Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead

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Night of the Living Dead

Judith O'Dea, Russell Streiner, Duane Jones, Karl Hardman, Keith Wayne

When unexpected radiation raises the dead, a microcosm of Average America has to battle flesh-eating zombies in George A. Romero's landmark cheapie horror film. Siblings Johnny (Russ Streiner) and Bar... read more read more...bara (Judith O'Dea) whine and pout their way through a graveside visit in a small Pennsylvania town, but it all takes a turn for the worse when a zombie kills Johnny. Barbara flees to an isolated farmhouse where a group of people are already holed up. Bickering and panic ensue as the group tries to figure out how best to escape, while hoards of undead converge on the house; news reports reveal that fire wards them off, while a local sheriff-led posse discovers that if you "kill the brain, you kill the ghoul." After a night of immolation and parricide, one survivor is left in the house.... Romero's grainy black-and-white cinematography and casting of locals emphasize the terror lurking in ordinary life; as in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), Romero's victims are not attacked because they did anything wrong, and the randomness makes the attacks all the more horrifying. Nothing holds the key to salvation, either, whether it's family, love, or law. Topping off the existential dread is Romero's then-extreme use of gore, as zombies nibble on limbs and viscera. Initially distributed by a Manhattan theater chain owner, Night, made for about 100,000 dollars, was dismissed as exploitation, but after a 1969 re-release, it began to attract favorable attention for scarily tapping into Vietnam-era uncertainty and nihilistic anxiety. By 1979, it had grossed over 12 million, inspired a cycle of apocalyptic splatter films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and set the standard for finding horror in the mundane. However cheesy the film may look, few horror movies reach a conclusion as desolately unsettling. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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  • fb733768972
    October 27, 2013
    fb733768972
    With some visually impressive images for it's time, and being one of the first films to have a boarded up home, fighting zombies away, "Night of the Living Dead," to me, was the spark of the genre. So many good films have come from this genre, and even dating all the way back to ... read morethis picture, it's terrific entertainment. Although it becomes a tad slow at times, it still manages to hold your attention well and send chills down your spine with it's practical effects. The acting is solid for it's time and the story is well played out, but the most commendable thing about this film is it's direction. George A. Romero truly knows how to handle his actors, and each zombie does not feel out of place. All around, it's a great film, albeit simple. "Night of the Living Dead" sets a bright future for this filmmaker!
  • June 27, 2013
    This little low-budget classic set the standard for future horror films. It also kick started the zombie subgenre as we know it today.

    The set up of a group of people banding together in an isolated farmhouse during a growing epidemic is simple, but the execution is superb, and ... read moreanything but simple.

    The undertones about racism (intentional or not), add a nice little social commentary to the terrifying and gruesome scenes filled with shocks and suspense, and I love how this is all done so intelligently, makes the most of it's budget and other limitations, and is very memorable, not least of which for some of the groundbreaking things done here, namely the casting, subject matter, effects, and ending. Sure, some of the acting is a little weak, but overall, this is a supremely iconic and important film, so it really is a must-see.
  • October 12, 2012
    Despite it has been 54 years since this first came out, 'Night Of The Living Dead' will still be remembered as one of few films that forever changed the Horror genre. George A. Romero's original masterpiece still maintains its punch, especially the unfair fate for a certain chara... read morecter. For those who wish to see when and how zombies became a big part in film and popular culture.
  • fb100000716838411
    October 7, 2012
    fb100000716838411
    Zombies have always been a staple for Halloween, so here's one of the better zombie apocalypse films to be made. Night of the Living Dead is the 1968 movie that revolutionized how people view zombies. George Romero, the director, brought to light the slow-moving, unintelligent an... read mored relentless nature of a zombie and that's how they are often portrayed. Back when this movie first came out, it was something new for movie-goers. The gore in the movie isn't anything special compared to today's standards, but back then, it terrified people; people in theaters were in absolute shock of what was in the movie. The general story is that a group of people are stuck in a house while fighting off the living dead. The plot is simple, but it works for the time this movie was made. The people in the house together aren't too fond of eachother and it's really about how they're going to work together to survive. But in the end, it's one of those "every man for himself" type of scenarios. It actually does do a good job of producing a feeling of claustrophobia. Being stuck in building with people you hate and living off the idea of getting your brains eaten at anytime is a terrifying experience for the characters and the movie captures that so well. The atmosphere of the movie is something that really needs to be appreciated. There's a really dark and hopeless feel to the movie. It's almost like the movie is saying "Whoever comes across a zombie is fucked." That is a true factor to the movie; people die horribly. The zombies don't just eat people, they flat-out tear the living shit out of them. People innards are seen and there's a surprising amount of blood for the 60's. The issues that I have with the movie is that there is a minor pacing issue near the beginning of the film and some of the acting is pretty bad, but those don't ruin the film for me. I still really like the direction this film took. Romero went all out in displaying violence and playing out the hopelessness of the situation the characters are in. I just have to say that the ending to the movie, not to spoil anything, is very cruel, even to this day. It takes a turn that you don't see coming, but that's what makes it effective. Night of the Living Dead spawned a number of inspirations like sequels and other films where the title consists od "Night of..." This movie may not be my favorite zombie film, but it's a damn good one and it's always worth a watch, especially in October.
  • fb100000145236770
    October 5, 2012
    fb100000145236770
    "Night of the Living Dead" is the movie that started it all for zombie movies. Almost 50 years ago, and zombies are still as gruesome and overall just awesome as ever. George A. Romero's masterpiece is the first in a series that just got better and turned zombie movies into the... read moreir own sub genre of horror movies. The premise is easily. A group of people are trapped in farm house as the dead begin to rise up, and come for them to feast on their flesh. The performances are all good, and the movie is way before it's time. This sits right next to "Psycho" the best horror movies of that decade. Shot in black and white, I couldn't imagine this particular movie in color. It just has a great atmosphere to it, that is hard to come by in most modern movies. This is one of those movies I can't wait to share with my son when he gets older.
  • fb100000040220993
    June 1, 2012
    fb100000040220993
    This movie has truly earned it's legendary status. It's far from my favorite movie, but you can't deny, the genius and execution involved. This might have been one of the most influential movies of all time. How many movies have imitated or been influenced, by this, the origin... read moreal zombie movie? It's been 40 years, so it does show drastic age at times. It also delivers a primitive, yet claustrophobic and horrific atmosphere. I have a great deal of respect for this film.
  • May 21, 2012
    When John Landis was being interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live for his new book Monsters at the Movies, he commented that zombies have become the main monsters of the early-21st century. From the re-tooling of Down of the Dead and political, 'infected' movies like 28 Days Later, to s... read morepoofs like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, zombies have become the go-to monster for popular horror. Zombies are cheap to create, easy to direct, and can be overladen with all manner of social commentary, or played for all kinds of laughs.

    With this in mind, you might think that Night of the Living Dead could not hold up to modern expectations of a zombie movie. George A. Romero's low-budget debut effort, shot entirely in black-and-white, is not as slick or grossly shocking as either its sequels or modern-day equivalents. What it is, however, is a really terrifying, deeply unnerving film, whose substance still rings true and whose scares still deliver even after 44 years.

    It's very difficult for us to imagine the kind of outcry Romero's film created the first time round. When it was first released, it played in matinee screenings alongside classic Hollywood horror movies such as James Whale's Frankenstein and Val Newton's The Curse of the Cat-People. Because the MPAA rating system was not in place until a month after it arrived, there were reports of young children going to see a fun old-fashioned horror film and coming out completely traumatised. After much public outcry, with Variety calling it an "unrelieved orgy of sadism", the film was pulled from mainstream theatres, only to find a second, more devoted audience on the midnight movie circuit.

    Looking at the film today, its terror derives from two completely different sources. One is the same kind of fear or shock that greeted audiences in 1968, namely the shock of seeing monsters that looked exactly like them, preying upon innocent people and eating human flesh. The other kind comes from the continuing political resonance, with its themes of racism, revolution and the Vietnam War still striking a chord in today's society.

    Up to Night of the Living Dead, popular horror had by and large externalised or marginalised its monsters or enemies. The War of the Worlds and Invasion of the Body-Snatchers used alien invasions as a double for communist infiltration, depicting the enemy as something that was totally un-human, something that had to be eradicated rather than understood. Whether they were tripods or pod people, the aliens were so clearly different to our heroic American protagonists that the films were never quite as scary as they could have been.

    Romero's film incorporates many classic B-movie elements into its storyline. There is the hapless heroine, the expository radio broadcast, the phone lines being completely down and alien radiation being blamed for what is unfolding. But none of these elements are ever allowed to become the centrepiece, pushing the zombies into the background for the sake of pulpy fun. Romero is too good to let that happen, and instead uses the B-movie riffs as a comfort zone to provide relief from an enemy that is like us in every detail. His "blue collar" monsters come at us head-on, relentlessly questioning our perceptions about our fellow man.

    One of the creepiest scenes in Night of the Living Dead, which reinforces this technique, comes in the very first scene. Johnny (Russell Streiner) attempts to wind up Barbara (Judith O'Dea) by playing on her childhood fear of ghosts: he jumps around, pulling hokey faces and hollering: "They're coming to get you, Barbara!". While they are larking around, we see a strange man shambling around in the background; because he looks exactly like them, we assume he's a passing stranger and take no notice. Then, out of nowhere, the stranger attacks Johnny and Barbara: he gets his head smashed in, she runs for cover, and the ordinary has become the terrifying.

    The film is on one level a brilliant examination of racism. It tackles the stereotypes associated with black people in American society, showing the tension and prejudice among the characters in a far more effective way than mainstream efforts like In The Heat of the Night. The interactions between Ben (Duane Jones) and Harry (Karl Hardman) belie a continuing distrust between blacks and whites, resulting in the latter's betrayal of the former in favour of base self-interest.

    Much of the racial politics of Night of the Living Dead are rooted in the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. Both the novel and its 1964 adaptation The Last Man on Earth were big influences on Romero, and while Matheson dismissed the film as "cornball" he bore Romero no ill will. Running through all three works is the theme of protagonists realising their inferior position, letting the old ways pass and submitting to the new order. But while John Neville becomes philosophical about his impending execution, Ben has no such choice. In an appropriately shocking and subversive ending, he survives the zombie onslaught, only to be mistaken for a zombie and is shot in cold blood by a white police officer.

    Romero described Night of the Living Dead as a film principally about revolution. The idea of the dead no longer being dead is a huge challenge to the preconceptions of the main characters, with Romero playing for scares what Landis played for laughs in An American Werewolf in London. Less frivolously, the zombies are characterised as an unstoppable wave, a counter-culture of death descending on, quite literally, the old way of life. The traditional family unit is destroyed, first by Barbara and Johnny being separated and then the young daughter becoming undead. The creepy scene of the child killing its mother reflects both the rise of the young generation and the erosion of family bonds in favour of pure greed.

    Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a few years later, Night of the Living Dead also touches on the impact of the Vietnam War. In this interpretation the zombies become the brain-dead soldiers returning home in their droves, being unable to reintegrate into polite society to the point where normal citizens feel the need to isolate themselves entirely and ignore the problem. Alternatively, they are the embodiment of war guilt, representing all the 'gooks' on the consciences of American troops, refusing to go away and tormenting the Americans to the point where they literally lose their minds.

    What makes Night of the Living Dead so effective as a horror movie is how invasive it is. By confining the action to a few rooms, Romero achieves a natural sense of claustrophobia which is exacerbated by the intimate and intrusive camerawork. The recurring images of hands clawing through the barricades are akin to the hallucinations in Repulsion, in which Catherine Deneuve imagines thousands of male hands reaching out along a corridor to grope her. In both films the threat is breaking in rather than exploding out; the threat is endemic and yet is being concentrated in a manner which becomes thrillingly unbearable.

    The performances in Night of the Living Dead are the key to cementing the level of tension achieved by both camerawork and allegory. Duane Jones and Judith O'Dea improvised much of their dialogue, adding another layer of chilling realism to an already unsettling picture. Karl Hardman's character may be the loudest and brashest in the building, but his performance is one of subtle shifts and gestures which perfectly convey his cowardice and frustration. But it's not just the heroes who are well-fleshed out. The zombies seem to take on personalities of their own, with make-up supervisor Marilyn Eastman making the best of the low-budget effects on offer.

    Night of the Living Dead remains a huge horror milestone and as cracking a debut feature as you could possibly hope for. While its dialogue is occasionally repetitive and its female characters are never properly fleshed out, its political and social significance remains writ large and it can still scare every bit as well as its gorier cousins. Romero's later zombie movies would push the boundaries of what could be shown on screen, but if pure and simple terror is what you're after, the original is still the best.
  • May 13, 2012
    An above average schlocky horror movie that was lucky to be the first zombie movie, even though nobody in the film says the z-word. The film starts out pretty good with the famous graveyard scene, and the ending is a pretty clever anti-Hollywood ending. However, this film simpl... read morey has not aged well. Most of the plot feels like the last 20 minutes of "The Birds" if it was extended to feature length. This would not be too much of a problem if the characters had been a little more interesting, and some instances of questionable acting do not help matters. Duane Jones ends up stealing the show because he is the most level-headed out of the characters and the most relatable. The gore, which made this film so infamous when it first hit audiences 1968, is pretty tame by todays standards. Despite some of these flaws, George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" stills manages to have just enough claustrophobic atmosphere and some decently gritty black and white cinematography to keep things going. This film is interesting just to see how the zombie sub-genre was spawned, but beyond it's historical significants it is just a merely passable horror movie.
  • April 21, 2012
    A, not just scary and realist zombie gore film, but an underground political classic. Night of the Living Dead is a unique horror movie.
  • April 14, 2012
    "They're coming to get you, Barbara, there's one of them now!"

    The radiation from a fallen satellite might have caused the recently deceased to rise from the grave and seek the living to use as food. This is the situation that a group of people penned up in an old farmhou... read morese must deal with.

    REVIEW

    Night of the Living Dead wasn't the first film to ever use the idea of an apocalypse; The Last Man on Earth did almost the same thing four years earlier - but it was Romero's film that popularised it, and this film is pretty much responsible for every zombie film ever made post-1968. Through excellent black and white cinematography, a claustrophobic atmosphere and some shocking scenes of zombie slaughter; Night of the Living Dead is an out and out horror classic. This film upset many people upon it's release in 1968, and despite being over four decades old - the film has lost none of it's nastiness. The plot is very simple, and it follows the idea of the dead returning to life and feasting upon the living. We follow a farmhouse full of people trying to evade the carnage. There is never any solid explanation given about why the dead are returning to life - only an idea about radiation from space. This actually helps the film, though, because there is never an attempt to save humanity or discover why it is happening; we just follow the people in trouble, and that immensely adds to the horror.

    Romero constantly makes sure that the audience is aware that we're following a group of people without much hope. The scene is always isolated, and the sparing use of radio and television gives the protagonists their only window into the wider world. Romero's use of the camera enforces the isolation in the farmhouse. He uses a lot of close-up's and angled shots, which adequately show the closed space. One of the things that this low budget zombie flick will always be remembered for is the fact that it was the first horror film to feature an African-American. This casting is just one example of Romero's lust for rule breaking, and there are many moments of zombie carnage in the film that seem to be there just to upset the more conservative groups. These scenes also serve the film in it's bid to be frightening, and when combined with the hopeless, downbeat aura of the film; it's all very horrific. Many of the 'zombie rules' were created in this film, and the build up to the ending that sees two of the main characters killed is absolute pure brilliance. On the whole; horror cinema wouldn't be the same without this film. The fact that it's aged so well is no coincidence.

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