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Night of the Living Dead

George A. Romero's disturbing classic 1968 horror film about a zombie epidemic.

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Brilliant, original, visionary, frightening zombie classic.

  • Oct 15, 2011
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

Two siblings, a brother and a sister, visit a cemetery to place a cross and flowers at their father's grave. The sister seems happy just to do it, while the brother complains "I don't even remember what the man looks like!" He also whines about missing church that day, etc.; he is a rather selfish man. The two prepare to leave the cemetery, but not before they notice a strange man walking amongst the tombs of the dead. The distinctive feature is in the way he walks, and otherwise, he just looks rather sickly. He approaches the sister and immediately attacks. It would seem as if he is trying to grab a quick bite of her flesh. The brother pushes the man away and engages in a short-lived brawl, which ends with the death of him and the eventual escape of the sister from the scene itself. The odd man chases the sister in the car that she arrived in; which she decides to abandon after it breaks down, thus, continuing on foot. This begins "Night of the Living Dead".

The sister (whose name is Barbra, played by Judith O'Dea) finds her way to a seemingly abandoned farmhouse. She sees the man-with-the-funny-walk approaching the building and quickly finds her way inside. She locks all the doors, and believes she is safe, but it would appear that more-and-more strange men and women are making their way - slowly and slowly - towards the house. What do they want? Why do they walk in such an odd manor? And why did that one at the graveyard try to bite Barbra? All is revealed in time, but not until night falls do we learn more about just what's going on.

A black man named Ben (Duane Jones) suddenly appears out of nowhere in his pickup truck, and Barbra allows him entry into the house when she discovers that (1.) he is not one of those strange men and women outside and (2.) those who are amongst them are unexplainably hungry, seemingly for humans themselves. Through some valuable dialogue, and a well-worn premise (that was pretty much invented in this film), we learn that the dead are coming back to life and walking the earth, hunting warm flesh wherever they can find it. We're still left with one question; how exactly are the dead returning as pale, flesh-craving versions of their former selves? Like most of the questions to be asked regarding the film, give it time, and you shall receive an answer as a reward.

There's also a family hiding out in the cellar of the farmhouse, although they are far less cooperative than those who prosper above. Those who live under the floorboards, for the time being, are pissed off big time; their little girl has been bitten by one of the ghouls outside the building and is falling ill. Survival is very much of the fittest; as those below are not intent on striking deals or partnering with the "fairer" breed of characters. And yet another question comes along: what will they do when the undead break down their barricades and invade the insides of the home?

The director of the film, George A. Romero, poses questions intelligent and thoughtful enough to make his film, in a way, kind of brilliant. It's the kind of zombie movie he's been making since this and well into his more recent career; and it never quite gets old. He seems to be using his undead beings - which were to be known as zombies - as devices for social commentary and satire; there's even some political stuff to be found here as well. I appreciate that in a zombie movie; seldom does one such film get around by allowing the zombies to be nothing more than targets for the armed and the dangerous. By no means is this film flowing with enough zombies - disgusting, revolting, or covered in highly complex blood-and-gore make-up effects - to scare most who are in "today's audience", but truly frightening or not, "Night of the Living Dead" is a compelling, original, smart, spooky, and instantly memorable tale of survival in an ever-changing world of horror and dark fascination. It was great for its time- misunderstood, perhaps, but still great - and it's still great now. It was so great that it even spawned a few sequels, all which were (officially) directed by Romero, King of the Zombies. Not all of them were as good as his debut feature was, but nonetheless, this still ranks as one of his best overall. It's scary good.

As with all good - and even great - horror features, this is a film with many specific shots - images - that I shall gladly remember and hold dear. Of course, I love the story and themes behind "Night of the Living Dead", but sometimes we must rely on sight alone to be moved, and believe me; what you see here could very well be remembered for years to come. Consider the scene where Barbra heads upstairs in the farmhouse and discovers the decaying corpse of the (now previous) owner, which makes for one of the film's most frightening and shocking scenes. A classic, in my book. Also, what about the scenes with the pale, white zombies alone? Will they be remembered? Sure. The simplicity in the design for such beings only adds to the feeling we get when we set eyes upon them; and it allows us to consider the difference between a truly scary zombie and one that is simply disgusting to look at. I like both kinds.

What you've got is a fairly well-acted and spectacularly ghoulish experience. I loved every moment of it, and it's now one of my favorite zombie films of all time. Why wouldn't it be? When he had his earlier, and overall BETTER days, George Romero could make some pretty interesting stuff. The same cannot be said about a good deal of his newer works, but the fact that he was once able to make a film as good (and iconic) as this one on such a low, shoestring budget, is impressive and admirable. I can only hope that my first film - if I ever get to that - meet such a fate. But if he did it, then so can I; or at least that's the positive way to see it. I'm sure Romero would appreciate my appreciation. All friendly, respectable directors do; and the filmmaker here seems like a fun-loving guy who simply enjoys playing around with dead things. He isn't quite twisted; but he can make the grotesque into the quietly artistic, and in the end, I think we all know that very few directors can do that.

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October 15, 2011
wow....thanks for the wonderful review! How'd you feel about the remake in the late 80's or 90's?
 
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More Night of the Living Dead reviews
review by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
What Prompted You to write a Review?   This is possibly one of the best if not the best zombie movie ever made. Night of the living dead will always have a special place in my heart.        How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?   This is the classic story of what happens when the dead arise from the grave in search of live human brains to feed on. It was a very well written story, the acting has a bit of cheese factor but it works for this type of movie.   …
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Cult Cinema
Caption
Perhaps one of the greatest horror films ever made and a wonderful example of stylish indie filmmaking. Romero made a zombie movie that defined an entire sub-genre, shocked audiences and critics with its stark realism and violence, and has gone on to become a seminal cult classic. If you're faint of heart, then avoid this film as it is dark, gory, and designed to unnerve viewers. "They're coming to get you, Barbra!"    
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
a classic, we used to watch this on friday nights when i was in high school.
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The original zombie movie. Quite a fantastic one also
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
saw it as a kid and it still creeps me out
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
I love it
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
60s version needs more thrill
review by . May 13, 2009
What makes this movie work so well is that it relies on real scarry creatures, eerie direction and great use of black and white film while later versions relied on gory special effect body mutilations.  The movie starts right out with a funeral in a grave yard. A man and his sister are visiting their mother's grave and the woman is quite unnerved about being in the graveyard. The man starts to play on her uneasiness saying things like "Barbara, they're coming to get you Barbara." Suddenly …
review by . May 19, 2009
Night of the Living Dead is the one that spawned several sequels (some official others not) and hundreds of knock-offs. The movie takes place in the Pittsburgh countryside. Innocently enough a brother and sister are visiting their father's grave site when they encounter a strange individual. He attacks and kills the brother whilst the sister flees the scene. She stumbles into a country farm house that will later become a house of horrors. Meanwhile a young black man seeks safety inside the house …
review by . October 29, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
In 1968 George A. Romero took the world by storm with an incredibly violent, low-budget, horror film that introduced what would grow to be the modern day interpretation of the living dead (referred to as zombies by most modern day moviegoers). These creatures are the reanimated corpses of the recently deceased, they shuffle, moan and eat the flesh of the living, and the only ways to kill them being incineration and a fatal blow to the head (via gunshot or clubbing). Naturally these aspects would …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #2
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

Wiki

The first film of George A. Romero's Dead series and John Russo's Living Dead series.

John Russo wrote a novelization of the film.

The film is public domain because the filmmakers failed to put a copyright on the original film print.

John Russo produced a 30th Anniversary edition of the film that incorporated newly shot footage, edits and a original soundtrack replacing the previous stock music that was used as a soundtrack.  The new edition also spawned the sequel Children of the Living Dead.

The original budget was $114,000 and it was shot on 35mm.
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Details

Director: George A. Romero
Genre: Horror
Release Date: October 1, 1968
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Latent Image, Good Times Video, Anchor Bay Entertainment
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