Night of the Living Dead (1968) Review:

Not a great house party.

Damn right you came into the wrong house!
Damn right you came into the wrong house!

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon, et al…

Director: George A. Romero

Runtime: 96 minutes

Plot (Taken from IMDb): A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse

Where can I get my pills?
Where can I get my pills?

Night of the Living Dead is such a classic horror movie, and it does suffer from typical issues I find in older movies – it moves along at a snail’s pace – but it is a classic and is well worth a watch no matter your tastes in film.

I’m no horror nut, but Night of the Living Dead has not lost its eerie atmosphere and tension, and the zombies themselves are threatening, as threatening as the people in the film. We follow Ben (Duane Jones), who is desperately trying to stay alive and keep Barbra (Judith O’Dea) alive also; the characters couldn’t be more different; Ben is loud and acts quickly, whereas Barbra is extremely quiet. They find a house and decide to stay there, only to find that it is already occupied by a couple and a family of three, the daughter however, is sick. It’s a classic set-up, indeed, it’s the classic set-up and it still holds strong today as what we have more than a zombie gore-fest is a drama based on clashing of characters and plans.

Stop breaking my boards! My precious antique boards!
Stop breaking my boards! My precious antique boards!

The dynamic and tension created is only escalated by the impending doom of the zombies, who are drawn by sound. This is helped by the relatively short runtime of 96 minutes, if the film was longer it would have been boring, as it already drags its feet through slow progression at times.

Throughout the film we hear snippets of the news on radio, and at one point, on the television, which gives us some idea of what’s actually going on despite never out-right telling us why the zombie apocalypse had come about, but it is all building to the grandstand finish, when it all goes to hell.

The final twenty or so minutes are the best of the film as the pay-off for the build-up is fantastic, the low-budget effects only strengthen the visceral aspects of the violence and it is genuinely scary, if not a little predictable. The very ending of Night of the Living Dead however is not predictable and certainly came as a bleak surprise for me, this is one dark film that is a true great in the horror genre, and the best in the zombie sub-genre.

Summary:

Night of the Living Dead builds and builds to a grandstand finish that is excellently crafted, making the whole movie more than worthwhile. Duane Jones leading role as Ben is brilliant and the character dynamic and violence that ensues from the drama is superb.

The original is the best this time.

90/100

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