NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

(1968)
With Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Russell Streiner, Bill Hinzman
Directed by George A. Romero
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

Please, sir, just one little bite     Filmed in black and white with a cast of nobodies and a budget just over $100,000, George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of the most influential horror films of all time.  While Hitchcock's PSYCHO made you believe you saw Mrs. Bates' knife entering flesh, Romero took graphic movie violence several steps further, showing, in two short scenes, zombies snacking on intestines and chewing muscle from the bones of their unfortunate victims.  In the wake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, films became increasingly more graphic over the years, to a point where today, "gross out" moments, featuring body parts, human excrement and bodily fluids, are now routinely part of not only our horror but also our comedy and drama.  I'm not placing all the blame for the sad state of our culture on this one film because, Lord knows, there's plenty of blame to go around, but it had to start someplace.

     On the plus side, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is also one of the eeriest and most intelligent horror films ever made, and still has the power to creep out and disturb.  Unlike the pod people in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, who only look human but are actually from outer space, the monsters in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD really are humans, albeit undead ones.  They are your neighbors, your brothers and sisters, even your children, and they want to eat you.  A group of disparate people hold up in an abandoned house, with hordes of the living dead outside, and as the night goes on, the situation becomes more and more hopeless.  NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a relentlessly negative movie, with every course of action taken by the survivors resulting in more death and carnage.  NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is also one of the first films, if not the first, to star a black actor (Duane Jones, who is excellent) as the hero without ever once making the color of his skin an issue, although U.S. race relations is part of the film's subtext, especially in the bleak ending moments.

      NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD may contain some mismatched day-for-night shots - inevitable in a low-budget horror film of the period - and one or two amateurish performances, but it is still a textbook example of how to shoot and edit a horror film for maximum effect.  Followed by four sequels, a remake, a remake of a sequel, and countless of imitations, homages and parodies.  BEWARE of the colorized version.  Not only is the very idea of a colorized NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD completely abhorrent to most film fans, but this particular colorization job is one of the worst ever done, with the human tissue the zombies feast on rendered in the exact pink shade of baseball card bubble gum (Mmmm, I got a pancreas and a Willie Stargell!). 4½ - JB

Zombies     The Secret Vortex


IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR CLASSIC MOVIE QUOTES

"They're coming to get you, Barbra."