Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Directed by George A. Romero
Written by John A. Russo & George A. Romero

As I continue my limited education on the cinematic delight that is the classic horror world, I continue to be amazed by the films which I see, but for reasons other than their sheer brilliance, which is not to say that there is not brilliance contained within, because there is. As I rolled through The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, I discovered two classics which were, simply put, B-movie comedies that took camp to another level in my own personal filmography, which probably helps explain my strange experience with Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, a film I saw before experience past campy Raimi. For some reason, I had this idea that the classics of the horror genre would be comparable to the classics of any genre. The classic noir are tense and mysterious, the classic comedies are greatly funny, the classic romances are beautiful and heartbreaking, yet the classic horror film I have seen to this point are not horrifying at all.

In this Romero classic, Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and her brother travel to a remote Western Pennsylvania cemetery where their father lies interred. As night falls upon the graves, zombies attack. After her brother gets the short end, Barbara finds an empty farmhouse to hide out in. Soon she is joined by Ben (Duane Jones) and a few other characters seeking refuge from the undead. They board up the house in hopes of survival, but the radio and television broadcasts seem to indicate a recent satellite burn up has caused terrible after effects to those exposed to the radiation contained within, causing an outbreak of these re-animated dead.

Horror films are definitely niche, but the following the genre has is very devote in their championing of some of the classics, which is to say I am surprised that more major studios do not produce horror films. All the classics seem to be independent films by young ambitious directors. There are some aspects of this film that simply amaze me. The first is the lack of production value, like the Evil Dead‘s, and yet that is part of the charm and attraction. It is clear this was pieced together pretty much on first shot every time. Another is the horrible acting, which starts and ends with Judith O’Dea, whose characterization consists of sitting on the couch, doing nothing, and whimpering in her inability to accept the fact that she adds nothing to the film in any way.

The final “complaint” I have with the film are the zombies themselves, which pretty much sum up why this horror movie is not a horror movie, but a comedy. They are dead people who walk around at roughly half the speed of snail. How are they threatening at all!? The characters easy outran their enemies so many times that I couldn’t ever feel the threat or the need to hole up in a farmhouse, essentially cornering yourself, the only tactic that seems stupid.

But allllllll of that aside, I still had a fun time with the film for its camp/comedic qualities. The editing was able to at least muster some suspense, but the enjoyment here is all in the acting, which is led by Duane Jones as Ben, who leads the bunch through the night. The ridiculous scenarios were a treat too, though Romero does not go as far as Raimi. I guess what I am trying to say is I do not entirely buy into the B-movie horror style. I really like the idea of the genre and hold a few horror films in very high regard, especially Scream and Halloween, both of which certainly have their B-movie elements, but not to the degree of films like this or Evil Dead. I had a good time, but it is not a film I will be coming to again any time soon.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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