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Night of the Living Dead

Review #217, Movie #288
Night Of The Living Dead

Year Of Release

George A Romero

Karl Hardman, Russell Streiner

George A Romero, John A Russo

Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille and Kyra Schon

The reason Night was initially made was that Romero, Russo and Streiner, who had their own production company were growing bored with making commercials and decided that Hollywood’s “thirst” for bizarre films was the best way to go.

Upon raising $6,000 between themselves and 7 other people they went to work, only to find that more money was needed. Eventually they pooled what they had and raised $114,000 for the film under the name Image Ten Productions due to the 10 production members who were involved.

Most of the Zombified locals in the film are friends and family of George A Romero and other members of Image Ten, with the low budget being spent mainly on makeup effects and some helicopter shots. The small budget also lead to Romero using cheap 35mm black and white film, which in the end, actually makes the film look more memorable.


Barbra and her Brother Johnny go to the cemetery on their annual visit to see their Father.
When strangely acting people appear in the distance, Johnny teases Barbra about how they're "after her"...

But Johnny was more right than they would hope when these people suddenly attack them, and Barbra has to flee for her life...

OK, it's very easy just to harp on about how this film is a Classic, and I will be at some point...

However, the film is packed with a number of inconsistencies, continuity errors, and a few naïve mistakes and almost experimental filmmaking in terms of being one of the earliest creature features.

But putting that aside, this film is the Granddaddy of the modern Horror Genre and gave movie fans the Zombie Genre to boot.

Copied many a time, the original Resident Evil videogame for a start, using the "Haunted House" theme is a prime example along with Shyamalan's Signs... but also, what was seen at the time as a brave move in casting.
Duane Jones as the Hero Ben was controversial at the time, yet according to Romero, he was cast simply due to his audition being the best. In Hindsight, Romero broke the mould and moved cinematic taboos beyond words.

The film itself though, along with the naivety, is ground-breaking in its simplicity. The low budget allows for a raw, gritty and atmospheric film that throws the viewer into a claustrophobic adventure full of, I'll coin a phrase here, "mysterious psychological Horror"... meaning, the Horror comes from not knowing what it is that's actually happening to the world outside the boarded up windows of the house.

It'd also be easy to just point out that the film is quite literally just a small group of people in a house, things outside want to get in and there's some occasional gore.
The simplicity really doesn't affect the film though. Romero's execution of the simple screenplay and script and getting some brilliant, realistic emotion from the actors involved makes the Horror and weird goings-on even more potent.

Which brings me to the acting.
Duane Jones as Ben is a mark of genius. This is by far one of the strongest leading roles I've seen in such a low budget film. Not only is this Jones' first film, he only made 8 films altogether in his career but wow... and all from a guy who was actually an Art Director by trade.

Judith O'Dea also shines in what was one of only a couple roles she ever played. She's more of the typical Damsel in distress after seeing her Brother get chomped but O'Dea makes an absolute legend of a character that has lived in the minds of the populous for nearly 50 years. The fact that O'Dea really didn't like Horror Films as they scared her, shows in her performance too.

We're also treated to Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman and Kyra Schon as the Cooper family. Karl Hardman in particular makes for an almost antagonist role, constantly coming to loggerheads with everyone around him.

Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley and Russell Streiner make up the rest of the group. All give a decent show and make the cramped spaces even more edgy and unbearable.

As for action and effects etc. Again, the low budget gives a different edge than other Zombie films.
Rather than shock factor, the small cramped spaces in the house, varying camera angles, music and lighting are used to create atmosphere alongside the edgy acting.
It makes the film universally recognisable and when some of the gory stuff does start kicking in it gives a bigger impact.
Top stuff.


All in all, the Granddaddy of the Zombie Genre.
Seen often as a Cult Film but made a star of George A Romero and has stood the test of time for nearly 50 years.

Low budget and filmed in Black And White, the edginess of the film comes from the acting and sheer style of photography and never lets up in terms of tension and atmosphere. Romero really knew how to utilise what he had to work with.

A true Classic.

My rating: 94%