Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Some 30-years ago I witnessed Night for the first time on Pittsburgh’s Chiller Theatre hosted by Chilly Billy. Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, the movies and shows created by Romero were a constant conversational piece. Hell, I used to go Christmas shopping at Monroeville Mall and remember the talk when Dawn of the Dead was filming. However, at the heart of all of those thoughts and conversations was Night of the Living Dead.

I am sure everyone knows the plot. The radiation from a fallen satellite might have caused the recently deceased to rise from the grave and seek the living to use as food. A group of people penned up in an old farmhouse must deal with this situation.

To me, there is no other zombie film that stands the test of time or has as much influence as this classic movie. Every movie fan knows of it and can probably quote it, “They're coming for you, Barbara!” It is history, plain and simple. Before Romero’s masterpiece, Zombie films were a different breed, caught up deep within their supernatural roots vice the plague infested flesh eaters that we enjoy watching devour society.

Today, Night of the Living Dead is a classic in every sense of the word. What Romero created is still being duplicated, or should I say attempted to be duplicated by filmmakers across the globe. Every part of that movie was perfect especially considering timeframe and limited independent budget. The isolated setting in the remote farmhouse, the unknown and diverse cast, the script, plus being filmed in black and white created a tension that plants the seed for lasting terror, unlike the FX driven movies of today (including Romero’s subsequent films) that are mostly forgotten in a few weeks or months.

For this film, the influence it has had on cinema (especially Independent Cinema) does not just stop with zombies. Without it opening the doorway for filmmakers to explore the terrors in suburbia, the slasher genre may never have come to be. Many of the fundamentals in classics such a Halloween and Friday the 13th use the basics Romero created to instill fear and terror on a larger scale.

History has shown that you cannot even remake this movie without the results turning out far from stellar even using the original script (the same cannot be said for Dawn of the Dead, the remake was actually pretty good). That puts Night of the Living Dead in line with the likes of Hitchcock’s Psycho, which also failed miserably as a remake. Thus, reminding Hollywood that some groundbreaking movies should always be left alone. As a fan of Romero and of this classic, I know that zombie movies may have evolved since this was made, but they will never be better or more influential. That is why; Night of the Living Dead should stand as the most definitive film of the genre!

1 comment:

  1. The flick really is the penultimate testament to the great art that can come from low budgets and high passion. It's still the top of my list for near perfect horror filmmaking...