Monday, October 14, 2013

210 of 1001 Movies: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George A. Romero is like the ruler of zombie movies. He paved the way in popularizing the monsters in movies, and was an inspiration for many horror movies to follow. At the time audiences were terrified by the gory scenes. While it seems Romero was still establishing what a zombie was, even to himself, the creatures are still terrifying. Also, if you're someone who watches The Walking Dead and thinks they were one of the first to explore that during a zombie apocalypse your worst fear just might be other living people, then you're wrong. Romero tackles the attachment to the dead loved ones by the living and explores the dangers of paranoia that other humans have began to live in.

Summary: Barbara and her brother, Johnny, are out in the countryside to visit their father's grave. After a strange man attacks them it leaves  Johnny dead, and Barbara on the run. Barbara finds a farmhouse where she hides, and also meets Ben. He has been forced to park there after his car has run out of gas. These two and the people they meet will not only have to survive the living dead that is stalking them, but also the people they meet and each other.

Acting: Night of the Living Dead stars a mix of actors getting their first break and stage actors. The movie is famous for being one of the first movies to be led by an African American actor, Duane Jones, as Ben. He comes out as the most likable character of the cast as Ben is the most resourceful of the group, and seems to be the only one trying to make logical decisions. Judith O'Dea is Barbara, and her character is intriguing but one of the more poorly acted as well. She is very over the top in her portrayal of a woman who has lost her mind to realities of the zombie invasion that has happened, and the loss she suffered because of it. There are other characters like Harry, Helen, Tom, and Judy, but they are minor in comparison to the two leads, but provide may interesting parts themselves.

Filming: The shots from Romero get quite creative. It's more artsy than a lot of horror movies I've seen. The movie has been restored to be viewed in color, but the version I had was black and white, and honestly I believe that is the way it should be watched. The black and white shots add to the angles he zooms into on the faces. Plus, there are some scenes that just look so eerie, and I can't imagine the zombies looking as creepy in color.

Plot: The plot builds the character development a lot better than I expected. The first moments are sort o rough, and while I loved the scene in the graveyard it does make you think this might just be a typical horror movie. The ending for me what was really unsettling. I had saw a movie as dark as this one prior to 1968, while I'm sure they existed it was more uncommon for movies to end as dark as this one did. I think people were still adjusted to the 50's idea of film. Even Bigger Than Life and Rebel Without A Cause had these lighter notes they ended on that seemed in stark contrast from the dark nature of the rest of the movie (both movies from Nicholas Ray). It just seemed movies weren't quite prepared for the ending this one led to. It also leads you into some much heavier conversations than the rest of the movie was setting up about humanity, race, and more.

Night of the Living Dead shows what horrors can bring out in people, and it usually looks to be the worst. It's a battle for power, merciless killings, and people holding on to their loved ones in fear of letting go. It's one of the first movies to show that when driven into dark territory it won't end well for everyone. There are scenes that disturbed the crowd who first viewed the movie. For Halloween it's the perfect fit if you're looking for one to view. Just when you think things are lightening up they get real dark again.

Rating 8 of 10.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) on IMDb

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