Blame someone in the production office. When Night of the Living Dead was first released to theaters way back in 1968, it lacked an important key to keep it out of the public domain - a copyright indication on its prints. Before, when it was called Night of the Flesh Eaters it had one, but in the title transition, someone dropped the ball. This meant that, once exhibited and without protections, anyone could glom onto the label and call themselves by the same name. That explains the numerous hackneyed takes on the property, the billions of home video releases, and something as stupid and sloppy as Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection. While paying a bit of a homage to the original Romero classic (more on this in a moment), it's really a combination of dysfunctional family drama (set in Wales, of all places) and home invasion malarkey. Had it stuck with zombies, we might have something salvageable. With the desire to divide off into separate subgenres, the whole thing falls apart.
Our story begins at a local convenience store where some no good thugs are recording their various crude antics. When they confront a customer, they think they're being cool. When a member of the walking dead invades their fun, it's zombie apocalypse time. Switch to the tale of Ben (Sule Rimi) who is driving like a madman across the English countryside trying to rescue someone named "Barbara." See, it's NOTLD! Really. He comes upon a house in the country and...we are now focusing on the family inside. We've got various permutations of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aging Alzheimer infected granddads, and someone with a bun in the oven. Soon, a quiet, Goth like teen turns. Then a couple other members of the clan become reanimated cannibal corpses. When someone goes out to try and get help, they run into the same gang from the convenience store. Suddenly, it's Desperate Hours with monsters...and no meaning.
While its far from perfect and barely watchable, there is something about Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection that remains intriguing. Perhaps it's the audacity of taking the classic Romero moniker and fusing it to what is, basically, a homemade horror movie with Super-VHS production values in abundance. Maybe it's that very lo-fi feel that reminds an aging horror fan like yours truly of trips to the local Mom and Pop Video store way back in the '80s to peruse the bottom shelf of their scant terror aisle. It could be the perfunctory performances that amplify the amateur quality of all we see or the simple splatter which more or less gets the job done. Whatever it is, this otherwise uneventful mess gets a bit of a pass, at least for a while. Sure, it's really nothing more than a bunch of people with often indecipherable accents sitting around bitching at each other, but Duck Dynasty has made a small reality TV fortune out of the same thing, so shouldn't this be as successful.
No, not really, and here's the reason why - legacy. You can't call yourself Night of the Living Anything and not expect to meet comparisons. Even worse, the horror genre is overwhelmed with a glut of glum to godawful undead films, so you have to be very special indeed to warrant even the smallest amount of consideration. Resurrection, which adds that tag for no viable reason (since nothing is, well, resurrected), just wants branding and marketing name value. Had they called themselves The Welsh Walking Dead or Undead Resurrection, fans around the world would merely yawn at another excuse for hackneyed dread. By linking up to the kind of socially minded scary movies Romero made, there's the promise of polish and professionalism, though little actually exists. In fact, Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection is clearly the beneficiary of some known name recognition only. Had it needed to stand on its own as an example of the terror type, it would be laughed out of even the minor leagues.
And yet there is that weird feeling of home video dÃ©jÃ vu, of picking up a weird title with some surreal cover art and bringing it home to your ready and waiting VCR. Since most the material is captured without the benefit of up to date filmmaking techniques, the strange ambiance given off is unsettling. It's like looking in on a snuff film which never gets to the death. Some of the gore effects here are decent, but they don't define the movie. No, what really sets Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection apart from other pretenders to the terror dome is its lack of decent acting. It's amateur hour at every step of the way here, a series of performances stunted by a lack of characterization or consideration in the script. Clearly, the minds behind the lens thought that kitchen sink dramatics would be enough to carry us through. They aren't - and neither are the lame zombies of hopelessly daft ruffians.
Considering it's being released by Lionsgate, you'd expect Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection to look better. Sadly, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image suffers from many of the captured on a camcorder issues that plagued early VHS to digital transfers. The lighting is poor, the focus can be soft, and some of the sequences use obtuse angles to no good result. As for the audio elements, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is flat and lifeless (no pun intended). There is little made of the confined space in the speakers and the dialogue often gets lost in a sea of shoddy recording. As for the bonus features, we are offered a commentary track featuring the cast and crew - director/co-writer James Plumb, director of photography/co-editor James Morrissey, 1st assistant director Victoria Rodway, sound recordist Paul Brookes and actress Mel Stevens - that provides some insights into the production, but mostly acts as a post-release pat on the back for a job well done. Sigh.
It would be easy to pick on Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection for pulling the old bait and switch on the horror film fanbase, but members of Macabre Nation are used to being fooled by stale, sloppy scares. There is a eerie throwback element to the overall vibe, but for the most part, George Romero has found scary things in his stool. Skip It.
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