Night of the Living Dead (1968) Archive Review

Director: George A. Romero

Writers: John A. Russo, George A. Romero

Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman

RATING: 4 Stars

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Barbra and Johnny visit their father’s grave in a remote cemetery when they are suddenly set upon by zombies. Barbra manages to get away and takes refuge in what seems to be an abandoned farm house. She is soon joined by Ben who stopped at the house in need of gas. Beset by the walking dead all around them Ben does his best to secure the doors and windows. The news reports are grim however with creatures returning to life everywhere. Barbra and Ben are surprised when they realize there are 5 people hiding out in the basement: Harry, Helen and Karen Cooper; and a young couple, Tom and Judy. Dissensions sets in almost immediately with Harry Cooper wanting to be in charge. As their situation deteriorates, their chances of surviving the night lessen minute by minute. – From IMDB

“They’re coming to get you Barbara” may be one of the most iconic lines in horror movie history, and quite possibly one of my favourites. With this film, made on a shoestring budget, Romero not only revolutionised the horror genre, but kickstarted a whole franchise, and bore a legion of fans that would adore his films for decades to come. And for good reason.

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Some social stereotypes aside, in film making terms, I feel like this film has aged pretty well. It never relied on a lot of effects, not even practical ones, cue to it’s tiny budget I assume, so there really isn’t any tell tale signs to age it. It is still just as impressive to see now as it was when it was released, probably more so, as with hindsight we can appreciate how well it stands up compared to a lot of other films made at that time. And that is because the set up and execution of the film are all very simple. Its a bunch of scared people, in one building for the majority of the time, and the zombies are just regular actors with some creepy looking make-up. Simple plan. Excellently pulled off.

Some of the scenes in this films are still harrowing to watch. When the mother goes down into the cellar and discovers what has become of her sick child. When Barbara gets pulled into the swarm by her once brother johnny. And of course that shocking and chilling last scene where Ben meets his sad end. For a film that shows very little of the death and violence that is going on around them, this film is way scarier and more chilling than it has any right to be.

OK, yes, Barbara constant whining and wailing does get a little tedious, and the thinly veiled racism from Harry towards Ben is a real blight upon his character, but there is a reason why this film is an absolute classic. It is perfect for this time of year, a great pick for Spooky season, And I highly recommend you pick it up for your Halloween movie night!

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