Director – George A. Romero (Creepshow, The Crazies)
Starring – Duane Jones (Vampires, Fright House), Judith O’Dea (Hole in the Wall, Night of the Living Dead: Genesis), and Karl Hardman (Santa Claws)
Release Date – 1968
Rating – 5/5
Blu Review – 2/5
How do you review the greatest horror film that forever changed an entire sub-genre? It’s easy really but what I have to say about it literally means nothing considering EVERY horror fan has seen it. In 1968 Romero and a handful of friend and acquaintances went into the Pennsylvania country side and forever changed horror history by combining social commentary with a loose interpretation of Matheson’s I am Legend and a misunderstanding of the folklore around ghouls.
Night of Anubis, later retitled Night of the Living Dead, was born taking zombies from voodoo origins to shambling corpses that devours the flesh of the living. The film is a staple of every horror fans collection and is personally my favorite horror film. Sadly, Romero was young and inexperienced and the film has fell into public domain territory which has stopped the film from receiving a proper released until now.
Recently Mill Creek Entertainment and Criterion has released the film on blu. Today I will be taking a look at the Mill Creek release which they sent over for review. Thanks guys!
**Spoiler Alert** The film begins with siblings Johnny (Streiner) and Barbara (O’Dea) who leave the city to visit the cemetery to lay flowers on a grave. While walking through the cemetery the two are attacked by a man acting strange (Hinzman) and Johnny hits his head on a grave marker. Barbara flees through the cemetery and the woods nearby before coming to a lone farmhouse. She enters to find it abandoned but soon a car drives up.
Ben (Jones) approaches her and helps her fortify the house before searching for keys to a gas pump located on the property. They are unable to find them but the noise of the things outside and noise of them barricading the windows and doors draws the attention of survivors hiding in the basement. They resurface but tension comes to a boil when Ben and Harry Cooper (Hardman) can’t agree on a plan leading to several altercations forcing the group to split.
Harry takes his family, including his daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) who was bitten to the basement while a young couple, Tom and Judy leaves the safety of the basement to help fortify the house and search for the pump key. Tom and Judy tries to unlock the pump without a key but is unable to do so forcing Tom to shoot the pump which results disastrous for the two. Harry then locks Ben out of the house forcing Ben to fight in while the zombies are distracted with the warm meal Tom and Judy’s body presents.
Once inside another fight breaks out between Ben and Harry followed by the undead forcing themselves inside. The basement seems like the only logical choice now for refuge but Karen Cooper has now changed into the undead and killed Harry before setting her sights on the mother forcing Ben to put her down while Barbara is pulled through a crowd of the undead by her brother and several more. Ben is now alone in the basement and when he emerges after hearing gunshots he is mistaken for the undead and shot.**Spoiler Alert**
I didn’t know how to approach this review. What can I say about Night of the Living Dead that hasn’t been said before? Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about the film but everything I have to say is positive.
The acting in this one is phenomenal. Duane Jones is perfect as the film’s lead. He takes control of each and every scene. His character is now iconic and almost every zombie film I’ve seen to date has a character that is heavily influenced in one way or another from his performance.
The most iconic performance comes from Judith O’Dea who portrayed Barbara. Aside from Kyra Schon holding the trowel, Barbara is the face of the film. Her performance is underwhelming when you watch the film but once you finish the film and consider everything that has happened you realize why she is acting the way she is. Her performance is brilliant. Karl Hardman was another heavy hitter in the film. His performance is intense and he draws hate out of the viewer. You want to hate him even during the film’s final scene and you realize he was right the whole time.
The story for this one is simple but completely changed the game. We see zombie films like this a dime a dozen now but at the time this was groundbreaking. Zombies were traditionally know as mindless servants of voodoo priests and priestesses. However, Romero changed the game by trying to make a film about ghouls.
In most mythology the ghoul is a living creature that robs graves and eats dead flesh. By making the dead eat the flesh of the living he created a pop culture phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. The story has great characters with clashing personalities and various background put against a dreary situation with amazing suspense and tension. The soundtrack rounds out the experience.
Finally, the film has several on screen kills. It isn’t the goriest flick to ever be filmed but the few deaths we get work on a psychological level which only builds the atmosphere. The effects for these are minimal but the skeleton on the steps has forever been ingrained in my skull. I love the way it looks. Overall, Night of the Living Deadis one of the few films I can give a 5 out of 5 to. The movie is fucking perfect which is difficult for me to say considering I have a hard time saying a film is perfect. This is a classic and a must for any fan.