Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (2009)

Rating: B-

Dir: George A. Romero and Mike Schneider

I totally adore the concept here. Take a classic horror film like Night of the Living Dead – which just happens to be in the public domain, due to a screw-up by the distributors – and invite anyone interested to re=imagine it visually, using whatever animated medium they want. Drawings? Fine. CGI? Sure. Claymation? Sock puppets? Furbies? Er…if you must. All those approaches, and more, are included in the version presented here, which unfolds over the original soundtrack – and, presumably, requires little or no further plot description from me.

However, I have to say, the results are somewhat disappointing. “Reanimated” is probably putting a bit strongly: given the large amount of time where still frames are used, “Redrawn” may be closer to the mark. There seems to be a strange imbalance here; the style that gets by far the most time is actually pretty crap, being little more than outlines with squiggles inside them, while NotLD done in Lego, which is quite delightful, gets only a few seconds. It’s hard to say, but this could be a side-effect of the collaborative process, which did not appear to allocate work to artists, but let them submit whatever scenes they wanted. This may also have led to the rapid switches in style, that are sometimes brutally jarring, as the film lurches from one medium and approach to another, with all the flow and grace of a zombie ballet-dancer.

With that said, it is still a clearly better re-invention of the material than most recent efforts, being made for love rather than money. There are some moments which truly work, perhaps more successfully than the original, and hey, if you don’t like this bit, there’ll be something else along in a second. Even if it’s definitely better if you’ve seen the original first, best not to think of or view this as a coherent cinematic piece, because it is far too chaotic to work as such. Instead, “curator” Schneider has described the piece as “an art show hung on the cult classic’s timeline. Every scene serves as walls to hang artworks, the audio becomes the ambiance of the space and the original narrative serves as the theme that holds the show together.”

The grade given above reflects that collaborative art aim, the effort put into creating it, and the feature-packed DVD released by Wild Eye. While the film itself is freely available and released under a Creative Commons license, the DVD has enough additional material to justify its purchase. Multiple commentaries, unused footage, making-of featurettes, and probably a bunch of other stuff I’ve forgotten [sorry, I’m moving house and the DVD is…not easily accessible, shall we say. As in, I have no clue where it is]. For those with an interest in one of the seminal movies of the genre, this is likely essential; for anyone else, it certainly merits a viewing.