Thursday, April 20, 2017

Day 171: Night of the Living Dead

As you may know, Night of the Living Dead has the strange position of being a hugely popular movie that has no copyright. Anyone, even you, can release your own home video edition of Night of the Living Dead. That said, if you have ever seen the movie, you may have seen a crappy copy.

This was George Romero's entry into horror cinema, a grisly tale ahead of its time that redefined what zombies actually were. Prior to Romero, a zombie was a person returned from the dead via voodoo to be someone's personal slave. Romero turned the old idea of Ghouls (flesh eaters) into the modern definition of a zombie.

Barbara and her brother are visiting the grave of a relative when they spot an older man staggering around the graveyard. The brother makes fun of the old man at first until the walker gets a little aggressive, killing the brother and forcing Barbara to flee. She finds an old farmhouse and finds carnage there. Before too long, Ben, an African-American and the only human with common sense in the movie, arrives to help shore up the house. He discovers a couple and their bitten daughter in the basement and a teenage couple soon arrive as well. Everyone is looking for shelter from the zombies. Various strategies are employed and attempts to escape are met with a ceaseless wall of flesh-eating weirdos.

This movie is notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the graphic portrayal of bodies being eaten was ahead of its time. The extras dressed as zombies gnawed, chewed, bit and ripped through tons of raw meat and sinew in attempts to look authentic. This was beyond even the gore of movies like Bucket of Blood. While organs had been fair game for showing throughout the 60s, eating them was pretty new.

Secondly, this movie had the audacity to star an African-American hero in Ben. In 1968, Civil Rights were still being contested in the rural settings where this movie takes place. That a black man would lead a group of white people to safety was unheard of for a movie unless he was a servant of some sort. Ironically, he is kind of wrong about the best place to hide but that is getting close to spoiler territory. Speaking of which, the ending of this movie is one huge racist downer with the end credits making the parallels to racism explicit.

This is a certified classic if you can stomach it. Although it would be a decade until Romero followed it up with Dawn of the Dead, this one works just fine as a standalone. Check it out.

No comments:

Post a Comment