Hardy, Octopus Books, 1986) pulls no punches by declaring that George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is 'the best "invasion" movie since the seminal Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' 

The original, 1968 version, shows a group of people besieged by zombies (they are the dead brought to life by radiation fallout). One by one they are all killed, and when you think the last person will survive he is shot because he is mistaken for a zombie. Other than that depressing twist in the ending, which was to become a common feature of many violent films of the 1970s, the film was very low budget and tacky. 

To preserve his copyright on the 'living dead' Romero scripted this remake, which is directed by make-up artist Tom Savini. This time it is in colour and the ending is equally contorted, but at least it has a kind of happy ending. 

A group of people are again besieged in a remote farmhouse, and the diverse characters have to work together to defeat the zombies. Here, we have a running battle between Ben, a black man, and Cooper a cowardly white bigot. As they fight amongst themselves, it is Barbara who becomes the tough zombie fighter. Her part certainly owes much to Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien films. 

The zombies can be regarded as metaphors or symbols of the life-threatening things that surround us in our everyday lives. We worry about them most at the dead of night, or when they actually confront us. Given Romero's vision, American society isn't integrated enough to fight off outside threats. The ending where Hill Billies celebrate with a festival of zombie killing and baiting, indicates that our illusions of civilisation are easily shattered. This spectacle prompts Barbara to say that "We are them, they are us. " The main point is survival rather than petty jealousies and rivalries. 

Whatever profound meanings we can ascribe to the gormless zombies, this is basically a simple exercise in bumping off the main characters one by one. If you like your popcorn sprinkled with blood you'll like this one. 

Nigel Watson
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