Director: George Romero
Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne
If it doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead!
The dead are starting to come back to life and attacks people and eat their flesh. Barbra has been able to escape from a raging mad zombie at the local cemetery and finds refuge at a house nearby. She finds a half-eaten corpse in the house and runs out of it, only to be found by Ben who comforts her and brings her inside for safety. There are more people inside the house and together they gotta keep each other safe from the ever-growing horde of zombies that are roaming outside the house.
I will gladly admit that it is not easy to try to review the George Romero zombie movies these days. The original trilogy has been a part of my horror craze since I was little and I’ve probably seen Dawn of the Dead nearly 50 times by now and I hold them all dear to my heart. Night of the Living Dead is one of the most influential horror movies of all time, but if you look at it with a critics eye, does it deserve to be called one of the best?
Short answer is, no. It is a great movie, even excellent but it’s not a flawless or top 10 horror movie of all time for me, regardless of how much I still enjoy it after all these years. It is quite slow at times, some of the acting is terrible and the zombies doesn’t behave very zombielike throughout the movie.
Now, before I loose my right to call myself a horror fan, it’s amazing what Romero and his crew did with this movie. The movie looks absolutely great and some of the scenes with the zombies outside of the house is quite haunting. The dreadful feel of the “zombie apocalypse” had not been done like this before, which also caused it to become so influential during the years. There is a lot of grim stuff here that is shocking for its time, including gore, nudity and even a child killing her mother in a nasty little scene. The movie also has some cheap sounded library music that actually is great and adds a lot of atmosphere to the film.
It’s interesting to see how the zombies act here since the general thoughts of how Romero’s zombies act is slow walking, grunting and basically dead flesh wandering around on instinct looking after meat to devour. The very first, and famous, zombie we see (played by Bill Hinzman) attempts to run after Barbra and also picks up a stone and uses it as a tool to break the window on her car. They also steer away from the torch that Ben holds for protection later in the movie, in the newer ones the zombies would simply not understand the danger and still walk towards him and try to eat him.
The acting is very uneven. Duane Jones is quite good as our main hero Ben. His role marked the first time an African-American actor was cast as a star of a horror film, something that Romero has said was not intentional and that the part was written with a white character in his mind. Judith O’Dea plays the main woman Barbra and she is not very good. She sits and stares out in the air, supposedly in the state of shock during almost the entire movie. The rest is at best average, except Keith Wayne who was dreadful as Tom. To his defence, he probably never aspired to be an actor at all and this was the only role he ever did.
Night of the Living Dead deserves the respect it has gotten and is a great low budget horror film. It is a classic and should be seen by any horror fan, period. It launched one of the best directors in this genre of all time, it shocked the viewers when it came out and it is still a very enjoyable film to watch today.