Night of the Animated Dead

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Night of the Animated Dead
dir Jason Axinn
scr John A Russo
prd Michael J Luisi, Ralph E Portillo, Robert Feldman, Kevin Kasha
with Josh Duhamel, Dule Hill, Katharine Isabelle, James Roday Rodriguez, Katee Sackhoff, Nancy Travis, Will Sasso, Jimmi Simpson Stefan Marks, William Calvert, Chris Edderly, Ian Duncan
release US 21.Sep.21,
UK 4.Oct.21
21/US Warners 1h11

duhamel hill sackhoff

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Night of the Animated Dead
With simplistic but eye-catching animation, this remake of George A Romero's 1968 classic may find some new fans. While the shot-by-shot approach makes it feel somewhat unnecessary, it at least reminds us why the original is so indelible, reinventing a genre while touching lightly on very pointed issues. At least this version's quick pace and colourfully grisly touches maintain a sense of gnawing tension all the way through.
While visiting their father's grave, siblings Barbara and Johnny (Isabelle and Simpson) are attacked by a zombie. The terrified Barbara escapes to a nearby farmhouse, where she meets Ben (Hill). As flesh-eating undead close in on them, they discover others are hiding in the cellar: hard-headed Harry (Duhamel) and his wife Helen (Travis), and the younger Tom (Rodriguez) and his girlfriend Judy (Sackhoff). The men strongly disagree about how to survive this situation, but decide to take action. But the horde outside grows, and their situation grows precarious as they wait for a rescue team.
There are some nice touches in the film's design, such as how the retro-style animation evokes memories of jerky Saturday morning cartoons from the late 1960s, with added gore. It's an intriguing approach, and director Axinn finds ways to add some character depth even with the sketchy imagery. The echo of radio reports in the background adds a growing sense of urgency and suspense, while TV reports bring both details and conjecture and a local cop (Sasso) dives in with guns blazing. And the way characters die suddenly, and often unnecessarily, is deeply unnerving.

What sets this apart from most zombie movies is the way it centres on the conflicting interaction between characters. Animation limits the audience's emotional involvement, although understated voice work adds some edge to these disparate people, who continually clash as they face an escalating desperate situation. Disagreements range from quiet discussions to screaming arguments, all tinged with emotional baggage. And both panic and stubborn selfishness put lives at risk.

There are terrific ideas in here, even if the filmmakers neglect to find ways to bring much that's new to the table. While it will appeal to both genre and animation fans who are unaware of the original movie, the somewhat basic design work will prevent this from ever being a gem in its own right. But it does have value as it encourages people to revisit the 1968 classic, which remains iconic more than 50 years later.

cert 15 themes, violence 4.Oct.21

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