As a child the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead would scare me out of the room. The bare, black and white field accompanied by those powerful first notes and then a creepy, ominous score that is reminiscent of The Twilight Zone was enough to set me in motion. Those nights I didn’t mind going to bed a little early. It took until I was around seven or eight years old to finally sit down and watch it and I fell in love. The characters were interesting and the zombies were scary because they looked like the people around us. I explicitly remember the scene where Ben (Duane Jones) was running back to the farmhouse after the gas pump explosion had quite the impact on me. The sun seems like it’s about to rise and even though in the storyline daytime is still far off, it gave a moment of reprieve, like everything might work out for those trapped inside the house. For those that have seen the film, this isn’t the case and for those who haven’t let’s just leave it at that.
Romero’s first feature film looks like a documentary more than a film. It’s very gritty and this lack of budget works in its favor. Yes, some of the acting isn’t on par with major studio releases but what it’s lacking is made up for. The film touches on a variety of issues: race, gender, sentiment towards “the other,” and so much more. Its grim ending suggests that we are just like the zombies, simple minded and unable to see past our petty jealousies and prejudices. It’s definitely cynical. The original trailer doesn’t really get this across, but this was also the same decade that brought us Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Below is my review for Netflix. I’ve reviewed every one of Romero’s Living Dead films for Netflix and I’m going to post them in order for theatrical release. One person found this helpful.
Night of the Living Dead (1986)
What can be said about George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead that hasn’t already been said? It’s the film that started the modern zombie craze, leading to Dawn of the Dead & then a swell of Italian copycats like Lucio Fulci. Having a very low budget & a group of unknown, yet competent, actors, Romero & John Russo embarked on creating a gritty, documentary style, horror film that changed the standards of the genre. After the dead come back & start eating the living, a group of strangers barricade themselves inside an abandoned farm house. Relying more on the racial tensions within the house to forward the story, Romero’s NOTLD is both a powerful & violent horror film while being a biting commentary on racial tensions in 1960s America. By using unknown actors & lower grade equipment, the film avoids the flash of Hollywood horror films in delivering terror. It comes across as real, showing these characters as vulnerable individuals presented with horrific circumstances. Its lack of budget is what makes it so great; without it the film would be nothing more than just another low grade piece of Hollywood trash & wouldn’t have changed the genre as we know it. For those who love horror films, this is a must see. I’m certain that some wouldn’t find this film appealing nowadays, but it’s a landmark in cinematic history that any lover of great film should see.