I remember being really young and watching Night of the Living Dead for the first time. Since I was so young, I got bored and that was that. In my early teens, I thought I would give it another try and it quickly became a favorite of mine for so many reasons. Not only was this the beginning of the flesh-eater zombie genre I loved so much, but this had such a heavy commentary on life in ‘68. It was dark and brutal and felt like a punch in the gut. I loved it. It was at that moment I fell in love with all of George A. Romero’s movies. Since then, “of the Dead” films are a dime a dozen but none have hit quite like the very first one. Maybe that has all changed with the release of NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD.
If you have seen the original, then you have pretty much seen NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD. It was impressive just how many of the moments they were able to capture in animated form. IF you haven’t seen it, I’m shocked. For those that are new to the story, NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD starts with Barbara (Katharine Isabelle) and Johnny (Jimmi Simpson) dropping flowers off at their father’s grave in a cemetery. Every year, they drive hours to visit his grave, and this time, they got a late start. As Johnny teases Barbara about scaring her as children, Barbara is attacked by a disheveled man. Johnny jumps in and the man throws him down and Johnny hits his head on a tombstone, killing him. The man chases Barbara to this empty farmhouse where she proceeds to go deeper and deeper into shock.
Soon, a man named Ben (Dulé Hill) arrives and he takes control. Ben is an African-American man (you can imagine the shock in 1968) and he works to stave off the flesh-eaters and secure the house. Also in the house is Harry Cooper (Josh Duhamel), his wife Helen (Nancy Travis), their injured daughter Karen and teenagers Tom (James Roday Rodriguez) and Judy (Katee Sackhoff). Tensions rise as Harry and Ben butt heads, all the while the flesh-eaters are still at the door. Night of the Living Dead (and subsequently NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD) leaned heavily into social commentary on racism in America.
I was really surprised at how many key moments they included in this film. It’s nearly a shot-for-shot remake of the original with considerably more gore and kill shots included. This animated form means that director Jason Axinn was able to create something that younger people would be interested in. As my young son says, “Black and white films are old and boring. They are like from the ’80s.” Whatever, kid. NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD is also a mini “Psych” reunion between Roday Rodriguez, Hill, and Simpson. As a Psych-o myself, this was the biggest draw to this film. The voice acting was really entertaining and very well done, but Isabelle’s Barbara had some really strange moments. There were also some moments of comic relief and you will either love the inclusion or hate the change in atmosphere. I quite liked it.
That being said, I DID NOT like this animation style. It’s a cross between Scooby-Doo and a coloring book. There are so few details that the animation was almost more distracting than anything. I get that using an animated medium means that the characters can look like what we are used to, but I would 100% watch a NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD remake with Dulé Hill, James Roday Rodriguez, and Jimmi Simpson as main characters. The addition of the more graphic scenes was a welcome inclusion but it couldn’t make up for the animation style for me.
If you aren’t an animation snob like myself, then I think you will have a lot more fun with NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD. It stays very true to the source material while having just a little bit of fun with it. If the animation style grates on you, then I sympathize but I still think this film should be given a chance, if only for the incredible cast lineup.
NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD is now available on Digital and you can now purchase the Blu-ray Combo Pack & DVD.