When you title your movie ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ – irrespective of any addendum that follows a semicolon, you know you are treading on hallowed ground. When a cursory glance at North Bank Entertainment’s production slate yields forthcoming attractions such as ‘Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming’ and ‘The Amityville Asylum’, it’s not surprising that a little cynicism enters the fray. Did I say it was shot in Wales? Anyway, snap judgements to one side – it was time to give it a look.
The movie opens outside a Welsh convenience store as a group of underage teenagers cajole a passer-by into going In and buying some booze (super strength!) on their behalf. Seeing no-one behind the counter, he grows impatient and when entering the office discovers a young woman tucking in to a seemingly deceased victim. Carnage ensues before we cut to a car with a lone driver, Ben (Sule Rimi) travelling through the lush isolation of West Wales. Police sirens punctuate the silence, and most radio stations emit only white noise, while those still broadcasting speak of a virus akin to Ebola.
With the hope of temporary accommodation, Ben comes across a farmhouse in the countryside, but after no reply at the door, a glance through the letterbox reveals a double-barrelled shotgun pointed, then fired directly into his face. Here, we find a family living in fear, bewildered at the beginning of some sort of apocalypse and justifying the murder of their visitor simply by their inability to trust anyone who approaches the house.
The youngest member of the house, Sam (Aaron Bell) begins to feel unwell. Karen (Kathy Saxondale), his mum decides it must just be a temperature and that a cool bath is a suitable remedy. However, as they begin to remove his clothes, they discover a wound on his body – a bite. Convincing themselves its nothing serious, they leave him in the bathroom, but it’s only a matter of time before he becomes one of the living dead, and the family find themselves with an impossible decision to make.
I have to admit, despite my initial (and deep) reservations about this film, I found it incredibly hard to dislike. It has some great humour to it – “apocalypse is trending on Twitter”, some notable nods to genre classics (Rabid Grannies), some very cool zombies (one had my TCM t-shirt on!), and Ben in the car was speaking on the phone to Barbara (a solid nod to Romero).
There’s a great defining scene right in the middle of the picture where the family find themselves calmly sitting down in the living room, cup of tea in hand debating the onset of the pending apocalypse. It’s a satisfyingly British moment, and a stark contrast to the many films that would simply opt for the generic teenage actress running screaming around the wilderness. It’s not perfect, and restrictions that a reputed £20,000 budget entails are occasionally apparent. It is however worthy of its use of the name ‘Night Of The Living Dead’.
6 out of 10