Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn (2015) – Jim Morazzini

 

Yet another remake of the original flesh eating zombie film, the difference this time being that it’s animated and set in present day New York City.  Those are some pretty big changes, do they work or is this just another weak retread?

Despite trading the original’s rural setting for an urban one, the story stays the same in many of it’s major plot points. Barbara visits the cemetery and runs into a ghoul just like in the original, she takes shelter in an abandoned building, (a brownstone instead of a farmhouse), where she meets Ben. The rest of the gang from the original show up and the events of the original play out in in familiar, if altered ways. The botched escape and exploding truck are now the result of spilled gas and downed electrical lines for example. The sheriff’s posse is now a SWAT team or maybe National Guardsmen, ( it’s never made clear), and Ben is given an interesting back story but it’s still essentially the same story with some minor changes which do help keep it interesting.

The animation itself is another matter however. The film is computer animated, but it is not state of the art and wouldn’t have been even ten years ago. It looks like the cut scenes from an old computer game to be honest, but that could still have worked if it hadn’t been so poorly done. Despite a fairly large number of credited animators the results are very limited. The cars and houses are all of a few limited designs. The streets are frequently empty despite being set in a huge city full of people and zombies. This is what really brings it down, it takes what should have been an advantage and wastes it. Animation should have let the filmmakers show large scale destruction of the city, hordes of zombies and other things a low budget live action film couldn’t afford, instead it looks like a cheap low budget film anyway.

Also, rather oddly, despite being set in the winter most of the characters are dressed in short sleeves, shorts, etc. There’s snow in the air and nobody has a coat on. Not sure what’s up with that but it is a major distraction.

Offsetting the animation to a certain degree is the voice acting. A lot of genre stars lent their voices to this production including Danielle Harris, Tony Todd and Joe Pilato. It’s a pity they’re work is given such a poor showcase.

The film is mercifully short, clocking in at just over an hour including credits. This may have been to to alleged production problems and producers taking over. There are indeed two directors credited as well as four writers which seems to indicate it was reworked. The short length may also explain why some of the film’s more interesting ideas aren’t developed.

Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn isn’t a particularly good film, but it is better than a lot of the stuff that is out there. It’s worth a watch if it turns up on NetFlix or as a cheap VOD rental.