Night of the Living Dead
The zombie film to start all zombie films. Maybe it wasn’t the first, but it was the most influential. If you consider yourself a zombieflick fan, or a horrorflick fan, and you haven’t seen this yet, you are a huge flaming hypocrite. But even for more conventional moviegoers this is a fascinating cinematic experience, if not for witnessing the birth of a genre than for seeing a historically revolutionary and quite subversive film.
The plot is unimportant — it’s people vs. zombies. The most interesting part is that the hero is played by a black man (Duane Jones), which was pretty much unheard of in 1968. On top of this he’s by far the most competent character in the whole film, becoming the de facto leader of the surviving band. He even orders around (i.e. “sasses”) an ignorant bigot of a survivor and slaps around a hysterical white girl. Romero claims he wasn’t trying to make any social commentary, just that Jones gave the best audition. But even if it was a simple casting choice (and I don’t buy Romero’s disclaimer, or else how does he explain the outrageous ending and closing credits), I don’t see how you can’t claim this as one of the boldest films to ever be made, even if unintentionally so.
I’ll level with you: this is not one of the most exciting movies ever, especially by our amped-up blood-and-guts modern standards. But it’s also not over-the-top and ridiculous like most modern interpretations. It’s gripping throughout, and at a crisp 95 minutes you’ll still be able to go out on the town afterwards. The historic and social aspects alone are enough to make this well worth your time. See it and tell me you disagree, I double-zombie-dog-dare you.
24 March 2010