Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zombtober Movie Review: Night of the Living Dead

"They're coming to get you, Barbra!"

This is the one that started it all. Most of what everyone knows about zombies comes from this movie and Return of the Living Dead. I'm not really going to give a full review, since this movie has been reviewed thousands of times. I thought I'd just give you my experiences with this movie and share some trivia.

I didn't see this movie until around the year 2001. Since the movie is in black and white, I always assumed it was a much older movie, like one of the old Universal monster movies, so I assumed it would be something cornball. I was wrong.

It was made in 1968, years after the Universal movies were made. It could have been made in color, but looking at it now I think it's much scarier and realistic in black and white. It probably helped out with the $114,000 budget. For example, chocolate syrup was used for blood.

When the film first came out, it was seen as shocking and reviewers and censors deemed it grisly and "pornography of violence". In 1999, The Library of Congress added the film to the National Film Registry in 1999 with other films deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." I find it strange that our society can evolve to find grisly murder as "culturally significant," but any amount of nudity is taboo.

When I watch this movie, I like to think of the movie tropes that are now cliche to us, but were so new at the time. Before this movie, there was no realistic gore. The viewer was seperated- it never happened in a "just around the corner" setting. You never saw the main characters die- The good guys always won. This movie changed all that.

Some reviewers like to comment on the importance of the main character, Ben, being black and what that means as a statement. If I lived in 1968, I might find it socially significant, but watching the movie now, it doesn't seem to matter. Ben is a smart character and the natural leader of the group. The only time where his race really seems to matter is at the end when the redneck sheriff assumes Ben is a zombie and kills him. However, I'm probably being prejudiced towards southerners by assuming that the cavalry is just redneck guys killing everyone they see.

Some of my favorite trivia from this movie:

George Romero started out directing Mr. Roger's Neighborhood back when it was on WQED.

Romero took most of the story from Richard Matheson's novel, "I am Legend".

Night of the Living Dead is public domain because a copyright notice was not shown in the title screen. This is one movie you can't get in trouble for downloading.

The word "Zombie" is never used in this movie. They are called "Ghouls".

Zombtober horror scale:

Slow (1----) Fast: The original stumblers.
Dumb (1----) Smart: Only out to eat the living.
Passive (----5) Aggressive: Don't get too close!
Fake (---4-) Believable: The black and white film makes up for makeup defects.
Method of spreading Zombism: Radiation from space reanimates the dead.
X-factors: This is what started the zombie craze (and most slasher films that exist today).

Recommendation: You can stream this movie, download it (legally), buy it...just watch it!

- Samuel Frost