Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Night of the Living Dead

I just made a zombie movie and it occurred to me that I have never seen the entire, original Dead trilogy by George Romero. Now that I am gone with production that is my goal and even though I have already seen it I had to start with the one that began the trend Night of the Living Dead. Night of the Living Dead now strikes of clichés for first time viewers, but what you have to remember is that George Romero created these clichés – the slow moving, slow to evolve zombie that is a metaphor for some greater problem is all from or perfected by Romero.

There cannot be a film that is much simpler on the surface than Night of the Living Dead. Barbara and her brother go to lay a wreath on their father’s grave and while there are assaulted by a zombie, though they don’t know what it is. Her brother dies and Barbara manages to flee to a local farm house where she encounters Ben who takes charge of the situation and two other couples, one with a little girl. Together they try to stave off the zombies and survive until they can either get to a shelter or wait to be rescued but of course, anything that can go wrong does go wrong. However, the real meat of Night of the Living Dead lies in the sub text just below the actions on the screen.

Night of the Living Dead is about race relations. At least that is my take on it. Barbara is a young white woman, Ben is a young black man, and the other survivors are Caucasian men and women of various ages and backgrounds. The primary conflict of the film becomes not the zombies (or ghouls as they are referred to in this film) but the struggle for power and control over the situation between Ben and Harry, the Caucasian father and business man. Romero doesn’t stray away from making sure that the audience knows the race situation is not fixed either as anyone who has seen the end of the film can attest.

I know that Zach Snyder remade Dawn of the Dead and others have remade various other films in the Dead trilogy, but I implore you not to ignore the originals in an effort to see better special effects. This film is worth your time.

Director: George A. Romero
Writers: John A. Russo & George A. Romero
Ben: Duane Jones
Barbra: Judith O’Dea
Harry: Karl Hardman
Helen: Marilyn Eastman
Tom: Keith Wayne
Judy: Judith Ridley
Karen: Kyra Schon
newscaster: Charles Craig

Newscaster: It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. A widespread investigation of funeral homes, morgues, and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead have been returning to life and seeking human victims. It's hard for us here to be reporting this to you, but it does seem to be a fact.

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