Horror fans seem to have love/hate relationship with remakes. They’re often seen as unnecessary cash grabs, and it’s always heartbreaking to see them done without the involvement (or even at the protest of) the original creators, such as 2019’s Child’s Play.
However, one such remake that remains a special case is 1990’s Night of the Living Dead. Largely made because George A. Romero didn’t make much from the original (more on that later), it’s almost a beat for beat retelling, but it was done with blessing and direct involvement of the original creator.
And while it wasn’t well received when it first came out, it’s since gained cult status and earned the respect it deserves. So on its 30th anniversary today, we thought it would be fitting to look at 30 fun facts about it!
1. The original Night of the Living Dead is famously public domain, due to the fact the film print was missing a copyright. So the remake was initiated by George A. Romero himself, who was both frustrated at the lack of residuals on the original, and the fear that someone else would make an unauthorized remake and copyright that.
2. Initially Tom Savini hired just to the special effects, but Romero convinced him to direct.
3. Savini really wanted to work on the project, since he had been unavailable to work on the original movie.
4. He was initially supposed to, and had even met Romero and discussed the project, but when time came to film Savini was deployed in Vietnam as a combat photographer.
5. After returning from war, Savini described himself as an emotional zombie, having turned off his feelings to cope with the real life horrors of war.
6. George A. Romero wrote the screenplay himself, adapting it from his own original version (which he co-wrote with John A. Russo).
7. In an early version of the script, the movie was meant to begin in black and white, like the original, then gradually gain color throughout.
8. Patricia Tallman was cast as Barbara because Savini had known her since college and believed she could bring a strength to the character, not previously seen.
9. One of Savini’s biggest changes was to remodel Barbara to be more heroic.
10. Before Tony Todd was cast, Eriq La Salle and Laurence Fishburne auditioned to play Ben.
11. Savini felt that zombies had been parodied so much that his goal was to make them scary again by leaning heavily into the theme of death.
12. Real life broadcast report Bill Cardille appeared in both the original and remake as a newscaster (presumably as himself).
13. The film also featured Russel Streinger, who played Johnny in the original, as the sheriff in this one.
14. The “Uncle Rege” zombie in the farmhouse was played by one of Tom Savini’s oldest friends Pat Logan. He even performed the falling over the railing stunt only six weeks after having been in a motorcycle accident.
15. One of Savini’s goals was to manipulate the audience’s expectations from the original to subvert them. This included having the first person who attacks Barbara at the cemetery not actually be a zombie.
16. The female zombie that Barbara blasts with the shotgun while crying is supposed to be the corpse of her mother, having risen from her nearby grave.
17. The homeowner of the house the majority of the film was shot in had a cameo as one of the attacking zombies.
18. The Mercedes used in the film was actually owned by Tom Savini, who said it broke his heart when it was wrecked during filming.
19. Like the original, the whole movie was shot in the Pittsburgh area.
20. Due to the popularity of the production, extras reportedly came from as far as Kentucky to play zombies.
21. George A. Romero had a cameo as the radio announcer.
22. As per usual, Savini based the gore on real life examples. For this film, he drew from autopsy textbooks and even Nazi death camp footage.
23. Quite a bit had to be cut to avoid an NC-17 rating, however the fully uncut version was finally released on Blu-ray in 2012.
24. Tom Savini called the entire experience a nightmare, stating that the fought with the studio the entire time.
25. This led to only 40% of his ideas making it into the final movie (according to Savini himself).
26. It was the first and last feature length movie that Savini directed. He would however go on to direct episodes of Shudder’s Creepshow and Tales From the Darkside, along with segments of anthology movies like Deadtime Stories.
27. Upon release, it was panned by critics, who felt that it was just a shameless cash grab.
28. Roger Ebert even put it on his “Most Hated” listed, because he felt that Romero just made the same movie again.
29. Nominated for Best Horror Movie at the Saturn Awards, but lost to Silence of the Lambs.
30. Both Tony Todd and Bill Moseley went on to reprise their roles of Ben and Johnny in voice form in the 2015 animated spinoff Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn.
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!
Night of the Living Dead (1990) is currently streaming on Showtime (until 11/30/20)