Night of the Living Dead (1968) Reviewed

Night of the Living Dead remains effectively scary after nearly four decades. Quite a feat considering it’s tiny budget, amateur acting and stilted dialogue. Though there are many more movies that predate Romero’s first Living Dead outing [White Zombie (1932) with Bela Lugosi for example], NotLD is widely considered the first modern zombie flick — creating the template for nearly every zombie movie that followed: (An army of zombies slowly take over human civilization. They eat people. A bite will kill and transform you into one of them. The only way to stop them is to shoot ’em in the head.) Romero became the king of the zombie movies and created his own Living Dead franchise that tracks the different stages of a zombie revolution. This is still his best. In the shocking opening scene a brother and sister (Johnny and Barbara) go to put flowers on the grave of their mother and are attacked by a lumbering creep with a Karloff mug: our first zombie. Barbara escapes to a remote farm house where she has an absurdly sudden nervous breakdown. Lucky for her the level-headed Ben shows up to help her zombie-proof the house. He’s followed by a young couple and the discovery of a three-person family that had been hiding in the cellar all along. Some obnoxious in-fighting creates a little bit of necessary character tension, but this movie belongs to the walking dead. Though slower moving than the zombies we’ve seen in recent years, these ghouls can terrify nonetheless. There’s some flesh eating, a little action, and my favorite scene in which the daughter of the cellar-dwelling mother and father dies from a bite and turns on her parents. Is their anything more shocking than watching a 12-year old munching on Mommy and Daddy? It’s widely known that chocolate syrup was used as blood (remember this is a black and white movie). Romero fumbled the rights to his original masterpiece — a shame considering all the lousy zillionth-generation prints to show up on public domain collections. SFX pioneer, Tom Savini, directed a competent though disappointing remake in 19**). Yet another travesty of a remake (in 3D no less) emerged in 200*. Romero followed with Dawn of the Dead (also remade), Day of the Dead (also remade), Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead. Though spotty with regard to quality, each is worthy of your time for one reason or another. They’re coming to get you, Barbara!
*** 1/2

~ by Number5ive on August 19, 2008.

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