One of my all time favorite films is George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (check out the link for our epic retro review here). Then there’s Tom Savini’s ’90 remake (read our retro of that film here). And boy, oh boy, was I lucky to be able to see Rebirth, a remake of the film by Roger Conners (read our interview with him here).
Let’s be straightforward here. This article is neither a shoutout nor a knockoff. I am going to focus on the positives of the films and what makes each one a magnificent picture in its own way, from the way they are shot to the visual perspectives to the differences that make each one unique. I’ll discuss each character and what makes them unique and the cinematography and set. So, without further ado, I do give to you Night Of The Living Dead (1990) Vs. Rebirth (2020). I am only doing the ’90s version vs the newest remake because those two have so many common aspects that I had to do a comparison.
Roger Conners had this to say about Rebirth:
“George was created for the film but is inspired by the original character of Tom as written in the early drafts of Night of the Living Dead. He was written to be an older caretaker of the nearby cemetery in which Barbra and Johnny are initially attacked. We ran with this early concept and changed the name to George for obvious reasons. A little hat-tip, you know?“
One of the more significant changes that take place between the first two films is Barbra’s character growth from a panicking, hopeless, helpless damsel in distress to a woman who adjusts to the horrible situation that she is caught in. The beginning of Rebirth is essentially quite similar except Barbra is now a man named Adam. Just like Barbra, he is thrown into terrible situation with the dead coming alive around him and, panicking and overwhelmed, he flees to the nearest safe haven.
One of my favorite moments in the films is when the undead are walking aimlessly from a distance. However, I do love how the scene in Rebirth is in black and white, which in the 1960s version, is one of the creepiest parts. Something about it gives me the ultimate chills, and it’s hard to find moments in film that do that to me. It is definitely rare and something that I still search for until this very day. Well done, Rebirth, very well done.
Let’s talk about one of the films’ most beloved characters: Ben. He is portrayed in the original ’68 films by Duane Jones and the ’90 remake by the ever popular and loved Tony Todd. However, in this re-imagining, he is played by a man named Aswan Harris. I must say I LOVE his rendition. Tony Todd is by far one of my favorites, and I honestly look forward to Aswan Harris taking over the big screen as well. He did amazingly, and when it comes down to someone portraying Ben, I am more than happy with the job that he did and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I remember always hating Harry Cooper in the original film, but now in this remake, he is even worse. Although I do understand his situation and how frustrating and worrisome it would be, I still can’t find it in my heart to like him. However, what makes him even worse this time is that he is Reverend Harold Cooper. Someone who we assume would be a calming presence ends up being one of the most negative fascists of the film. Alvin Hudson is amazing at playing the most despised man from the very beginning.
I remember always being so terrified by Karen as a kid. Something about her façade and the way she was dressed almost like a doll just gave me the chills. In the end, Kyra Schon did her job well and succeeded in doing what she needed to do… freak people out. And as per usual, we get the bloody death of the wife. Although the new film gives us a more gory interpretation, we all have to agree that it is very well done. It is one of my favorite parts in the film. Hailey Moltz does beyond a great job portraying the undead. Helen Cooper is mostly a side character, but you do get to see her attempt to help as much as she can, although Harry tries to stop her. Despite not being given much as far as character development, McKee Anderson’s onscreen presence is evident, and her untimely end is quite unfortunate.
In the 1990 version, Sarah has her own air about her. You can’t help but feel her mother’s fear, despair knowing her only child has been turned into a zombie. Can you imagine it? However in Rebirth, we come across a different kind of Helen, one who, regardless of her husband’s demanding and negative presence, is determined to help as much as she possibly can. I personally love that they developed her character in that aspect. I find that when you rewrite a film and change small details as such as this, it gives the project a whole new identity while still remaining true to the original, something that I admire the most in Rebirth.
Side characters are one of the most crucial elements to consider in a film. Take, for instance, Judy Rose and Tom, two secondary roles who become more and more important as the movie progresses, going from panicky and hiding in the basement to the being most helpful of them all. In Night of the Living Dead, we get two people who are confused and overwhelmed, but they eventually advance and learn to adapt to the situation… which, unfortunately, leads to their untimely deaths. Either way, we see them as two unsung heroes, and we can’t help but love them for their desperation and attempt to help out their fallen comrades. In Rebirth, we see the exact same thing, two side characters who go above and beyond to help out in moments of distress.
Night of the Living Dead is one of those films that you can’t help but love. There are so many different aspects of it that it’s hard to name just a few. Rebirth also does an amazing job by taking each and every aspect and turning it into a new chronicle. One of my favorite parts of the film is at the end with the eerie music and creepy stills from the moments throughout.
I can’t wrap this up without the creepy moments of Barbra’s ultimate rendition from helplessness to badassery. Her character expansion goes beyond anything I have seen in a movie. Adam from Rebirth is a mix of both. Conners takes both Barbras and mixes them up amazingly. Although it does not end well, it is still awesome. It is way too amusing not to love. So when it comes down to it, Night of the Living Dead and Rebirth are both epic films that deserve a five zombie fingers up.