They won't stay dead! And by that, I mean remakes and spinoffs of George A. Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. As most horror fans know, the title of Romero's Film was originally titled Night of the Flesh Eaters, but upon learning there already was a film by that name, the title was changed during the eleventh hour. Unfortunately, they neglected to include a copyright notice on the film, making it automatically part of the public domain. Because of this error, anybody can do anything they want with the Night of the Living Dead property, and they do. Last year, I reviewed Tom Savini's stellar 1990 remake that he co-produced with Romero, but unfortunately, none of those imitators that came after were able to capture the same magic. Today's film is a prequel to the 2006 remake Night of the Living Dead 3D, which starred the late, great Sid Haig. Let's dig up 2012's Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation.
The film opens as mortician Gerald Tovar, Jr. tries to placate an angry customer. Gerald reprimands his trainee, DyeAnn for her poor job performance and orders his secretary Aunt Lou to fire her. Incompetent staff is just one of the many problems piling up on Gerald's plate. Gerald spends the morning juggling appointments and conducting interviews, but he's distracted when his employee, Russell, lets a state inspector onto the cemetery grounds unsupervised. Gerald follows the inspector but is too late to save him from a wandering zombie. Gerald dispatches both the inspector and the man with a shovel and returns to the mortuary to conduct business. After hiring a new assistant, he's surprised by an unexpected visit from his brother, Harold (played by horror legend Jeffrey Combs). Gerald is furious to learn the true purpose of his brother's visit: Harold wants money.
While Gerald and Harold discuss things over dinner, Russell and DyeAnn show the new hire, Christie, the ropes. Gerald and Harold's fight reaches a fever pitch, and Gerald finally confides in his brother that, for several weeks, the dead have been rising. Gerald suspects this has to do with secret dealings between their late father and the U.S. government. Being pyrophobic, Gerald is unable to bring himself to incinerate the remains, and so the bodies just keep piling up. Harold is skeptical, and Gerald offers to show him proof. As the night wears on, Gerald's secret begins to literally spill out of the crematorium, and the Night of the Living Dead begins.
HOO BOY! Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation manages to be smart and stupid at the same time. Much like other satirical films of the period (looking at you, Iron Sky), the writers decided to shoehorn a painfully obvious Sarah Palin spoof named "Sister Sarah" into the movie. Sister Sarah really serves no purpose other than allowing the filmmakers to poke fun at the Tea Party, which I'm cool with, but it does absolutely nothing to move the plot along. Now where the movie is smart is in its self-awareness. Jeffrey Combs delivers a fantastic conspiracy theory monologue citing zombie outbreaks in Pittsburg in 1968, Louisville in 1985, and Pittsburg again in 1990, which are references to the original Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and Tom Savini's Night of the Living Dead remake, respectively. Combs even explains that the 1990 outbreak was just like the one in 1968 but gorier. I cackled.
The zombie effects, much like the writing, are a mixture of good and bad. Some of the shambling corpses are downright terrifying and convincing (although poor lighting greatly helps in this regard), while others look like low-budget rejects from the Spirit Halloween clearance rack. The scenes in Tovar's crematorium are certainly not for the faint of heart (or stomach). It's certainly not Savini or Nicoterro-level effects, but it does the trick for a low-budget remake-prequel. I'm sure some of the film's charm was lost on me since I was only able to view it in standard 2D on Tubi, rather than 3D as intended.
Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation has its ups and downs. Zombie genre fans will love the inside jokes and Easter eggs sprinkled throughout, but is it a good movie? Not really. What we have here is the second in a series of low-budget, low-imagination zombie flicks cashing in on George Romero's hard work and name recognition. Unless you're a hardcore fan of the genre who can't get enough, I say skip it and watch Romero's original classic instead.