Retro Reviews: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This early horror classic, although produced on a budget of $114,000 has over the years reached cult status. Today’s popular zombie culture has evolved from this early depiction of dead/undead monsters slowly trudging to feed on the living!

Retro Reviews: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Wikipedia claims the film Night of the Living Dead (1968) did see wild success to the tune of $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. Additionally, it has enjoyed the prestige of being selected by the Library of Congress for the preservation in the National Film Registry and has been named. “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant”

Widely criticized at its release for the excessive gore- especially in 1968- it had been wisely filmed in black and white. A full colour version would be even more gruesome and hard to take.

The plot is fairly simple. A brother and sister travel to visit their father’s grave in the Pennsylvania countryside. Suddenly, the sister is attacked by a weird, slow-moving man, the first of the ghouls. She escapes and finally arrives at a farmhouse where others are hiding from the flesh-eating creatures. The story goes on to see how they fight off these terrifying, and seemingly, never-ending march of zombies.

From a news report on a TV they came across, the little human group of captives hiding out in the farmhouse, hear that yes, this wave of mass murder is sweeping across the eastern United States. The recently deceased have come to life and are feeding off the flesh of the living! The reports mention that scientists and other experts just don’t know what the cause could be except for the speculation of one lone scientist. He suspects it just might be the result of radioactivity from a recent space probe. Apparently the probe returned from a little trip to Venus and was purposely blown up when the radiation was detected and radiation must have gotten into the Earth’s atmosphere? But then isn’t it always radiation or something similar from space?

The movie goes on in all its gory details showing the plight of the people who find themselves trapped in the little farmhouse. I don’t want to give anything away at this point so there will be no spoilers here. Suffice it to say it has a little shock of an ending.

Night of the Living dead must have set a good many zombie guidelines, as well. Because further reports tell the farm clan that the only way to kill these “walking dead” is a sharp hit to the head or a gunshot to the forehead- sound familiar? However, in this movie fire was a handy tool against them too!

The film was directed by George A. Romero, who went on to direct the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead in !978. The notable cast are Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman,Judith Ridley and Keith Wayne. Are these zombies the great grandparents of today’s “Walking Dead” and the Z Nation creatures? The movie did popularize the creeping mass of early “ghouls” like no other film. Night of the Living Dead, although created many years ago, would do well today, even up against the present zombie phenomenon. It actually kicked off a craze of dressing up like these ghastly persons for parties and conventions. Widely criticized at its release for the excessive gore. The film is in black and white- probably because it would be even more gruesome in colour.

These horrific hulks of heaving humanity did enjoy great success from this film. In fact, zombies would forever more become the new go-to horror character, giving folks a greater selection from just ho-hum vampires and ghosts.

And when we peruse the titles of today’s trending books, movies, TV shows, etc. it looks like the zombie will be trudging, slowly, relentlessly toward us for a long time to come. I give the film an 8/10 for great groundbreaking cinema with a praiseworthy lighting, mood and storyline.

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  1. Andria Perry
    • Lin Jenkinson

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