Retro Review: Night of the Living Dead(1968)

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In memory of the recently deceased master of horror, George A. Romero, FDTC writer James Orrell takes a look back at one of his seminal masterpieces, the original Night of the Living Dead.
 
 
 
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Written by James Orrell
 
 
George A. Romero was many thing. A master of horror. A deft storyteller with incredible social commentary. The original champion for independent filmmaking. When he passed away yesterday, the world lost a once in a lifetime talent the likes of which has never been seen. To honor him and his legendary career, I am going to take a look back at not just a masterpiece but a tentpole film that has changed the world of horror in ways few films could ever dream of doing. The original Night of the Living Dead.
 
Night of the Living Dead is the very definition of a classic film. It remains as terrifying and relevant today as it did in 1968, 49 years ago.  Had this film never been made, we wouldn't have the modern definition of the zombie. Return of the Living Dead, The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, none of these films would exist without Night of the Living Dead.
 
Even today the cinematography holds up. Every scene is dripping with tension and dread. The moment Barbara sees her undead brother Johnny, with close up views of both their faces, is one of the most horrifying moments in cinema history. The film is simply beautiful.
 
The writing is what seperates this film from others of it's ilk. Watching a black man as the lead in a film during this time was a statement in itself. Watching him fight with Harry throughout the film, watching him slap a white woman(regardless if it was to get her to come to her senses) all really spoke to the racially charged time it was filmed. Romero and everyone involved showed true courage by using the film as such a strong commentary on the state of America at the time. The incredible ending was the perfect cap to it all, seeing Ben getting gunned down without bothering to check to see if he was in fact alive. It was an incredibly ballsy way to end your film.
 
The shots of the piles of burning bodies playing over the end credits still gives me nightmares.
 
The score to the film doesn't get enough credit. To this day it remains one of the spookiest soundtracks I have ever heard in my life. It makes every moment all the more creepy. Between the bombastic highs and the subtle lows, Night of the Living Dead wouldn't be nearly as frightening were it not for the score.
 
The acting is superb. Duane Jones steals the show every scene he is in. Judith O'Dea shows such fear in her performance. Between her pitch perfect scream to the wonderfully morose state of catatonia, you can't help be feel she has truly been broken. Karl Hardman made for such a memorable asshole in the role of Harry. It's the first time I can think of where you realize the living are potentially more dangerous than the dead in zombie fiction.
 
In my opinion, Night of the Living Dead is a flawless film. It's beautiful, it's terrifying, and even nearly fifty years later it's still as relevent as ever. Not many films have such a storied history. Even fewer can hold up to as many viewings as this film has had. George A. Romero changed the face of horror with this film. I've said it already, but it's worth repeating. Night of the Living Dead is a masterpiece that needs to be seen by each and every horror fan.
 
Rest in peace Mr. Romero. You may be gone but your films will live forever.

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