They're coming to get you, Barbara!
Ah, Night of the Living Dead, the George Romero classic that began the slow burn toward today's zombie craze.
The low-budget indie film, shot in black and white was released the same year colored films such as Rosemary's Baby, Planet of the Apes, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The big reason Romero chose B&W was the low budget of $114,000. This is pocket change compared to the $3.2 million for Rosemary's Baby, $5.8 million for Planet of the Apes, and $10.5 million for 2001: A Space Odyssey. And makes this a much more impressive feat. As I've always preached, a great film begins with the script. I've not read the script for Night of the Living Dead, but I do know this is a fantastic story, all the way to the brutal end.
In lieu of a typical review, since it's such a well-known film, I'd like to share a few observations.
Before Night of the Living Dead, all zombies in film were what they called "Voodoo Zombies", people controlled by supernatural forces. Romero changed that with the concept of the Undead coming to feast on the living. Did you know that the distributor failed to put the copyright notice on the final print of the film before releasing it? That means Night of the Living Dead is public domain, and that mistake alone is what allowed all of the other zombie films, comics and tv shows to copy the idea of the Undead. If you didn't know that, bet that blows your mind, huh?
Man, that opening scene brings me back to my favorite horror film, The Shining. Did Kubrick steal this idea from Romero? Both opening scenes are fantastic, and I may just have to see if I can line them up and play them side-by-side.
Yes, there's some cheesy dialogue, but you've got to love how Romero gets the story off to a quick start. Johnny teases his sister Barbara in the cemetery, "They're coming to get you, Barbara!", and just like that, the monsters become real. Kids, take note! Don't tease others about monsters, because you may regret it!
Okay, I was just thinking the other day about how many horror film characters fall over, well, nothing. Did Barbara fall over "nothing" in the cemetery? I sure didn't see anything, but hey, at least she managed to make her actual fall believable.
My wife brought up something that bugged me the entire film. Did all the actors have the same vocal coach? Or was this the way Romero directed them? The delivery of their dialogues didn't seem very genuine. Granted, there are a few scenes that were much improved, such as when Tom was consoling Judy. Still, that's okay, folks. Remember, a great film starts with the script, so a good story will allow forgivable moments.
Say, did anyone else notice that the calendar in the house said December, yet Johnny was talking about Daylight Saving Time was the reason they were late to the cemetery. If he "lost" an hour, it should be April. Is this a continuity error or was that just an old Calendar at the house?
I have to confess, I have never watched this entire film to the end. So, I was in for a big surprise when I saw it for the first time. Wow! I really loved it. Keeping this spoiler-free for those who haven't seen it. So, do yourself a big favor and watch Night of the Living Dead this Halloween season. It's definitely a classic.
My overall score? 6 bits out of 8.
Oh, and if you're looking for where to watch it, I linked the entire film on YouTube at the top. Cause, you know, I can do that, copyright mistake and all. (Sorry, George!)