Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days of Horror Day 16 - "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)

When it comes to zombie movies, they don't get much better than George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. Often credited as the film that started the zombie craze, this low budget, black and white B-movie turned out to be an unexpected horror masterpiece.

There had been zombie movies before it (Jacques Tourneur's undead Jane Eyre film, I Walked With a Zombie, from 1943 is a notable example), and there were certainly plenty after it, many from Romero himself, but none have become so iconic or were so influential as Night of the Living Dead. It's certainly a chilling tale. A group of survivors of a zombie plague hole up in an abandoned farm house that is besieged by flesh eating zombies. Our only information comes in ominous radio reports from the outside world. They are isolated. They are alone. And the world is falling apart around them.

The film also has one of the bleakest endings in horror history, one that rips audience expectations right from under our feet. Unfortunately, due to a paperwork lapse, Night of the Living Dead lapsed into the public domain, and Romero has never made a penny from it. The copywrite oversight has also led to the market being flooded with substandard prints of an otherwise stellar film. And in some ways, that grainy black and white quality makes it all the more frightening. It's amazing just how effective the film still is today. It never once feels hokey, and the gritty cinematography actually lends a terrifying realizim that is hard to shake. It actually feels like the end of the world, and provided the model for decades of zombie movies to come.

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