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Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Whether you are a fan of George A. Romero's zombie movies or not, as horror fans we owe a great debt of gratitude to the man who revolutionised, not only the now infamous zombie subgenre, but horror as a whole. Initially coming out in 1968 to critical outrage from audiences due to graphic nature of its content, 'Night of the Living Dead' was rejected by major studios. However, over time this independent black and white horror movie would go on to be a cult favourite amongst fans and one of the most highly regarded and influential movies of all time.

As a writer, editor, cinematographer and director of this movie, Romero, draw heavily from Richard Matherson's 1954 novel 'I Am Legend' when writing this script. He took something from that and created the of the most original movie monsters we have seen since the likes of 'Frankenstein', 'Dracula' or even the 'The Mummy'. The pacing is the perfect example of how to deal with a zombie story. Starting out small and continuously building in momentum slowly is how this genre should be handled. As much of a fan as I am of the more modern fast-paced zombies, the relentless slow building onslaught that Romero displays in this script, is for me the perfect progression of existential dread and how a zombie out breaks should unfold.

The casting is nothing short of perfect. I don't feel like there is a bad performance between them. Granted, this came out in an era where the acting is generically overt and quite often these actors come from theater backgrounds, hence the slightly over exaggerated display. And as many times I had seen this movie, I've never really taken the time to appreciate how powerful of a performance Duane Jones gives as Ben. His dominance over every scene he is in is spellbinding. I also find the character of Barbara to be really overlooked when it comes to this movie. Her reaction to trauma is the most realistic depiction I think you can get when it comes to realism in horror movies. The comatose state she finds herself in due to the loss she has suffered and her new-found concept of reality is really well written. This is a performance that Judith O'Dea delivers so perfectly and even given her frustrating actions, its difficult not to empathise with her character.

The scene stealer moment in 'Night of the Living Dead' is without question the moment when the zombie herd falls upon the aftermath of Tom and Judy's death during to the truck explosion. The practical effects used in this scene are so visceral and raw that it is understandable that audiences in 1968 had trouble digesting this movie. Due to the convincing nature of its visual effects I can only assume actual animal parts were uses during these scene as the zombies consume the scattered human remains of Tom and Judy. The look of the zombies themselves, although quite simplistic in makeup design, still look rather impressive. I feel like it's important to judge these makeup effects as very much being a product of the time rather than any lacking in quality.

The score to this movie is just as pivotal to anything that is playing out on screen. Due to the limitations of cinema at the time the dependence of the score was so vital to showcasing the level of emotion and precaution the audience should be feeling towards each scene. This is a technique I feel 'Night of the Living Dead' utilises flawlessly. Interestingly enough the score for this movie is made up from existing music that Romero selected and cut to suit each scene and augmented them with electronic effects.

For me, 'Night of the Living Dead' is not only one of my all time favourite zombie movies, but it is a vital piece of horrors cinematic history. The creativity and groundbreaking impact that George A. Romero's vision had, changed the way that horror movies were made forever. And, for that reason alone this movie deserves nothing but respect and high praise.



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