Saturday, January 9, 2010

#397: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea & Karl Hardman

While Barbra and Johnny are visiting their father’s grave, Barbra starts to get the willies. Johnny jokes that a man across the cemetery is coming to get Barbra, without realizing… he
is, as are thousands of other people who seem to be acting as if in a trance. Barbra escapes, though Johnny isn’t so lucky. She finds safety in a house found a bit off the beaten path, as did a few other survivors. Despite their best efforts, there is no way of knowing how long their barricades will hold…

Who would have thought that such a low-budget film could be so terrifying? I somehow never got around to seeing this classic until today, and even 40 years after it was released, it’s still pretty damn creepy. Ebert actually criticized parents who allowed their kids to see this film, after he witnessed a young girl crying in her seat. The ending is also absolutely awful, leading social commentators to go nuts – though this take on the script was apparently unintended.

Despite being filmed in black and white far after color made its way into the mainstream, the special effects got me a bit squeamish. It probably would have been even worse if I knew that the ‘things’ (which are never called ‘zombies’ in the film) were actually eating ham with chocolate sauce.

This film was ahead of its time. Compare it to Hitchcock, who was the master of horror at this point in time. It’s as if Romero said, screw this psychological crap, let’s just freak the crap out of people! What a classic. Two detached thumbs up!

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

The zombie hand that Tom (Keith Wayne) hacks up with a kitchen knife was made of clay and filled with chocolate syrup.
When the zombies are eating the bodies in the burnt-out truck they were actually eating roast ham covered in chocolate sauce. The filmmakers joked that it was so nausea inducing that it was almost a waste of time putting the makeup on the zombies, as they ended up looking pale and sick anyway.
S. William Hinzman and Karl Hardman, two of the original $300 investors had small roles due to a shortage of available talent. Another investor was a butcher, who provided some blood and guts.
One of the Walter Reade Organization's publicity stunts was a $50,000 insurance policy against anyone dying from a heart attack while watching the film.
Some of the groans made by S. William Hinzman when he's wrestling with Russell Streiner in the cemetery are authentic. During the struggle, Streiner accidentally kneed Hinzman in the groin.
The Evans City Cemetery was the cemetery used in the original version of the film, but it could not be used for the 30th anniversary edition. Before filming the new footage, a tornado had torn through the Evans City Cemetery, and ironically, it unearthed several graves.
SPOILER: The social commentary on racism some have seen in this film was never intended (an African-American man holing up in a house with a white woman, a posse of whites shooting a black man in the head without first checking to see if he was a zombie). According to the filmmakers, Duane Jones was simply the best actor for the part of Ben.


  1. I totally agree about it being surprisingly squeamish. Zach and I turned this on one day thinking it might be enjoyable and funny - it turned out to be enjoyable, yet gross lol.


  2. especially the burnt-out truck part :P

  3. Haha omg I actually wrote this article over a month ago and didn't re-read it when I posted it this morning, and you totally brought back ultra-gross memories.