Zombies are big right now. Really big. Soooo big, that if they ever actually killed Godzilla or Gamera, he’d come back as a Zombie. So, with this in mind, I’ve decided to go back to the zombie film that really started the craze – Night of the Living Dead, directed by George Romero.
Barbara and her brother, Johnny, are going to place flowers on their father’s grave. Barbara, being afraid of cemeteries, is creeped out by the place, and Johnny, being an immature git (and probably the younger of the two) decides to make fun of her fear. Unfortunately for them, the dead now walk, and one of the undead (they’re never actually called Zombies) kills Johnny. Barbara flees for her life to a farmhouse, where she is rescued by Ben, where she and a group of other people hole up, and try to decide to wait for help, or to try and break out to someplace where they can get assistance.
If a lot of this movie sounds kind of old hat, that’s because a lot of the zombie movie tropes start here – destroying the brain, holing up in an old house, mall, or other location, and as time, cabin fever, and decreasing supplies sets in, the survivors start to lose their cool. It works, which is why it’s gotten re-used. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The film runs into some continuity problems with the shooting. Sometimes it’s shooting day-for-night, sometimes it’s actually shot at night, with little rhyme or reason between the shots, with the possible exception of shots that are using fire, which are clearly shot at night to make the fire more visible.
Most of the cast is annoying as hell, which is a problem I have with most Zombie films of this type. Now, I understand that in a crisis situation most people won’t necessarily be putting their best foot forward. However, in a movie like this, it is important for the audience to sympathise with the characters, not only because we’ll be spending a while with them, but also because that as they inevitably get killed off, it’s actually more important that we feel bad for the victims than cheer the zombies (despite what more recent horror films go for) – this is a film that’s really without a villain, aside from the zombies.
Honestly, this film is a classic, and it’s held up fairly well, but I’d still recommend renting it before buying it. Though, no matter how you get it, I also recommend watching it with the Rifftrax commentary by Michael Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. No, I’m not getting any commission from that link, but it really doesn’t matter, because the commentary is excellent, and even if you just Netflix the movie, the commentary is definitely worth listening to.