Directed by: George A. Romero
Starring: Duane Jones (Ben), Judith O’Dea (Barbra), Karl Hardman (Harry), Marilyn Eastman (Helen), Keith Wayne (Tom), Judith Ridley (Judy), Kyra Schon (Karen)
Country: USA; Effed Up American Movies
Genres: Zombies, Gruesome
Plot – Spoilers:
The landmark film widely credited as the first modern zombie movie, apart from bending the traditional by featuring a black man in the lead.
Radiation was a common go-to in the ’60s for weird shit happening, and here too, some vague radiation has caused the recently deceased to awaken and crave live human flesh. The zombies are scared of fire and can be put down by shattering their brains with a bullet or a hard object. But these facts take a while to be figured out, and in the meantime, the living dead stumble around, chewing on anyone they can find.
Barbra and her brother first encounter one of the zombies at a cemetery. From the enthusiastic manner in which Barbra runs, you know she’s going to have a meaningful role written out for her, like the best classic horror generally did. After making her way to a farmhouse where she’s joined by this other guy Ben, Barbra spends most of the rest of her time in a terrorized stupor, being absolutely unhelpful to Ben in fighting the zombies. Her catatonic instances of being helpful lend comedy to the duo’s dire situation – like when she potters around helpfully folding a tablecloth, or gently holds the boards as he hammers them in. This is all deliberate from Romero of course, to add to the frustration and impending futility of keeping the living dead out.
Then, more colorful characters who’ve been hiding in the cellar join the two and tensions within the group rise.
Night of the Living Dead was most certainly meant to include political statements. The black actor as the character Ben who almost makes it, his manner of death, the fact that Ben himself might be a little shady – he claims to have found the truck at a diner and had apparently jumped in to listen to the radio…