For the last several years now, it seems like it’s been “Katy bar the door” in terms of remakes, reimaginings, and re-absolutely anything for “Night of the Living Dead”. Small wonder, too; this is one of the most influential films of the 20th century, so why shouldn’t it be a huge influence and remake target? Our friends out at Anchor Bay sent over a copy of “Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead” (in stores February 12) for us to review, and this one’s going to take something of a different spin on an old favorite.
“Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead” follows a group of horror convention-goers looking to have a bit of an after-party following the events of the con. But things quickly go south on the con-goers, and now, a horde of the living dead has made an unwelcome appearance, leaving our convention crowd to try and survive the kind of thing they enjoyed watching, but will find much less palatable to live than they expected to be the case. But some further unexpected twists take place, and now, the con-goers are left to wonder how much of what they’re experiencing is real, how much of it is false, and how much of it is just plain old deadly?
I’ve seen some of Douglas Schulze’s work before. It’s a bit spotty, but it seems to have gotten better the farther in he’s gone which bodes well for this one. On an objective level, it’s reasonably sound stuff. It’s a decently put together zombie movie with a few unusual twists, so that’s sound enough. But what really puts the bite–metaphorically speaking–is at the meta level. The main characters in this one are all named for their counterparts’ actors names. The guy serving as the Johnny analogue, for example, is named “Russell”. Johnny in the original “Night of the Living Dead” was played by–you called it–Russell Streiner. The guy representing Ben’s counterpart is named “Duane”, and the original Ben was Duane Jones. In terms of female characters, things get a little shaky. The clear Barbra here is represented by a girl named Karen, despite the fact that the original Barbra was Judith O’Dea. It’s not a perfect analogue–close but not perfect–but why Schulze fell down on the job with something as simple as naming conventions is unclear. Special note: Sid Haig shows up in this one, and though he’s not there for long, the man is as good as ever.
Viewed objectively, it’s not immediately clear how horror movie buffs like the convention-goers in question wouldn’t immediately recognize their circumstances, or at least how vaguely similar they are. Schulze’s reimagining is missing on several key fronts; horror buffs could likely have fun spotting the discrepancies. Here–I’ll even get you started. Duane goes upstairs…he finds two corpses, and hey…where’s the rifle?
Despite the odd lapses in the proceedings–indeed, some of them can be better explained by just a good walk-through–the end result is an impressively meta affair. Think “Scream”, except instead of slasher movies, they were obsessed with zombie movies, and you’ve got a reasonably good idea of what’s going on here.
Special features will be oddly sparse on this one, but you’ll get your choice of English and Spanish subtitles, which is always a plus, and there will be an audio commentary track as well with the director and both writers. A little on the slim side vis-a-vis features, but not too shabby.
“Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead” is a good idea executed at least reasonably well. It’s a delightfully meta romp that has a wide variety of entertaining callbacks. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s certainly got plenty of charm. This is easily one of Schulze’s best, and is well worth checking out yourself.