Night of the Living Dead,1968,USA
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea & Karl Hardman
Film #77 of the December Project
Recently, I saw the Tom Savini Directed remake of 'Night of the Living Dead' when reviewing that film I stated that it succeeded only in getting me to appreciate the original even more. After seeing that film, I had the urge to watch George A. Romero's original classic, so I went straight to eBay and purchased the Blu- Ray, because the two DVDs I already own aswell as the 1000 different copies on Youtube could not suffice. Despite the ratio bars, I once again thoroughly enjoyed the classic for the umpteenth time...in HD!
The original Zombie film, depicts a group of survivors who all by chance end up at the same rural farm house during a mass murder spree conducted by the dead, who have seemingly returned from the grave to feed on the living.
The opening scene of 'Night of the Living Dead' may be one of my favorite in horror film history. The scene takes place in the cemetery and sees the brother and sister duo of Barbara and Johnny, partaking in their annual visit to their fathers grave. Johnny playfully tries to intimidate Barbara, (spawning the classic quote from above) but his jokeyness turns out to be a horrific precursor to the Zombie attack, The scene is still so effective in its menace,its haunting imagery and black and white aspect have helped make it so endearing. For me, this is the absolute high point of the film but that's not to say the rest of the film isn't great, because it is.
'Night' has a certain charm to it that can never really be fully replicated, little quirks that really stick out now a days, like the fact that it changes from day to night in just one shot or the fact that our hero punches a woman in the face, this little things showcase the beauty and charm of Independent filmmaking at its finest.
I'm not really sure how to classify Romero as a filmmaker, on one hand he created a few of my favorite films but on the other he has created some of my most loathed. I will say the man has always seem to be more comfortable directing the dead rather than the living, this is statement is at its most present in 'Night of the Living Dead'. Romero does not garner a single good performance out of his actors, but I don't think this was the most important thing to him, he was focused on the horror, the seclusion and the experience, which he does an impeccable job with. The ways in which Romero's builds atmosphere and tension are incredibly brilliant, its almost as if the zombies become supporting players and it is the humans who create their own troubles through lack of communication and understanding, this is something that Romero became way to focused on later down the line but here it works to perfection.
The zombie effects throughout the film are glorious considering the time and budget involved, that really did a thoroughly good job creating some timeless effects that are still quite disgusting even today.
The performances in the film are obviously coming from inexperienced people who arent very convincing at all. The only three actors on screen whose performances feel somewhat natural are Duane Jones, Russell Streiner and to a lesser extent Judith Ridley. Judith O'Dea is really quite insufferable here as Barbara, its almost like she has trouble playing a human being at times. Karl Hardman is hilarious playing an unintentionally semi retarded man. Overall everyone's performance feels forced and over the top but it never really takes away from the film.
As much as I like and enjoy this film, It has become my least favorite of Romero's original trilogy, Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' which would arrive ten years after this film, is still the undisputed king of Zombie and will most likely never be touched, while 'Day of the Dead' is just plain incredible. I still love 'Night', but I love it from a historical standpoint, it changed the game and made people fully aware of what Independent filmmaking is capable of. It is a great Horror film and one that has become required viewing.