What makes a good zombie reboot?

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen these days. Matter of fact, some of them bitches are so fuckin’ lousy you’d think they literally made a dozen at a time on a ten cent budget. However, there are some seriously epic and wonderful movies that have been made in the past that really strike a chord with true zombie fans. That makes rebooting them an extremely risky and “hit or miss” endeavor.


Basically, I’m a purist. So, with the exception of a very small handful of movies, I’m generally opposed to reboots altogether.


In my mind, only three things justify a proper reboot. The first is a technological leap. If the original film can be greatly improved upon with new computer generated effects or enhanced practical effects, I’m all for it (so long as the original plot isn’t fucked with). Nothing disappoints me more than expecting to see a more vivid representation of one of my favorite scenes only to find out that the new producer cut the shit out altogether or watered it down by burying it in some convoluted scheme he thought would be hip. On the other hand, nothing pleases me more than seeing what was once a mundane practical effect evolve into a face melting, spectacular display of gore splattered glory.


The second is when a great movie concept was originally filmed on a shoe-string budget with awful acting and garbage props. Sure, we know the movie had awesome potential, but the execution fell flat. That’s a wonderful opportunity to upgrade the cast and budget and do what was originally intended even though the means at the time were lacking. I’m all for making an attempt in that instance and I’d even forgive a certain level of plot manipulation after taking into accounts the new cast and crew, etc.


The third one is when the original film is just plain out of date plot-wise (from a social perspective). Meaning the original was written and developed in an age when racial prejudices and gender bias were rampant, for example, or the setting for the movie makes no real sense in the current day and age. Or maybe some advances in actual, real world technology blew a giant hole right through the plotline.


1985day2008dayOutside of those factors, anything else should pretty much be considered a new film, not a reboot. And that should require, by default, a new title. For instance, you can’t tell me that the 2008 Day of the Dead deserves to carry the same title as Romero’s 1985 Day of the Dead. The fucking plots don’t even resemble one another. And fast zombies? I mean, honestly, when you film a zombie climbing a fuckin’ wall and skittering across a drop ceiling, you’ve officially gone full retard.


2004dawn1978dawn2004 brought about a remake of Dawn of the Dead, another Romero classic. Truth be told, I enjoyed the majority of the film. I really did, even with the fast zombies (which I tend to steer away from). But the only thing it really had in common with the 1978 version was that it took place in a goddamned mall? What the actual fuck, man? The only way that movie could’ve had any right calling itself by the same name is if the chick that played the main character was named Dawn… At least I could’ve gave them points for being clever. But alas, a heaping spoonful of nope. Her name was Ana, by the way.


Every once in a while, though, you can find the prized piece of corn in the heaping pile of shit that is zombie cinema. For me, it was the 1990 reboot of Night of the Living Dead. That’s the one that really got it right in my mind.



Sure, they tweaked some things, but the shit that they tweaked really made sense for me. I loved seeing the protagonist changed from the all-too-typical, worthless female in need of salvation to a strong, mentally tough badass bitch. And it was a transformation that took place throughout the duration of the film. I also like the twist on the ending, which I won’t spoil here (the assholes in the marketing department were nice enough to do that for us all right on the goddamned cover). Needless to say, it quelled the racial overtone of the original in an elegant way and was just plain entertaining. More than anything, though, it had all the elements of what a reboot should be for me. Updated effects, better acting, and most importantly it put the characters in the exact same situations they were in during the original, often matching it shot for shot. They simply tweaked it.


Sadly, that seems to be an exception to the rule. At this point they should stop calling them “reboots” altogether. Maybe call them “Z-boots”… as in Zombie movies with Zero resemblance to Ze Original.


Written by:

Steve Kuhn, author of the Dext of the Dead series of novels

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