MIMESIS (NOUN): LIFE IMITATING ART.
It’s common knowledge that George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a public domain film, meaning that it’s basically owned by, well, the public. That’s why the seminal zombie classic is so often watched by characters in horror movies, and it’s also why it’s been re-released onto home video so many times by so many different companies.
Additionally, the film’s public domain status is to blame for all the unlicensed remakes, ripoffs, and re-edits that we’ve seen over the years. Night of the Living Dead has been colorized, animated, and even unofficially remade as a terrible 3D movie starring Sid Haig… and it’s all been 100% legal.
While most of that stuff isn’t worth your time, there is one film that cleverly used Night of the Living Dead‘s public domain status as a means to pay loving tribute to George Romero’s enduring legacy, while also commenting on our shared obsession with horror movies.
It’s called Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead, and it was released back in 2013.
The indie film has a crazy cool premise, almost literally placing a group of characters inside of Romero’s 1968 classic. Mimesis begins at an old farmhouse, where a farmer (played by Children of the Corn star Courtney Gains) discovers his wife being feasted on by zombies. We then find ourselves at a horror convention, where a horror fan and his non-horror fan buddy are taking in a discussion on real world violence vs. fictional violence, being hosted by a horror filmmaker (played by Sid Haig).
Afterwards, the friends sit down to grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria, where they’re invited to a party by a female horror fan. They soon end up at the party, and along with one of the girls they meet there, wake up in the morning to find themselves in different clothes; clothes that are immediately familiar-looking to Night of the Living Dead fans.
They take shelter in the farmhouse seen at the start of the film, and engage in a battle to the death with the “zombies” quickly gathering outside.
Oh and did I mention that the horror fan wears black-rimmed glasses, his friend is a level-headed African American, the girl from the party is a blonde, and there are other survivors hiding out in the basement of the farmhouse, including a miserable father and his young daughter?
Director Douglas Schulze’s Mimesis is essentially a very clever remake of Night of the Living Dead, and it’s the cleverness of the concept, and the overall smartness of the script, that make it a treat for Romero fans. The characters essentially become the characters from NotLD, and it’s really fun to watch them unknowingly go through those iconic motions. They figure out what to do and what not to do based on what works and doesn’t work for the characters in NotLD, making for the most inspired cash-in on Romero’s success that I’ve seen.
Now the thing is, if you strip all that cleverness away, Mimesis is admittedly an amateurish and unremarkable effort, which drags on at times and suffers from some really annoying editing and sound choices. For no other apparent reason than to try and make the film “cooler,” simple character movements are at several points throughout sped up and then slowed down, and it’s so bizarre that it seems like a video glitch rather than a creative choice.
Nearly all of the kill scenes are also sped up in that flash-cut, Saw sort of way, which is a real shame given the old school feel this movie was going for; even more of a shame considering a lot of the kills were pulled off with old school practical effects.
But the fact remains that the script is clever enough in the end that I was personally able to look past the shortcomings of the film. Rather than simply remaking Night of the Living Dead, Schulze and friends did something unique and original (well, as original as possible) with it, creating with Mimesis a really fun new take on a horror classic that appeals directly to its most hardcore fans.
It’s for fans and by fans, and it’s well worth a watch.