Wednesday, February 9, 2011

491. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: George A. Romero, John A. Russo
Main Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne


Working my way through the Netflix streaming catalog of movies that I need to watch, I decided to check out "Night of the Living Dead", on this very cold, dreary, February day in southwestern PA...where, as a matter of fact, this film is set and filmed.

Barbara (O'Dea) and her brother Johnny have decided to spend their Sunday (unwillingly) driving 200 miles to the cemetery where their father is buried to place a wreath on his grave. While in the cemetery, a man approaches them and begins to attack. Barbara gets away, but Johnny gets into a tussle with the "man" and is knocked unconscious when his head hits a grave marker. The man, who it later turns out is actually a zombie, turns his attention to Barbara, but she manages to escape to a nearby farmhouse. Soon after, night falls and she is joined by Ben (Jones), another human seeking refuge from the monsters that lurk outdoors. Ben is the voice of reason, as Barbara is in shock and out of her mind. Ben realizes that the doors and windows need to be boarded up and without questioning the origin of the monsters, does what he has to do to survive. Later, Ben and Barbara are joined by Harry (Hardman) & Helen (Eastman) and Tom (Wayne) & Judy, who have been holed up in the cellar the entire time. Harry and Helen are married with a hurt child who is also on board and Tom and Judy seem to be a newlywed couple. Harry and Ben clash, as they try to think of the best way to survive and last the longest. Do they stay upstairs, where they'll hear help arrive (if it arrives) or do they lock themselves in the cellar, where they'll be more secure?


Believe it or not, this is actually the first time that I ever saw the original "Night of the Living Dead", even more surprising due to the fact that it was filmed very near to where I live and grew up, which you think would've peaked my interest. I've always loved movies that take a group of people, put them in a small setting and give them a problem and the tension is even more relevant, considering the size of this groups problem. Not only a horror movie, but "Night of the Living Dead" is also a very well put together character study, as we see different types of people forced to be enclosed with one another and conflict arises. You have the family man, with the fatherly instincts, who thinks he is always right. You have Ben, who worked to board the old farmhouse up and get it secure so that he and Barbara could survive and who is also the voice of reason when hot heads prevail. You have Barbara, who is totally off her rocker, and so the characters are forced to deal with her and ultimately are forced to band together as a group and think of a strategy that will help them live.

I liked the movie, and with a little research found that the budget was a mere $114,000, which makes me admire it even more. Of course it's not the greatest looking of all films, but the worn out picture quality fit in well with the fictional crisis and actually enhanced the experience for me. I also loved the ending, despite the fact that it was tragic. Too many times do we see cliche's, where everything just ends up working out for the best. It was a breath of fresh air to see Romero go in the opposite direction of the cliche ending, in a time before it was even a cliche. Another great thing to see, that kind of goes hand in hand with the small budget, was the relative no name cast that Romero assembled and how terrific of a job they all did. You can actually tell that everyone on board wanted the film to be a success, as it comes out in their performances. A success it was, as now it's (apparently) one of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

RATING: 7/10 I'll have to check out Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead and all of the other dead Romero films when I get some free time.


February 9, 2011 6:30pm


  1. What a shift of gear inbetween all the Woody films!
    Despite myself, I do enjoy older B grade horror. Much better that blood and gore fests.. and there are more than enough of those in this list thank you.
    I also liked that this has something more to to it than just ripping people up and eating them.. or am I trying to hard to find social significance in it? I get confused between which '.. of the deads' I've seen.. Isn't @Dawn of..' the shopping mall one?
    So once youve seen at least one more.. will you be trying 'Saun of the Dead?'

  2. Have already tried "Shaun of the Dead" and LOVE it. I really wish it was in the book too. As far as "Night of the Living Dead" goes, it's definitely more than just blood, guts and gore...There's also that survival aspect of the whole thing and how people react when they're forced to interact with others and be barricaded in a house with them.

  3. Glad you liked 'Shaun'... Just be aware, don't be fooled by how good it is to try 'Run Fat Boy, run' or 'Hot Fuzz'
    I'm surprised that you like a zombie film, yet dislike Dracula.. I think Dracula films have more to them, whilst Zombies are (to me)often just an excuse for blood and guts... Oh well...

  4. I also really enjoyed "Run Fatboy Run" and "Hot Fuzz" and actually just received the Complete Series of "Spaced" as a Christmas gift, yet I haven't had the chance to check it out yet. As far as "Dracula" goes, it just seems to medievil for me and too steeped in mythology. I like Night of the Living Dead because it's a zombie story, but more importantly to me, it's a survivor story.


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