A low-budget zombie flick that wasn't suppose to turn out to be anything, ended up being one the most revolutionary films in the horror genre. Night Of The Living Dead was a huge success, and is the film that made zombie films a respectable genre. As most horror films, Night Of The Living Dead was harshly criticised when originally released, but overtime has gained worldwide acclaim. George A. Romero dubut film was only the beginning of a lifelong career of zombie films. Night Of The Living Dead was the film that gained both Romero, and zombie films great popularity. Romero has spent the rest of his career making more Dead films, and making sure zombie films keep their popularity.
When going into this movie I was expecting a very corny and cliche film, but I was shocked by how fresh and original it was, and I am saying this in 2010 when horror films get a very bad rep. Romero created a horror masterpiece with this film. It has lost some of its effect, also is plagued by a low-budget and time period. But when you look back on this film today you can tell right away how important it was, and still is. Night Of The Living Dead has to be considered great. Why you ask? Because it was made in 1968, and almost 43-years-later it is still a film anybody could watch and still be terrified.
It seems like everytime the zombie genre is about to disappear a fresh original new zombie film comes, and the genre comes back like it had never left. Zach Snyder's remake of the George A. Romero classic Dawn of the Dead and Edgar Wright's Shaun Of The Dead (2004) brought new life into the genre at the start of turn of the century. And when zombie films were once again going throught a rough patch, Ruben Fleiscer's Zombieland (2009) once again brought back the genre in 2009. Night Of The Living Dead didn't bring back the genre, it introduced it. There had been other zombie films prior like, White Zombie (1932), Bury Me Alive (1957), and The Horror Of Party Beach (1964). But no film had the impact of the zombie genre, and also horror films like Night Of The Living Dead.
Barbara (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) are in rural Pennsylvania to visit Barbara's father's grave. They are attacked by a group of men who were acting very strange. Terrified, Barbara hides in an abandoned house. Ben (Duane Jones), arrives and also hides in the house. They are suprised when they meet a group of people who were hiding in the basement. Among the group is, Harry (Karl Hardman) and Helen Cooper (Marilyn Eastman), their daughter Karen (Kyra Schon), and a teenage couple Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley). They all must work together to survive as a very horrific things happen throughout the country. Violent "ghouls" that look like ordinary people are killing and eating their victims. The reason for this outbreak is unknown.
One of the suprising hightlights of this film is the very clever political references throughout. I will not go into deatail because I do not want to ruin the experience. Horror films have always been known to incorporate political struggles, most failing. Night Of The Living Dead is considered "culturally signifiant" and rightfully so. Released in 1968, during the heart of the Vietnam War. Ironically its relation to the Vietnam War was the recurring point of its criticism. The fact that Night Of The Living Dead is a zombie film and also significant to its time period only adds to its legacy.
Like most zombie/horror films Night Of The Living Dead does not have any memorable acting, but unlike most horror films it doesn't feauture really any bad acting (unless perhaps Judith O'Dea's very annoying performance). Duane Jones as Ben is the most cliche perfomance, but is also the strongest. Ben is the tough leader who fells he knows exactly what is right for everyone, Duane Jones does a good job though. Karl Hardman as Harry Cooper is also a cliche role but he also does a very good job. The acting is not superb, but chilling storyline and scares make the performances almost futile.
Night Of The Living Dead did very well in the box office, making 42 million worldwide ($689,716,923 in 2008 dollars). This film has a good storyline and plenty of scares. It is slow at times, but even then confrontations between characters will draw in viewers. Romero's direction is very suspenseful and his camera movement has been the inspiration for many directors including, John Carpenter (Halloween)and Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The zombies are very creepy and the black-and-white makes them even more terrifying. Romero creates a very realistic looking zombie film with plenty of scares. He does not need to try too hard to get the scares, so he is able to also create a very original storyline. Romero has a natural gift for creating well made, original zombie films without losing any scares.