Friday, 14 August 2015

I've Just Seen: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Director: George A. Romero

I started watching Night of the Living Dead and was concerned that it would turnout to have aged terribly. The signs weren't great: the cinematography was grainy and the acting from Barbra (Judith O'Dea) was incredibly hammy. Would this be as unintentionally comic as Invaders From Mars? As the end credits flashed on screen, my opinion had completely changed: this is a game-changing horror film, parent to modern zombie films, and one of the few to actually make me feel ill.

The black-and-white photography works well, providing a verite feel to the story. The film approaches several themes, (race, the nuclear family, women, youth, government, science), and lets the zombies crush all in their path. The use of the media was clever, providing exposition in a palatable way.

If you are spoiler averse, don't read this paragraph. The ending is one of the best in horror (or at least my limited experience of it). While many films usually have one character survive, Night has our hero killed by defensive locals, who think he is a zombie. The matter-of-fact way this is portrayed adds an extra element of horror; I was slightly stunned by what happened.

How modern horror fans would view this film is something I cannot answer. How it was received when first released was detailed in an article by Roger Ebert, and demonstrates how shocking this film was to its first audience in the '60s.


  1. This is a seminal film, one of the true greats of the horror genre. I agree with you on the end, too. I'm always made angry by the end, and I think that's absolutely the point. We should be angered by what happens at the end of the film.

    I love the sequel and to a lesser extent the third movie, but I don't think Romero every really equalled the cojones he displayed here. Night of the Living Dead was a game-changer.

    1. The ending is great because of that frustration: so close and yet everything is lost. I can't think of many other films that end in such a way.

      I will have to see the sequel (it's on the 1001 list anyway, so I shall get to it eventually). It is neigh impossible to top your own peak, and when you peak so early it can only really go downhill from there. Though, of course, it doesn't take away how great this film was, or its impact.

      Have you read Ebert's audience review?

  2. That ending is such a shock, but it also adds an extra dimension to the story. Zombies are not the only monsters around.
    Did you ever see Braindead? There are so many zombie movies around that owe their being to Night of the Living Dead, but that one is a bit out of the ordinary.

    1. I haven't seen Braindead, but I'll add it to the watch-list.
      Films that contrast human cruelty with cruelty from supernatural or real "monsters" are often unnerving, which works well in horror films.