“We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn’t going to solve anything.”
Night of the Living Dead is such an important film in the pantheon of both the horror genre, and the zombie sub-genre. Of course, it’s not the first, but much like Halloween, it popularized the sub-genre and really turned it into what we know and think of today when we think of a “zombie movie”. I’ve always appreciated the film, but this time out I also enjoyed it a lot more than I have in the past. Night of the Living Dead is actually a really simple film, and it had to be because of the budget that George A. Romero was working with. That said, it’s expertly put together, and Romero manages to make the most out of his limited locations.
The film is about the start of the zombie apocalypse where the recently dead are coming back to life and killing everything they can get their hands on. Barbara and her brother are visiting their father’s grave when the first of the living dead approach and attack Barbara. Her brother saves her, and she manages to get away to a house in the countryside. There, she finds a dead woman, and Ben, our film’s male lead. Ben boards up the house in order to keep the zombies out as they both attempt to survive the night until help can come and rescue them.
Romero uses black and white, and it really works to help establish the stark reality where Barbara and Ben find themselves.There isn’t a lot of blood and gore, but it’s not needed. What is here is quite effective, including seeing the zombies eating the insides of a human, and the use of shadow-play to show an otherwise gruesome death. Romero clearly shows his knack for finding interesting shots, and Night is filled with them. The characters introduced are not terribly deep, but we know enough about them to care whether they live or die. Frankly, I’d forgotten the fate of some of the characters, and it was shocking all over again this time through. The ending, though, is unforgettable, thanks to how bleak and unemotional it ends up being. It really brings the whole film together with a single shot.
Night of the Living Dead is absolutely worthy of its status as a classic in the genre, and it holds up nearly fifty years after its debut. George A. Romero is clearly a talent, and it’s obvious to see why he went on to be one of the most influential and important filmmakers of the horror genre. If you’ve missed out on this classic for whatever reason, you owe it to yourself to give Night of the Living Dead a viewing. It might have taken me a few times to really enjoy the movie, but it’s immediately obvious why Night of the Living Dead is respected as much as it is.