Synopsis – A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a horde of flesh-eating ghouls that are ravaging the East Coast of the United States – Night of the Living Dead.
Director – George A. Romero
Released – 1968
Night of the Living Dead was groundbreaking for a couple of reasons. Not only did it change the course of Zombie movies forever. Before they were slaves, under the control of an evil master in some exotic location, now we were treated to the true horror of an almost unstoppable hoard of aimless killing machines. But also the choice to cast an African-American (Duane Jones) as the lead and fill the plot with racial and political themes was a brave choice for the ’60s, but a welcome one.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the film was how far Romero managed to stretch the low-budget without it affecting the quality of the movie. For an independent production, Night of the Living Dead was a creepy and realistic horror, with the choice to film in black & white done because of budget constraints but ended up making the production more atmospheric, reminiscent of the Universal creature features from the ’30/’40’s such as The Mummy and Dracula.
In terms of the plot, Romero kept things simple, choosing to focus on a small group of people caught up in a horrifying situation without attempting to explain how this situation came about. It’s one of the main reasons why Night of the Living Dead, although I must admit after all these years and seen through a modern lens, it’s hard to find the movie particularly scary or that tense, though the gore remains good and pretty shocking for ’60’s standards.
But one thing that remains just as shocking today as it must have been back in 68 is the ending, now, I’m not going to get into spoilers, but Romero was clearly aware of how hard life was like for black people in America and even in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, the greatest threat remains bigotry and if anything, it gets worse.
Night of the Living Dead is a classic of the horror genre. Is it perfect? No. Is it a little dated? Sure. But in the end, George A. Romero created a simple monster movie that ended up changing the course of zombie movies forever. It also happens to be one of the few films where the use of black & white enhanced the production, making it much creepier and entirely more memorable.