Night of the Living Dead

Released: October 1968

Dir: George Romero

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Is it heresy to say I watched Dawn of the Dead before this? Well I did. Sorry George Romero and people that like doing things in order! I watched Night of the Living Dead (NOTLD) like everyone else did, on Youtube. My favourite fact about this film has to be it being accidentally put into the public domain, so it can be watched here, here and even here! That being said, I did buy a copy on DVD with all the interviews and cool bonus features.

It's undeniable that NOTLD is one of the most influential horror films ever made. It basically created the “zombie film” subgenre (even though no character uses the word in the film) and unintentionally used social commentary to comment on issues in the US at the time. It also led to the creation of the “Romero Trilogy” consisting of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, both of which are pretty good. There was also a remake in 1990, which I haven’t seen.

I’m not going to do a scene-by-scene analysis of the film, as Film Studies A-Level has scarred me enough, but I’ll just go through all the best bits. The opening scene is a classic, with Barbara and her brother Johnny going to a cemetery and being ambushed by a lone zombie (or undead? I’ll just call them zombies). NOTLD also created the idea that zombies need to be shot in the head to be really killed so the film has this one shot of zombies emerging from the darkness and getting shot in the head by Ben, a man who Barbara meets in the house she’s taken refuge in.

I’m not going to spoil the ending (the film is over 50 years old, but still), but it’s so disheartening, much more grim than the ending of Dawn of the Dead. It’s basically the equivalent of a gut-punch and a complete twist and subversion of your expectations.

If my review hasn’t sold it already, NOTLD is great. In my opinion, Dawn of the Dead is slightly better, but NOTLD still an extremely influential film that anyone who even remotely enjoys horror films should definitely watch.