Night Of The Living Dead (1968)


Linda Blair look-alike Zombie!
Linda Blair look-alike Zombie!

Genre: Apocalyptic Zombie Horror

Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea

Directed By: George A. Romero (Dawn of The DeadThe Dark Half)

Overview: When a sudden plague of murderous ghouls erupts, a group of people fight for survival in a farmhouse.

Find the voice of reason, quick!
The woman is sulking because Zombies interrupted her "Sewing with Suzie"

When Romero and John A. Russo wrote a movie about ghouls rising up and eating the living, did he know he was starting something so important? Did he know that he was making a movie that would be interpreted ironically both as a symbol against Communism as well as an Anti-McCarthyism?

I've said before that Romero isn't the best writer, so odds are that no, he nor Russo with his not-so illustrious writing career probably had no idea what tides of cultural change they began with this 'little ghoul film'.

Yet here it is. As surprising a hit as the odd original King Kong was, as career building as the even stranger Dead Alive, we have in Night Of The Living Dead a film that has spawned an entire genre - yes, one championed by its original author, but nonetheless, one where people follow in Romero's footsteps.

Grabby Guses!
Grabby Guses!

Night of the Living Dead is one of those films that is difficult to review simply because lovers of Horror both modern and classic have taken the time to see what the hype is all about, but for the rest of you, what sets this film apart is the character dynamic, what makes it timeless is the threat beating down the doors of our little farmhouse, and what leaves a lasting impression in the conclusion, not that I'd dare ruin that for you.

I suppose what Romero must be commended for most is how he put a Black man in the role of the main character. Besides the nod to progressive casting, he plays the resourceful one, the voice of reason, and better still the one who advances the plot most frequently, though that wasn't what was Romero originally had intended. Duane Jones' character, Ben, was originally supposed to be just an uneducated trucker, but Romero allowed Duane to change the character, elevating his social status in this role. Through Ben's unyielding drive to keep the house and its inhabitants safe at any cost, when faced with characters who are losing touch or who are just plain cowardly, he deals with situations quickly, and in the best way he knows how, all while being short on nerves enough to make it believable.

Night Of The Living Dead is a Horror staple. Upon release critics didn't really spend much time on it, but it grossed so much that it became one of the most profitable films made that year.

I'm done' talking about Night Of The Living Dead. You should know all of this already.

If you don't, you can watch it right now if you want! Something so freely accessible should be taken advantage of.

cool rocker zombie!
cool rocker zombie!

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 9 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 78% (Stay Up And Watch)

I've got a question for all you Zombie fans out there. I've seen many a Zombie films that date before this one, and be it Revolt of the Zombies (1936), White Zombie (1932) or The Last Man On Earth (1964), it seems that Romero began the Zombie-as-we -know-it phenomenon. Previously, all Zombie films involved the voodoo-slave angle that is old-school classical zombie. In fact, even in Night of the Living Dead, the nearest association made with the infected monsters is with Ghouls.

Either way, if anyone out there knows about an 'infected-flesh-eating-undead' Zombie film that predates Romero, let me know, but it seems to me that he's the one who started the whole phenom.

I can't think of a better way to kick off 31 Days of ZOMBIE!

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While not a perfect match here, I can virtually guarantee that Romero watched The Birds over and over when writing and/or filming NotLD. Watch the last 20 minutes or so of the birds again--the boarding up of the house and the final attack. Romero took the concept and made it shambling corpses, but it's the same basic idea.

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