23rd Sep2021

‘Night of the Animated Dead’ VOD Review

by Kevin Haldon

Features the voices of: Josh Duhamel, Dule Hill, Katharine Isabelle, James Roday Rodriguez, Katee Sackhoff, Will Sasso, Jimmi Simpson, Nancy Travis | Written by John Russo | Directed by Jason Axinn

It wasn’t that long ago that I saw Jason Axinn’s star-studded brutal gore fest animated feature To Your Last Death which to be honest I was simply smitten with. It was bonkers gory fun with a cast to die for that truly had me entertained right the way to its sadistic end credits.

So it was with a certain amount of excitement and intrigue that I sat down to watch his latest effort, Night of the Animated Dead and see what the man had cooked up in that mind of his. You may have thought the title of this one would be a huge hint towards what the movie was about but for some reason it completely went right over my head and it was only about 30 minutes into proceedings that I thought to myself ‘wait a minute I’ve seen this before’…

So I won’t bore you all with a deep dive into the plot because guess what is an animated remake of George A Romero’s classic masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. Here are the basics, siblings Barbara and Johnny visit their father’s grave in a remote cemetery in Pennsylvania when they are suddenly attacked by zombies. Barbara flees and takes refuge in an abandoned farmhouse along with stranded motorist Ben and four local survivors found hiding in the cellar. Together, the group must fight to stay alive against the oncoming horde of zombies while also confronting their own fears and prejudices. You know that old chestnut.

Right where to start with this? What I will say right out the gate is that yes it is a remake of the granddaddy of zombie flicks so it does follow a tight narrative but Axinn manages to find a couple of little pockets here and there to flesh out some of the narratives and of course being animated does come with certain liberties that were not really afforded to Romero at the time. On that note I am a fan of this style of animated feature, the Archer-esque style even lends itself to the look of our zombies here but honestly it doesn’t make up for what I found to be well just a little bit of a lazy retelling.

Don’t get me wrong the flick does very little wrong and somehow manages to evoke the themes of the original that feel all the more relevant in 2021 as they did in 1968, but the director had a chance to really imitate THEN elaborate but didn’t. The voice cast this time round is somewhat lacklustre too with the only real standouts being Josh Duhmael fresh off Batman animated flick The Long Halloween and The West Wing‘s Dule Hill. Both these guys are pretty solid voice performers but really fail to evoke anything from me.

We do have some cult favourites picking up supporting voice roles though with the always dependable Jimmi Simpson (Westworld), Katee Sackhoff (Halloween Resurrection – yeah I referenced THAT Halloween movie in 2021, so what) and everyone’s favourite mildly funny chubby man Will Sasso. I guess that’s a positive right.

I had high hopes that Jason Axinn was going to follow up To Your Last Death with another future cult classic. Once it dawned on me what we were doing here I got a little more excited to see what he would do with this universe and where he might take us, with the more political side of this story but ultimately it fell short of the mark. I am landing on a 3 out of 5 here and I’m probably giving it 2 of those points for the animation alone but it loses out due to lack of ambition, but then it could be argued… how the hell do you improve on an absolute classic like Romero’s original Night of Living Dead and how dare you even try.

*** 3/5

Night of the Animated Dead is out now on digital and comes to DVD and Blu-ray on October 4th.


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