Night of the Living Dead 3D Review
Since I remain mainly unconvinced about both the depressing proliferation of remakes of many of the films I hold dear (and quite a few of the ones that I don’t), and the increasing use of 3D in feature films, it came as something of a surprise to me that accompanying the insidious sense of dread seeping into my brain at the prospect of a 3D remake of (and ‘homage’ to, apparently) the seminal 1968 gut-muncher, Night of the Living Dead, was a strange, tentative, feeling of excited anticipation. The screen grabs certainly looked appealing; could a murky, low-budget, non-gloss B-movie provide the perfect antidote to the over-polished products of the remake machine? The presence of Brianna Brown and the appearance of Sid Haig (unforgettable as demented clown Captain Spaulding in a couple of Rob Zombie’s shockers) heightened my belief that this production might just hit the spot where the shiny, assured, and competent but ultimately soulless horror remakes have failed in a blaze of spectacular mediocrity.
A rotting zombie jaw hasn’t even punctured a fresh, living, appendage before it becomes apparent that, despite the differences between this effort and its bigger budget remake rivals, its impact is equally insipid. The movements of the camera, the composition, and the choice of shots, whilst technically acceptable enough in execution, are pedestrian and unimaginative. The lighting is often poor, and it’s tricky to see the action clearly – though the presence of the 3D glasses certainly doesn’t assist, and they have a strange muting effect where they strip the film clear of colour. At a couple of stages, I lifted the glasses, and what almost looked like a black and white movie with the glasses on, was quite a colourful affair without.
The 3D effects do not vindicate their detrimental impact on the films’ colour, and rather serve as a distraction. Whilst there are some interesting effects early in the opening credits, the majority of the 3D budget appears to have been blown on unnecessary dope smoking antics. The only effects of note are a couple of zombie arm 'grabbing' moments, some blood spurts, a bullet as it pops out of a gun, and a shard of flying glass, which actually caused me to flinch. Such seldom moments are scant justification for the misery the 3D inflicts upon your bloodshot eyeballs.
Perhaps the most damaging components of the film’s demise are the performances, which are, on the whole, completely uninspired. Whilst Brianna Brown is clearly an actress of a certain calibre, even she struggles with a flat and frequently cringe-worthy script. It’s difficult to tell if the script is intentionally bad; when peace-loving drug dealer Henry delivers the line ‘when the dead walk, you gotta call the cops’, for example, we don’t laugh, we barely titter; we’re just bemused, and slightly irritated. Other performances – which I won’t single out – are delivered with an equally stuttering approach. The performance that finally seizes our attention and begins to push the picture in the right direction is that of Sid Haig, as he delivers his soliloquy on the origin of the outbreak to the listening group, and finally, at long last, we are intrigued…for a few minutes, at least.
Sid Haig’s entry into the house, providing a trigger for the eventual climax of proceedings, results in the film closing, at least, with some sense of direction. And in truth it’s not all bad; the gore can be enjoyable on occasions, including the interesting efforts at 3D blood spurts. The zombies are acceptable enough in the shroud of the murky lighting – though the spartan budget really shows when they shuffle with a moan into the light. The growing barrage of zombies approaching the house do help to provide something of an intimidating and suffocating atmosphere.
Overall, though, there’s simply not enough here to recommend the picture. With irritating characters who make the most bizarre and irrational decisions, a substandard script, some pointless nudity, below par performances, pedestrian filming, and 3D effects that detract more than enhance, the picture fails on many fronts. You may wish to watch it to catch Sid Haig’s performance, or you might want to catch it after a night at the pub, at which point this might just be suitably palatable. Otherwise, you’d be far better off cranking up Romero’s original shocker, and get to witness, once again, how high quality, low-budget, groundbreaking horror should really be done.
Night of the Living Dead 3D is delivered with region 2 encoding in 1.78:1 widescreen. The package includes the 2D version of the film – which I’m guessing is on a double-sided disc, as the included overview states that the release is a 1 disc edition – though I wasn’t able to tell as I received a ‘screener’ disc. You get 2 free pairs of 3D glasses to enable the viewing of the 3D effects. Whilst it makes sense to enjoy the movie in 3D to benefit from the special effects, the glasses produce such a heavy discolouration of the image that its difficult to see the action really clearly, and the experience proves frustrating. If you are not overly enthused by the prospect of 3D, then I would recommend viewing the 2D version. The film won’t be any better, but you won’t get eye-strain and a growing sense of frustration from not being able to see properly!
The transfer itself seems clean enough; colours (without 3D spectacles!) are acceptable and there isn’t any noise or interference. The problems tend to surround darker scenes – of which there are many – and with the glasses on these sections are particularly difficult to view clearly. The scene where ‘Barb’ (Brianna Brown) is hiding in the forest before being rescued by Ben is a good example.
English subtitles for the hard of hearing are included.
Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1, and is delivered cleanly. The soundtrack itself is fairly murky B-movie stuff, but that’s quite fitting for the genre, and I certainly don’t object.
Whilst audio doesn’t stand out, the almost subliminal moans and groans of the zombies as they approach the house are reproduced well and help generate, to some degree, a sense of impending doom as the fragile fortress of the house is descended upon.
My screener disc did not include the extras, but listed in the overview we have the 2D version of the film, a ‘Making Of’ featurette, Q & A with the Filmmakers and Actor Sid Haig at the New Beverly Cinema, Filming in 3-D, A Behind the Scenes Special, the theatrical trailer, and a blooper reel. I’m wondering if any of these are perhaps more enjoyable than the main feature itself…
It contains a decent slab of extras, 2 pairs of 3D glasses, and an appearance from Rob Zombie favourite Sid Haig, but it’s not enough to rescue this low budget remake from the shuffling, droning throng of mediocre zombie movies.