Somewhere, in the massive landscape of horror movies, the original and best reanimator, Dr. Herbert West, is smirking at Eric Forsberg. That cool, implacable, unflappable badass of science has seen this before, and knows how it ends. And while West chuckles, “Night of the Dead” marches on–“Re-Animator” on a low budget and a couple of odd twists, but without the sheer joy of Jeffrey Combs. A pregnant woman is being held essentially prisoner at the Dr. Gabriel Schreklich Institute For Life Extension, where her husband is serving a medical internship with his uncle Gabriel (same guy). The Institute has developed a serum that allows reanimation of the dead, and of course, it’s not going to end well. Not for the horrendously named Dr. Schreklich, not for his puppy-eager nephew, and not for his pregnant young niece-in-law, who’ll be largely dependent on reanimated ghouls to help her escape. In a bit of an interesting twist, Schreklich’s serum is almost meant as a death vaccine, designed to be taken before or at the moment of death. West’s was designed to be a full reanimation after death, so there are at least some differences here.
Watching the reanimated frog bit in the first five minutes somehow manages to be both sad and insulting, all at the same time. And even worse is when you can actually visibly tell the moment at which the woman and daughter getting hit by the car just after the frog bit convert to mannequins. Seriously–work your frame advance button at five minutes thirty four seconds and watch the fun as a woman suddenly transforms into an enormous conglomeration of plastic and cloth. It might have helped if they hadn’t telegraphed the punch earlier on. While you’re working the frame advance, watch as the mother shields her daughter from the car by pulling her close…and then, suddenly doesn’t? It’s amazing, but they went from holding hands, to clutching close, BACK to holding hands. And then they brought in the mannequins.
So anyway…Forsberg’s already laboring under a monster disadvantage. The effects are a low-budget nightmare and the plotline’s been done already–not to mention better–elsewhere, if only in part. That, and Forsberg seems to be laboring under the mistaken assumption that fake blood will make his low-budget knockoff better, so he dumps buckets of it into as much of the movie as possible. It’s a wonder there wasn’t a packet of it included with the movie, so we could get the full experience. One scene actually has a character holding up a drop cloth so as not to get any on him. It’s that bad.
Which isn’t to say it’s ALL bad…we’ve got to give some kudos to Lola Forsberg, who turned in another great performance in “Night of the Dead”–not to mention her earlier work in “Alien Abduction” and “Snakes on a Train”. The little girl knows her creepy. You remember that sequence from the “Dawn of the Dead” remake with the little zombie girl? Lola Forsberg has that beat. Seriously. And Forsberg’s script has at least a few distinctions from its much better predecessor, the Re-Animator series. Even better, Forsberg manages to throw in a couple of pretty well-charged action sequences along toward the end.
The ending is, sadly, the same blood-soaked mess as the rest of the movie is. Not to mention a plot crevasse–for crying out loud, they hooked the natural gas line to the sprinkler systems! This should fill the entire building with natural gas, making it a powder keg that one spark would set off. And yet, there’s enough shotgun blasts going on to start a small war. That hospital should have exploded long, LONG, before it did. Though I’ll admit…there’s a fantastic twist ending. A real out-of-left-field twist that would be really difficult to see coming.
The special features include filmmakers’ commentary, a making of featurette, an original short film “It Took Guts”, a music video for the song “Feel The Disease”, and trailers for “Dragon”, “Snakes on a Train”, “The Straun House”, and “Night of the Dead”. All in all, Eric Forsberg’s “Night of the Dead” makes a horrible, hollow, blood-soaked, low-budget mockery out of the zombie film. The genre is cheapened by its mere existance. Despite a few very solidly done facets, it’s impossible for “Night of the Dead” to be anything more than a pale imitator.