George Romero's ''Night of the Living Dead,'' released in 1968, was an awesomely bad film which, probably because of that, became a cult movie. Today, some of those who were children at the time actually look you in the eye and say it was one of the best films they ever saw.
The remake, in color, is currently in release, and the good news (to the cult people) is that it is no better than the original. It may, in fact, be a little worse. You could make some allowances in 1968.
After all, the film was done in Pittsburgh, on pennies, and it was Romero's first movie. The new version was done on a few pennies more, in Pittsburgh. Romero, however, didn't direct this time. He produced. This time, the film was directed by Tom Savini, who did the makeup for the original film and some of its many imitations.
By today's standards, the new ''Living Dead'' is not all that repulsive. There is some chomping (zombies have to eat, too), but it is minimal. There is a lot of prop blood, and the walking corpses are no lovelier than those of the original film.
The trouble is that, today, you laugh. Today, none of the scares works. Today, you sit there knowing what will happen and expecting it to happen, even if you haven't seen the original.
The plot is about the same. A girl and her brother visit the gravesite of their mother where they are beset by walking corpses. No one knows why these things are walking around. It may have something to do with ecological imbalance, or it may be because Romero and Savini spent their childhoods looking at horror movies.
Some of the corpses are dressed, and some are not, and no matter how silly they look, it does mean work for actors. The producers sounded a talent call in the Pittsburgh area, and dozens responded. Dozens of street people, it looks like.
The young man dies, but his sister makes it to a farm house where she and others board up all the windows and doors. Meanwhile, they fight among each other, and downstairs is a young girl who has been bitten by one of the walking things. Guess what happens to her.
''Night of the Living Dead,'' like the original, is worth about 30 minutes of your time, unless you are part of the Romero cult.
In a way, it's all rather sad. Romero tried to get away from the horror genre. He did ''Monkey Shines,'' a very respectable scare film, but it didn't do too well at the box office, so he went back to the old chawing board.
Tony Todd is the young man who joins Barbara (Patricia Tallman), the girl who only wants to pay her respects to her mom. In the original, the girl was something of a zombie herself. In the new version, she is a female Rambo. Her efforts, however, are largely wasted because some of these corpses fall, but others do not. Bullets bring some down but not others. Well, who looks for consistency in a horror movie?
''Night of the Living Dead,'' in living color, is showing at local houses. The women scream a lot, which may be one of the more awful things about the film. You can take the makeup. It's the endless screeching that horrifies.
''Night of the Living Dead''
(No stars) Those zombies are on the move again, this time in color.
CAST: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, McKee Anderson
DIRECTOR: Tom Savini
RATING: R (language, violence, nudity)
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes