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April 02, 2002 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-02

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 2, 2002



'Night of the Living
Dead' a classy DVD

Interesting makeup
does not save poor
'Thirl3een Ghosts'

By Jeff Dickerson
Daily Arts Editor
"It has been established that persons
who have recently died have been'
returning to life and committing acts
of murder."
The horrific news echoed by the
radio announcer sums up the plot of
one of the landmark independent
films in motion picture history.
George Romero's "Night of the Liv-
ing Dead" is one of the most influen-
tial films of the past 50 years, yet it
cost only $114,000 to produce. The
budget of the classic horror film was
so miniscule that investors, friends
and even a butcher were cast as zom-

bies due to the lack of actors. That
same butcher also provided animal
intestines and blood to use as effects.
Even with minimal.financing to back
his project, Romero was able to
induce fright and terror in the unsus-
pecting audience. The legendary hor-
ror director's first feature is only
surpassed by his sequel, 1978's
"Dawn of the Dead."
Elite Entertainment has released
their feature-laden "Millennium Edi-
tion" of "Night of the Living Dead,"
marking the umpteenth release of the
zombie flick on DVD. Until recently,
the rights to the film were public, Coming to g
meaning any company could produce
a DVD of "Night of the Living Dead," original mon
which saturated the mar-
ket with near identical "
releases. Elite Entertain-D
ment, a purveyor in the NIGHT OF THE
restoration and release LIVING DEAD
of horror classics, pur-
chased the rights to Picture/Sound: *****
"Night of the Living Film:*****
Dead" this year and have Features: ****
released the definite ver-
sion of the flesh-eating- Elite Entertainment
fright-fest, for now.
Never before has "Night of the Liv- laserdisc. TA
ing Dead" looked this good. The THX available,o

Courtesy of Elite Entertainment

et Barbara. She's good eatin'.
no track. The crystal clear
music score is a perfect
complement to the on-
screen terror, although at
times can be a bit melo-
dramatic. Then again this
is a zombie movie, not a
Victorian drama.
The "Millennium
Edition" disc includes a
wealth of extras, many
of which are taken from
the original Elite 1993
wo commentary tracks are
one an informative track

a celebrity recluse who died at age 52
in 1988. He was rarely seen in the pub-
lic eye and the interview is a wonder-
ful segment revealing his thoughts on
the film and his character.
Other extras include a short film
parody "Night of the Living Bread," a
still photo gallery, scenes from the
lost Romero film "There's Always
Vanilla," an 11-minute interview with
actress Judy Ridley, various posters,
a collection of props, a text version
of the shooting script, a scrapbook,
several TV spots and a host of the-
atrical trailers.
For horror fans, "Night of the Living
Dead" is the genesis of the genre that
should be savored for its pure thrill and
creative brilliance. At 34-years-old, the
film looks better than ever thanks to
the THX approved tranfer, reason
alone to own Elite's new "Millenium
Edition" of the zombie masterpiece.

By Lyle Henretty
Daily Arts Editor
When, before the credits, a
woman angrily chastises a megalo-
maniac-millionaire for playing
God, and he spits back "Playing is
for children," the seasoned film
scholar will often turns off the
DVD player and watch
the news. When the a
millionaire is hunting
ghosts and is played by THIL
Oscar-winning actor F GHOS
Murray Abraham, with
all the integrity he Picture/Soun
brought to the role of Film: **
Omar in "Scarface," Features:*j
the scholar may gri-
mace before turning Warne
off the DVD.
Odds are, though, that the sea-
soned film scholar would not be
interested in "Thir13en Ghosts," a
remake of William Castle's 1960
cheapo-horror fright-fest, especial-
ly one produced by the soul-suck-
ing production team of Joel Silver,
Gilbert Adler and Robert Zemeck-
is. Castle, king of the gimmicky
Vincent-Price-brand films of the
late fifties, was notorious for turn-
ing a profit on glossy trash by per-
fectly estimating the audience and
its desire for scary camp. If the
movie wasn't scary enough, Castle


remastering from the original 35 mm
negatives is astounding considering the
film's initial budget. Romero's black
and white cinematography has been
gloriously restored, highlighting the
superb lighting of the film. A nice 5.1
surround sound audio mix is available,
but purists will delight in the clean

with director Romero and a more nos-
talgic commentary track with cast
members Bill Hinzmen, Judith
O'Dea, Keith Wayne and Kyra Schon,
among others.
A rare 16-minute-long interview
with star Duane Jones is included; the
"Night of the Living Dead" actor was

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had electric shock devices implant-
ed in the theater seats. For the orig-
inal "Ghosts," the specters could
only be viewed with special glass-
es, that were to be put on when the
characters on the screen used their
own ocular enhancements.
Out on DVD today, the remake
keeps the glasses, though it drops
the audience participa-
tion and any sem-
blance of explanation
13EN as to why they pick up
'S DVD the ghosts. "Thir3en
Ghosts" is little more
: **** than an attempt to res-
urrect the profit-turn-
* ing "B-movie" camp
of the '50s while
Bros. updating it in order to
appeal to the "hip"
modern kids. While thoroughly
entertaining on a primal, exploitive
level, the high production-value
and CGI-enhanced special effects
only showcase how bankrupt the
film really is. Creepy cardboard
castles and guys wearing sheets
would have suited just fine.
Instead, director Steve Beck sub-
stitutes cardboard for glass. Instead
of a rich uncle dying and leaving
his old castle to his poor, nearly
unknown nephew, the rich uncle,
Cyrus (Abraham), leaves his giant,
moving glass house to his poor,
nearly unknown nephew (Tony
Shalhoub). The house is made
completely of clear glass and steel,
and it moves, so exits disappear
and stairways change shape. Why
someone would want to live (or
could get lost) in a house you can
see straight through is never clear.
The house is quite a spectacle, but
not in a good way.
Abraham, apparently, had been
collecting ghosts that met violent
ends with his business partner/pet
psychic Dennis (Matthew Lillard),
and storing them in glass cages in
the basement. They get out, they
chase nephew and his children
("American Pie" exchange student
Shannon Elizabeth and Alec
Roberts, who actually played Elian
Gonzalez in a TV movie) around
the house. Not much else happens,
and it's really hard to get scared
when Lillard is in danger, as most
people could think of worse things
than the annoying actor's grisly
The cast also includesEmbeth
Davidtz ("Army of Darkness") as
the bizarre Kalina, whose life work
seems to be freeing enslaved spir-
its, with her ACLU-for-the-dead
cronies, and musician Rah Digga
as a sassy black nanny who's afraid
of ghosts (I'm not kidding). Digga
and her character are truely offen-
sive, with her nanny caring more
about her nails and saving her own
hide than she does about the kids.
Why more critics didn't condemn
this aspect of the film goes to show
just how quickly "Ghosts" fell off
the pop-culture radar.
What the film, and the DVD,
have going for there are the truly
creepy and innovative makeup
work by Howard Berger. The
ghosts, from the dismembered
"Torso" to the violently disfigured
"Hammer," are instantly memo-
rable and provocative, despite the
woefully short screen-time given to
each. The DVD contains a "Ghost
Files" section, which gives a good
look and brief background of each
tormented soul, and why Cyrus
chose them for his collection. The
ghosts are pure horror-film cool, in
the real '80s sense.
The disc also includes a behind-
the-scenes documentary with the
how-to guide on make-up and set

design, and a few talking-head
interviews. A nice addition, but not
very in-depth for a film so driven
by special effects. A brief (written)
description of Castle and a trailer
round out the goodies, showing
this is more of a rental than a
"must-own." The technical specs
are fine for a new release, but
don't expect to be wowed.
Three-dimensional glasses may
enhance viewing, but only if you're
watching a different film.



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