WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
Zombies have always been a touchy subject for me. I was exposed to them at a young age because my step-brother had the original Resident Evil on PS1 and that game terrified me. Ever since then I became deathly afraid of zombies in almost any form of media As I got older though my fear started to lessen more and more and it eventually evolved into intrigued so I started actively seeking out pieces of media that used zombies. Because of that I eventually stumbled upon the works of George A. Romero along with his revolutionary horror film, Night of the Living Dead.
Night of the Living Dead is very simple in terms of story but it’s extremely effective in doing what it wants to accomplish. The movie starts out with brother and sister, Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) visiting the grave of their father when Johnny starts purposely scaring his sister. During all this we see a strange man wandering the graveyard and he eventually attacks both of them. After the brother is killed the zombie gives chase eventually leading Barbara to an abandoned house where she soon meets Ben (Duane Jones). The two eventually meet more survivors and try to survive the night and fend off the undead. Throughout the story we slowly begin to learn not only more about the survivors but the cause of the zombie outbreak. We learn that they started appearing due to radiation from a space probe and anyone that dies will eventually become ghouls themselves. It’s a simple premise, but ultimately it works. All the characters are given a moment to shine and you do start to care for them..which makes the ending that much more depressing.
All of the human survivors in Night of the Living Dead aren’t treated as stock horror movie characters, they act more like people. All of them just want to survive this awful situation their in and a lot them do get desperate. This where I think the movie shines the most is with this human element, especially with Ben. Ben is just trying to keep everyone in order, but eventually, like the boards he puts up in the house to keep them safe, it all falls apart and he’s the only one left standing and just when help arrives and you think he’s going to make it he just gets shot in the head. All the main characters, dead in almost an instant. Night of the Living Dead is not the kind of you movie you can watch where you want the victims to get out safely. It presents the cold hard truth that not everyone makes it out in the end, innocent or not and honestly I can appreciate the movie for taking a chance with such a dark ending.
I think Night of the Living Dead is a classic and deserves all the praise it gets. It doesn’t really have any big faults in it, at least none that I can think of without it sounding nitpicky. I highly recommend this movie ESPECIALLY if you’re a fan of zombies and want to see where it all began. I will say though this movie didn’t really scratch my itch for a zombie based mayhem..I may have to look at another certain movie to get that.
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