This movie is a classic zombie flick that has launched many sequels and remakes, none of which capture the mood and horror of the original Night of the Living Dead. This black and white film depicts the fear and confusion of people who find themselves fighting for their lives against an unknown horror with limited ways of evading or destroying the zombies. This is also a great film to launch our ZOMBIE WEEK 2008, where we’re going to review each of the Romero “Dead” movies, leading into our first ever giveaway.
Directed by: George A. Romero Written by: George A. Romero & John A. Russo
The movie opens with a man and a woman who are visiting their father’s grave. The brother, Johnny, played by Russell Streiner, teases his sister Barbra, played by Judith O’Dea, as she is visibly nervous about being in the cemetery. It all begins when he says, “There coming to get you Barbra…Look, there’s one now.” Little does he know that indeed there is “one” and it comes straight for them. When Barbra is attacked by the zombie, Johnny defends her and she gets away while Johnny is left to fend for himself.
Barbra finds herself running for her life, jumps into their car, to which Johnny has the keys, and throws it in neutral and cruises until she hits a tree. She gets out as the zombie pursues her and runs to the nearest house. Ultimately, she finds herself trapped in the house with several others who all have different ideas of defending themselves against the zombies, so of course there is conflict amongst them.
While they work out their conflict, news reports keep coming in about the situation, each new piece of information more horrific than the last. It seems that anyone who dies will wake up undead due to some crazy space experiment which has brought extreme amounts of radiation to the earth. Meanwhile, the zombies have caught whiff of the living and have surrounded the house in which they are hiding.
Jenny: This movie is a classic and I find it enjoyable to watch although the dialogue gets a little boring at times. The editing is a bit choppy as well. Also, Barbra is a complete mess and is an embarrassment for all women. When the zombies rise out of their graves and come for the living, give me a shot gun and I will gladly clear some out of the way to make an escape. Barbra completely falls apart and is fairly useless in the fight against the zombies. However, to be fair to Barbra, most of the characters make stupid mistakes and ruin escape plans which open the door, literally, for zombie attacks against them.
Sean: I’m also a big fan of this film. I remember the first time seeing it, I was probably 11 or 12, and seeing it over a friend’s house that lived down the street. I had seen bits and clips of zombie movies before, but when I saw Night of the Living Dead… I was honestly scared shitless for a long time. I had to walk home that night and I was looking over my shoulder and hurrying my ass home, and I couldn’t relax until I got in my front door.
Raz: The first time I saw this movie is was re-dubbed with a silly dialog. Needless to say it was not very scary, but it was quite humorous. Later on when I was in high school I saw the remake of this movie and I loved it. Seeing the remake made me want to watch the original with it’s true dialog. I found the original to be great also. It is a true classic.
Jenny: I find the zombies to be quite interesting. For being so slow, they sure catch up pretty quickly. One moment a zombie is eating Johnny, the next it is on top of Barbra in the car. Also, one moment they are too stupid to come up to the house and they hang out on the front yard for hours, the next they decide to try to bust in the door. And, for being so stupid, they have quite a grasp on using tools, such as rocks, to get their prey. I like the array of zombies as there are the usual mid-twenties zombies but there are some older ones as well as some nude zombies. That’s always hot.
Sean: That’s something I noticed about this film, that took all the way until Land of the Dead to get back to – zombies using tools. Right at the beginning of the movie, good old Flesheater/Cemetary Zombie himself, William Hinzman uses a rock to bust out the car window where Barbara is cringing in horror. He’s also obviously some kind of super zombie, because he moves like he’s got some ants in his pants.
Raz: The thought of zombies using tools is quite disturbing. When you run away from a zombie and seek refuge in a house or whatever, you don’t expect to have your sanctuary compromised by a rock thrown by a zombie. You definitely have to think more about fortifying your shelter when zombies start using tools. I think the zombies were playing dumb when they were just standing around in the front yard. They probably figured out that throwing rocks threw the boarded up windows would not gain them access to their buffet, so they stood around and waited for their food to come to them. At the end they got a little impatient and started smashing into the house.
Jenny: There are several redeeming factors for this movie. One: The male lead Ben, played by Duane Jones, really has his act together but is foiled by the other characters including a couple of country bumpkins who mess up the escape in the truck and a grief-stricken father whose daughter lies ill in the basement after she attacked by a zombie. Take a guess where that is going. The poor guy also has to spend the most time with Barbra who counters his tale of fighting off sixty zombies to her tale of running away from one. Two: It is filmed in black and white which adds to the creep factor especially when you get closeups of the zombies eating some flesh. Three: The ending is a disturbing yet a suitable close for this type of horror.
Sean: It’s kind of nerve racking to watch Ben with the level head try to really fortify his stronghold, and have the other characters constantly undermine them. The only other character that was actually compentant enough to live until the end was Tom (played by Keith Wayne). Unfortunatley, he was too brave and got all explody at the gas pump. Meanwhile, the zombies see that and only one thing can come to their minds… BBQ!
Raz: Harry Cooper (played by Karl Hardman) is a very annoying character. He is the guy you love to hate. I understand that he is trying to protect this family but sometimes you need to listen to reason. It was true that the zombies could potentially break into the main portion of the house they were shacked up in. What he failed to realize was, if the zombies got into the main house that puts them one step closer to getting them. If the zombies could get into the house would one more door really stop them from getting what they wanted?
Jenny: I like movies like this because they leave you wondering “What if?” Would I survive? Or would I play the idiot that ruins everyone else’s chance of escape due to a paralytic fear?
Sean: While this movie scared me sensless as a younger kid, the thing that I love about this movie now is that you can see all the social commentary that Romero tried to push (and does so effectively), but you can also have a lot of fun not taking this movie so seriously.
Raz: This movie is great. The only thing that annoyed me about is was how everything that was dark in color was a little fuzzy.
Night of the Living Dead is available for Download (free, because it’s public domain!) at Archive.org