Starring Duncane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman
Directed by George A Romero
If you haven't seen Night of the Living Dead stop reading this and do yourself a favor, bypass this review and watch the movie. Some films are considered classics and you have to understand the context of when the film was initially released to understand why. Without the back story the film might not hold up or feel irrelevant. Night of the Living Dead is not one of those movies. This 46 year old film has stood the test of time and can be appreciated without fully understanding the late 60's American landscape that inspired Romero's most highly praised film.
While this is the film most critics point to as Romero's finest hour, in my humble opinion that honor goes to Dawn of the Dead, but more on that later in the month. I plan on reviewing as close to 31 films for the month of October as I can. Some of the films this month might not be straight forward horror though, I plan on doing a few documentaries and a couple horror comedies. My most sincere apologies to the purists.
1968 America was a turbulent and frighting place in many ways. We were only a few years removed from the assassination of JFK, race riots were common place, civil unrest on college campuses had ended in death and something as simple as casting an African American in the lead role of your film could be considered controversial. When you consider that character slaps a white woman at one point in the film it moves beyond controversial and becomes political. I find it hard to believe that this is the world my father grew up in. We have come a long way since then but as recent events show, we haven't come as far as we would like to think.
Night of the Living Dead is fast paced and filled with tension. If you are somehow not familiar with the film and are still reading I guess I should give you a brief description of the plot. The dead start to rise from their graves, eat the living and a group of survivors hold up in a small Pennsylvania farm house. That's it. The story is incredibly simple but well crafted enough that its easy to assume the film makers had a greater social message when they were making the film than they probably did.
The tension in the film is exacerbated by the flesh eaters but it really comes from the inhabitants of that small farm house. I know we've all seen a version of the "real monsters are us" zombie movie or TV show but this is where it comes from. This film is potent now, I can't imagine how it must of played in 1968.
I planned on writing far more about this film but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather be watching the film than writing this piece. It's been about a year since I've seen it and I need to spend some time with some old friends. Some dysfunctional, flesh eating, racist, sexist, more than likely homo-phobic friends but friends just the same.