Today is day twenty six of my Horror Movie Marathon which only means one thing. Marathon fatigue is definitely setting in. Thirty one days of horror movies can do a lot to a man. The toll it is has on you is downright damning. I’m just so tired and weak because I don’t get enough sleep. You have no idea what these marathons do to someone like me. So much posting on horror movies leaves a man feeling lost and hopeless. All the bloodshed and chaos, after a while things start too… infect the mind. Images flashing before my eyes! I can’t tell what is real and what isn’t there. I’m already a father of three and I have a wife. I can’t be adding these stupid marathons to my list of priorities. My eyes look dark and my skin is starting to change color and… it’s starting to smell. My wife says “take a shower” but she doesn’t understand. I’m changing into something. My hearts pace is slowing and I can feel the icy cold bite of death creeping in on me. But I like it!
To be honest my wife has been looking more attractive to me. Not necessarily in the sexual manner but more in the… edible manner. Man she smells so good! Maybe I could take one little bite because she looks so good. I can smell the muscles and organs within. Til death do us part right? What am I talking about? What is happening to me? I’m slowly, changing into… a flesh eating zombie! Soon I will roam the earth as a lifeless cold figure in pursuit of human flesh! It’s as I feared I’m turning and there isn’t anything I can do about it! I am bound to be a curse on mankind just like it is in the movie Night of The Living Dead!
Night of The Living Dead is a 1968 film directed by George A. Romero and John Russo. It stars Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea. The movie had a budget of $114,000 and since he attended Carnegie Mellon University Mel, George Romero would shoot the film just outside the city. With his friends John Russo and Russell Steiner they would start Image Ten and fund the movie out of pocket. After the untitled story that was referred simply as Monster Flick began progressing it changed drastically from what was a sci-fi alien movie to a film exclusively about flesh eating corpses.
The movie would premier on October 1st at the Fulton Theater in Pittsburgh. It brought in a large number of teen and adolescents because filming ratings were not around yet. So kids were able to purchase tickets but not ready for the violence and gore. People were stunned and remained silent during the film. While most horror films during that time were mildly tame and goofy, Night of The Living Dead would be an entirely different subject matter. With flesh eating corpses, gore and sheer brutality and unfortunate end for our hero. Viewers weren’t really ready for such a spectacle. The movie would go on to provoke mass debate on movie censorship and a rating system for young viewers.
After its release Night of The Living Dead would soon become the most profitable horror film to be produced by an independent creator. It would raise nearly fifteen million after just a decade and be translated into twenty five languages and reach multiple countries across the world. However not all critics enjoyed the movie.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times ripped the film despite its popular reception. He called the dialogue and background music “hollow” and the acting done by none professionals. He even says the movie was made by “some people” as a knock on Romero’s independent status. What a tool bag!
There are only certain films that come along every once in a while and completely alter the course of horror. These are always the films that brake the mold and change the way we see horror. Either they’re styled differently or take on new and fresh subject matters Although Night of The Living Dead is not the first zombie film, it is a movie that bridges the gap between the Silver age and Bronze age of horror. Movies during the Silver Age of film were becoming bland and dull. Not all too scary and lacking any real heart when it comes to scaring an audience. By the time Night of The Living Dead made its appearance, people weren’t all too afraid of the William Castle films like House on Haunted Hill or The Tingler. Giant bug movies like Them! weren’t as impactful. Although they are good movies and deserve recognition, they simply lost their effect on audiences. Cheap scares were becoming what they really were… cheap. So interest was dwindling like it does at the end of every age of horror.
But Night of The Living Dead changed everything! Here comes this movie that doesn’t dick around like the movies before. Instead of some dumb looking fake monster, we have real people and they’re zombies. They eat human flesh and can’t be stopped unless shot in the head. They endlessly march on until everyone is dead and eaten. They’re more terrifying and splendid because what we fear most is ourselves being the monsters. No movie did this, everything was either a giant evil monster or something out of this world. Things that didn’t exist. But corpses do exist and the idea that we would all become a part of the horde is terrifying.
They outnumber us and with the right pixy dust can reign terror upon us! The zombies weren’t controlled like servant zombies in 1932’s White Zombie. They went where ever they wanted and didn’t need any explanation. There is no middle movie science lecture for why things are happening. We take a group of unknown survivors experiencing the outbreak in the middle of nowhere. There are no government officials or scientists. No Super Man hero that can fight his way out. Instead we’re given a hero that is as lost and scared as you and I would be.
The movie is simple and gives us characters that are real and relatable. As the night of terror goes on they begin turning on one another. They fail to survive because of their inability to work together. They can’t put their petty differences aside and tackle the real problems. The movie tackles the race problems that were so prevalent during this time. It must have shocked viewers to see a movie feature the protagonist Ben played by Duane Jones. During the movie Ben and Harry are instantly at odds with one another. There isn’t any racist dialogue but it’s implied the problem Harry has with Ben is because of skin color. This social commentary wasn’t as subtle as something like “radiation making large killer bugs” or Frankenstein being accepted. Night of The Living Dead was risky and bold in its attempts and for this changed what the horror genre means. Even the end of this movie is a risky step! Most movies ended with the hero getting the girl and riding off into the sunset. But this! This sinks your heart as Ben is walking through the house and is shot from a distance. The shooters seem to mistake Ben for a zombie and merely claim it on their quota for zombie kills. But there is this unanswered question if Ben was killed out of mistaken identity or was it out of racist motives. It’s up for you to decide I guess.
The movie is a delight and one every horror fanatic must watch. I always love watching this movie late at night with the lights off. The “hollow” sounds and eerie camera work are wonderful and pull you into the story. Lines like “They’re coming to get you Barbara” are embedded in my memory and the visuals of the gore are presented brilliantly. There are countless amounts of zombie films, all of which are inspired by this one movie. But very few are even on the same level. Romero would go on to film more of his dead series and be successful. Dawn of The Dead, Day of The Dead, Land of The Dead are all awesome movies and make his zombie apocalypse larger and richer. Each movie tackles its own social commentary like consumerism and big brother government. Which is why the Romero zombie films are so awesome. You can enjoy Night of The Living Dead for the horror and ensuing chaos but there is deep meaning behind the events unfolding. It’s a testament to how horror can challenge us with ideas and new ways of thinking.
This might very well be the first bronze age horror movie that would encourage creators to push the horror meter more and more. Without Night of The Living Dead and what George Romero gave us then films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween or Evil Dead would never have happened. It is the movie that took that first step and encouraged an age of horror that to this day has never been beaten. This is why I choose Night Of the Living Dead for day twenty six for my Horror Movie Marathon!