Director – George A. Romero
Cast – Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon, Charles Craig
Release Year – 1968
Reviewed by John of the Dead
In 1968 no-name director George A. Romero broke onto the horror scene with his low-budget independent classic, “Night of the Living Dead”. One of horror’s most well known titles, he destroyed the horror scene with a film that few had the guts to make. Zombie films had been done before, but they were tame and did not use zombies the way Romero did. Before Romero they were simply “the living dead”, and Romero changed that to “the flesh eating living dead”. Who would have thought that such a low-budget film from a director with no prior film experience would ever become one of the greatest and most influential horror films of all time? George A. Romero made that happen.
Night of the living dead begins with Barbara(Judith O’Dea) and her brother visiting their father’s grave. During their visit they are attacked by a zombie, and her brother is killed. During her panic-stricken state she runs to a nearby home, and meets up Ben(Duane Jones), another person running from the zombie carnage. They soon encounter more survivors, and the group holes up in the home, preparing for the longest and bloodiest night of their lives.
It really is surprising that this film is as good as it is. For being a 1968 low-budget film from an inexperienced director, it is truly an amazing piece of cinematic excellence. The horror shown in the film feels real, and shows grit and beauty beautifully molded together. The storyline is a great one. We have seen this storyline does many many times before, but keep in mind it was this very film that those films are copying. I love the idea of the dead rising and attacking the living, especially because in this film we never truly find out the exact reason why the dead rose. Theories are thrown out there, but without any official word the secrecy only adds to the suspense. The character conflict we get when the characters meet at the house is great, and shows how paranoia can cause problems just like the problems going on outside of the home. We get murder, and selfishness from our characters, showing that all in all they are no better than the flesh eating drones outside of their home. Leave it to George A. Romero to throw in just the right amount of social commentary. I love when he does that.
Romero’s direction in this film is very well done as well. He captures great horror on screen, and gives us scenes I never thought I’d see in a 60s horror film. The scenes of the zombies eating the severed limbs and fighting for intestines were amazing, and I’m sure shocked the hell out of the viewers back then. The house setting for the film was great touch, and added a nice claustrophobic feel to the film. I also liked how his zombies looked a lot more interesting than zombies from before his time. I want to go as far as to say that these zombies had a much better look than those of “Dawn of the Dead”. Why? Simply because these zombies had a much creepier look to them with their facial expressions, and showed more decay as well. The ending sequence is definitely one of the coolest ending sequences I’ve seen in a horror film. No happy endings for this film’s viewers. Of course, why would you assume so? The zombies are taking over man, there isn’t an ending until all in the world are dead.
Overall, this is an amazing horror film that I recommend to all fans of the genre. If you are a zombie fan then this is required viewing so that you can learn your zombie history. This film is full of grit, guts, and true horror.