Night of the Living Dead

Release date: October 1, 1968

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon and Charles Craig

George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead is the barometer by which all Zombies Attack films are judged. Is it because Night of the Living Dead is the best Zombies horror film ever made? Well that answer depends on who you ask. If you ask someone that doesn't like black and white movies, or someone who doesn't enjoy the "older" films then no. However, if you ask a die hard horror fan like us, someone who can appreciate the classics even if it is an older film then your answer would of course be yes.

So why is Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead such a worthy film to look at? Well, it’s definetly worthy of your attention if you love Zombies Attack films, this is where it all began, and where all the other directors who would wander into the territory got their “ideas” from.

Night of the Living Dead opens with white suburbanite Barbra (Judith O’Dea) driving to a country cemetery with her brother Johnny to visit their parent's grave, something the pair do often, much to Johnny’s consternation. Trouble immediately comes after them when a zombie attacks, killing Johnny, and forcing Barbra to a farmhouse located in the middle of nowhere. Ben (Duane Jones), our main action character, appears in a truck, having fought his way through the zombies earlier. Ben plans on getting out of there, but the zombies have other ideas, and Ben is forced to into the farmhouse as well. The duo thinks they’re alone, surrounded by zombies on the outside but safe on the inside, they are wrong though. What a lot of people don't know/forgot is that it’s one of the first movies with a black man as the male lead opposite a white woman. Consider that the lead female, Judith O’Dea, is as “white as a sheet” with her blonde curls, and Jones’ “blackness” is readily obvious.

Night of the Living Dead also does the one thing many other Zombie horror films make the mistake of not doing — and that’s getting to the action very early in the movie. The zombies immediately attack and the fight for survival begins almost immediately. A lot of modern Zombie movies seem too occupied with setting up the film before letting the terror start — which isn’t always a bad thing, except the set up is sometimes too boring, and many filmmakers make the mistake of thinking people who watch Zombie films want something “more” than zombies just attacking.

Romero’s 1968 film is as I said before shot in black and white with very natural, stark lighting. The lack of does wonders for the movie and just adds to the film’s atmosphere (kind of like it did with Psych), since shadows appear everywhere, and the “fuzzy” look give the film a dreamy and unreal vibe. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Romero intended for all of this to be the case, but whatever his intentions, Night of the Living Dead certainly benefited from the production’s low budget. Sometimes the music did become a bit annoying, but one has to remember that in 1968 loud, overcompensating music was normal.

The production’s low budget also explains the lack of a named actor, as many, if not all, of the actors were unknowns. Duane Jones does a great job as the tough Ben, although Judith O’Dea does get really annoying as the helpless Barbra. And Karl Hardman, as one of the survivors, is decently unlikable. Since the movie is high on creativity but short on cash, the action revolving around the zombies is a lot of the times just implied, with much of the “intense” gore scenes shot slightly off-screen. (It seems that driving a tire iron through someone’s forehead wasn’t exactly an “every day stunt” back in 1968, as it seems to be now.) It’s also known that many of the “zombies” were ordinary locals who were drafted into the production, so that means their are not proffessional stuntment playing zombies for the actors to "kill", and as a result there is a shortage of "cool" kill scenes.

Despite those few shortcomings, Night of the Living Dead remains THE film for not only Zombies Attack movies, but also low-budget filmmaking in general. The movie knew its limitations and overcame them, all of which are obvious on the screen.

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