It's clear that Savini knows his relationship with Romero is front and center in the remake and footage of George visiting the set only serves to remind us that the two are inextricably linked in the horror world. While Savini doesn't radically alter the storyline of NOTLD, he makes some telling changes, ones that reflect both the era and advances in special effects.
Night of the Living Dead, in 1990 as in 1968, is still the story of Barbara, Ben, Tom, Judy, and the Coopers, but the focus from original to remake shifts, altering the fates of most of the characters. Gone is the shellshocked Barbara, unable to cope with the death of her brother Johnny. When Ben hits her in the remake, she switches gears and becomes a survivalist, not unlike Francine in Dawn of the Dead or Sarah in Day of the Dead. In fact, Barbara goes from being a victim to a survivor by the end of the film, recognizing finally that "they're us", when she returns with the militia to the farmhouse stronghold.
It is Ben who dies and returns as a zombie, and instead of killing Cooper, Ben is instead his victim, leaving Barbara to execute a very much alive Harry Cooper in cold blood the following morning. But this is not the only adjustment to the original.
Shooting in color is only logical in 1990, so it's safe to leave that out. However, having Tom Savini as your director means that the maestro behind Dawn and Day's effects available to adjust the zombie menace, changing mere makeup effects to full on gore tricks. Instead of implied hits, we see Johnny's skull crack against the tombstone, and watch Ben and Barbara beat zombies to death with crowbars. It's also important to note, in light of the Snyder remake, that the graveyard zombie in the NOTLD remake runs, not shuffles, after Barbara's car. Only later do they begin to shuffle, so running zombie gripers need to redirect their blame a little bit. Snyder didn't do it without precedent.
Savini's remake of Night isn't perfect (the hitting effects are quite cheap looking and Barbara's shift a little too quick) but what it lacks in certain areas it makes up for in its cast. Savini brings in a group of genre regulars, recognizable but not distracting, to fill in these now classic roles. Having people like Tom Towles (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Tony Todd (Candyman), William Butler (Friday the 13th: The New Blood), and Bill Moseley (The
Savini's Night of the Living Dead is no substitution for Romero's, nor is Snyder's Dawn of the Dead. Instead, they're different enough to still be interesting, alternate takes of a world we're familiar with. Whether Steve Miner's Day of the Dead Remake is successful or not remains to be seen, but when discussing the remake trend, we shouldn't forget this sixteen year old "reimagining", but step back and realize the tendency to remake is not merely a recent trend.