Mar 212012
 


Director
:George A Romero

Rating: N/A

Running Time: 1hr 36 m

Release Date:10/1/1968

GenreHorror, Zombie

CastBen (Duane Jones), Barbra (Judith O’Dea), Johnny (Russell Streiner), Harry (Karl Hardman), Helen (Marilyn Eastman), Tom (Keith Wayne), Judy (Judith Ridley)

SynopsisEvery modern zombie/living dead movie, comic or novel can trace their roots to this film. It begins with an adult brother and sister, Johnny (Russell Streiner) and Barbara( Judith O’Dea), bickering in a cemetery. After the ghoul kills her brother, Barbara runs to a farm-house where she meets, Ben (Duan Jones). At the point that Barbara has gone hysterical, they find that an older couple, Harry (Karl Hardman) and Helen (Marilyn Eastman), their sick kid, and a younger couple Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley) are hiding in the basement.

Ben and Harry have an ongoing and violent debate about whether they should all go into the basement and lock the door of if they should continue to fortify the house.

Gradually the survivors get themselves killed one by one and only a few remain. Meanwhile, the authorities on the outside have begun to restore order. Will any of the survivors will remain by the time that help arrives?

Analysis: I can remember seeing Night of the Living Dead (NOTLD) dead for the first time one Halloween night when I was 6. I was sitting alone in my basement surrounded by candy from my night’s haul, and as the film went on, I got more and more terrified. The scene where Barbara sees the corpse with the missing face on the stairs made me turn it off and go running for my parents.

Once I got a bit older, I bought the VHS version of the film. After watching it many times, I had several attitudes towards it. At first, there was still shock from the first time I had seen it. Later, as I graduated to other more modern horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Return of the Living Dead, I started to see the relative non-goriness and black and white of NOTLD as quaint and even funny at times and then I stopped watching it all for a long time.

Just the other day I caught it again, and I can now see it for the great film it is. Even though future living dead films rely more heavily on extreme gore, NOTLD does really well without it. I think this is due to a few things. For one thing, the use of black and white make the film seem older and gives it a creepy crime scene photograph look.

Race was a very divisive issue during the 1960s, but the fact that Ben is black and the rest of the cast is white is very interesting because it is not an issue in the film. Harry and Ben argue, but not about race, but about how each has an idea of the safest way to survive and that the other person is wrong.

Women on the other hand are not portrayed very well. Barbara is completely hysterical for most of the film. Helen pushes her thoughts aside and defers to her husband. Judy is just along for the ride. Even thought it wasn’t a great film, at least the 1990 remake gave Barbara some spunk.

The film also has some really memorable lines, including that famous one, “They’re coming to get you Barbara.” Also, some of the best lines come from the TV and the radio. I think my favorite is when a report is interviewing the police chief and asks, “Are they slow-moving chief?” Chief McClellan replies, “Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.”

The most interesting thing about this film is that even though the ending is pretty dark, there is still a hopeful note compared to most zombie films. In future zombie films, the living dead are killing everyone and nobody is safe. Here, it seems that this is just a slight bump in the road and Sheriff McClellan and his volunteer posse of rednecks will save the day!

Pro:

  • Nice early version of zombies, but George Romero’s zombie rules are not quite developed.

  • Well done effects on half eaten corpse on stairs.

  • Great use of media like radio TV to provide speculation about source of zombies.

  • At one point Tom hits grasping hand and it disintegrates, nice special effect.

  • Young cute couple that should have been heroes end up dying and turn into a BBQ feast!

  • Nice use of fire effects with burning zombies and people.

  • Gritty shocking series of pictures at end.

  • Gun toting rednecks our only hope! I always knew it!

Con:

  •  Zombies using tools to smash windows and a club at one point and them being scared of bright lights and fire.
  • Some of the music is overly dramatic.

  • Barbara is annoyingly weak and hysterical.

ConclusionThis one started the modern living dead craze. I highly recommend this if you are interested in zombies!

 

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters

3

Story

2

Special Effects

3

Would Watch Again?

5

Average

3.25

 

 


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