Night of the Living Dead Review
Directed by George A. Romero
Zombies before they were known as zombies. George A. Romero brought fear and tension through stiff, slow-moving undead coming to eat your flesh. The zombie sub-genre of horror has not been explored by me as much as the other sub-genres. Zombies have been avoided by me in the horror genre for many years without any real reason behind the avoidance. But once I put in the zombie massacre of Night of the Living Dead, I will definitely be checking out the other films by George A. Romero.
Night of the Living Dead tells the story of several strangers who struggle desperately against hordes of the walking undead for a single night. In the beginning, siblings John and Barbra travel to the cemetery where their father is buried for the yearly anniversary of his death.
John ignores the strange disturbance on the radio, mentioning technical difficulties before he and his sister Barbra walk to their father’s grave. Barbra is frightened by John who recounts their childhood when he scared her by jumping out from behind the tree in the cemetery. Barbra is not amused, nor is she happy with her brother when he brings an unsuspecting man walking toward them into his teasing. The unsuspecting man turns out to be the first walking undead, attacking Barbra before John defends her.
Barbra runs from the undead man, frightened and hysterical as she manages to lock herself in their car. However, John has the keys and the undead man is relentless when trying to get a hold of her once again. The scene inside the car was quite thrilling because the majority of it was shot in Barbra’s point of view, causing the viewer to sense the chaos and fear of the scene. Barbra escapes, running to an abandoned farm-house where she locks herself away from the moaning undead man.
Barbra is joined by Ben, who arrives at the farm-house in a truck from an accident caused by undead men and women that begin surrounding the house. Barbra is hysterical, and Ben can only deal with her by knocking her out to protect her from herself. Barbra wanted to run out there and find her brother, who is either dead or one of the walking undead. Ben barricades them inside the farm-house without assistance, leaving Barbra alone and deadly quiet downstairs before her screams bring him back to her.
Ben finds an older man and a younger man in the living room, the two men were hiding in the cellar behind barricades and locks when Barbra had arrived at the farm-house. Mr. Cooper and Tom are not alone, but the women (Mrs. Cooper, Karen Cooper, and Judy) stay in the safety of the cellar. Listening to the radio and watching the television, the strangers learn that the cause of the walking undead is some form of strange radiation. Mentioning the walking undead, the newscaster calls them ghouls and instructs viewers on the method of killing them, “Kill the brain, kill the ghoul.”
The strangers form a plan, regardless of Mr. Cooper and his sniveling whining, to refuel the truck and travel to the nearest base of safety in a nearby town. But the plan fails horribly, resulting in Tom and Judy’s death in the burning truck and Ben fighting singlehandedly to get back into the farm-house. Mr. Cooper does not let Ben back into the farm-house, which causes Ben to lash out against Mr. Cooper by shooting him.
Ben ends up being the only survivor after the event of the night. Karen Cooper had been bitten before the Cooper family arrived at the farm-house, the child turned against her father and her mother before coming after Ben. Barbra was pulled into the mob of walking undead by her newly risen brother John. Surviving the night, Ben comes out of the cellar to find the authorities in the farm-house yard. Ben is shot, his movements sluggish and he was mistaken for one of the ghouls.
Nothing really prepared me for Night of the Living Dead. It was tension-filled and those zombies were classic, slow-moving and relentless. Zombies work so effectively because there are so many of those undead bastards, a simple mob of angry people can hurt others… What happens when that mob turns out to be flesh-eating, walking undead? It is a helluva lot more messy!
Other than Mr. Cooper and his sniveling whining, the characters were enjoyably frightened and tough-as-nails when dealing with the zombie massacre. Barbra was either utterly hysterical or nearly comatose in her fright, but she was undeniably the favored character for me. I figured that Ben was going to be shot once the authorities started shooting anything that moved slowly outside of the farm-house, poor Ben!
Night of the Living Dead was disturbing and the closeup scenes of the zombies eating the flesh of Tom and Judy was subtly grotesque. It certainly influenced the horror genre, specifically the zombie sub-genre, bringing something frighteningly new to the masses. Every one of those strangers was trying to survive, none of them made it. Night of the Living Dead is the zombie film that spawned so many other zombie films, both good and bad, to the horror genre. Thank you, George A. Romero!