Directed by George A. Romero
Written by John A. Russo
Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman
A group of strangers converge upon a lone farmhouse for protection after a ghoulish contagion reanimates the dead, turning them into single-minded cannibals.
Night of the Living Dead might be the most serendipitous horror movie ever created. A group of friends, including George A. Romero, pitched in on a case of film stock and filmed a horror movie over several weekends. This act of passion and creativity spawned a recognized zombie genre that morphed and progressed through the changing times. Horror lovers are still obsessed with zombies. As I type, the survival-horror series, The Walking Dead, is the most watched show on television. Romero preferred the slow, shambling, bloodthirsty version of the zombie, and it remains my favorite.
In this 1968 film, a pair of siblings are simply delivering flowers to their father’s grave when the horror begins. One shabbily dressed zombie is mistaken for a person and the film is easily set up. A group of strangers gather in a farmhouse for protection. An overbearing and cowardly man has a sick daughter in the basement of the home. Tactical options quickly creates opposition and tension, themes that ramp to a fever pitch before the shocking climax.
Night of the Living Dead refuses to deliver a spoonful of sugar at the end. The mid-sixties produced a shitload of campy horror films, replete with good triumphs over evil endings. Romero’s Vietnam era film travels a darker road. The true star of this zombie outbreak is Ben (Duane Jones), a black man who serves as a take charge hero. For all Ben’s work, his fate is a painful waste, reinforcing the situational horror of this iconic genre piece. The assassinations of Malcom X and Martin Luther King made American’s stop and think and caused social issues as expected. This is one of my favorite horror films, one even older than me for a change, and it never gets old. Enjoy the rich black and white beauty Romero crams into every frame.