Night of the Living Dead (1968)

night of the living dead poster 1968 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Grim, dark, game-changing horror movie

Sometimes slow, colorized version

Movie Info

Movie Name: Night of the Living Dead

Studio: Image Ten

Genre(s): Horror/B-Movies

Release Date(s): October 1, 1968

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

night of the living dead cemetery zombie s william hinzman

They’re coming to get you, Barbara!!!

A day in the country turn into a night of horror for Barbra Blair (Judith O’Dea) when she and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) go to visit their father’s grave.  The dead have begun rising from the grave and crave human flesh.  Fleeing to an isolated country home, Barbara and a handful of survivors are fighting for their lives, but events in the house could be deadlier than those occurring outside.  Ben (Duane Jones) finds himself butting heads with Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman) who refuses to risk his wife and child…the night is long, and the dead are hungry.

Directed by George A. Romero who crafted the script with John Russo, Night of the Living Dead is a black-and-white low-budget horror film.  The zombie movie became a financial blockbuster and was received acclaim from film critics.  The movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1999 and the Criterion Collection released a remastered edition of the movie (Criterion #909).

When videos were expensive but low-budget bargain videos in the public domain could be found at places like drugstores and gas stations, I received Night of the Living Dead as a gift.  The cheap edition of the movie wasn’t the best print, but it was horror and I could watch it whenever I wanted…leading me to see Night of the Living Dead over-and-over again.  What is different about Night of the Living Dead and other horror film is that despite the cheap nature, the movie is quality.

night of the living dead zombies eating

Needs more ketchup

Night of the Living Dead is credited as the first modern zombie movie in addition to being one of the modern horror classics.  Before Night of the Living Dead, zombies were more tied to voodoo and were just thralls of someone.  In Night of the Living Dead, the zombies are just mindless monsters driven by hunger…and can infect anyone they bite.  This horror is mixed with a morality play about race and culture with the hero of the film being portrayed by an African-American.  It leads to a horrifying ending in context of the film, but also symbolic of America at the time.

Romero said that he wasn’t out to make a big social statement with the movie and Duane Jones simply gave the best performance, but his character ended up adding layers to the movie and a racial tension that was gripping the nation.  The movie starts out as a vehicle for Judith O’Dea, but her Barbara turns into a blubbering mess quickly after the horror starts.  The main “villain” isn’t the zombies but Karl Hardman (also a producer) plays the heavy in the house who also is more than just a racist character…he legitimately wants to protect his family and the other people in the house are in the way of doing that (it is rather ironic that he was right about staying in the cellar…it was the key to survival).

night of the livign dead zombie girl kyra schon karl hardman

That moment when you realize you are so busted for eating your dad’s arm…

The movie is shot in black and white and has a stark nature to it.  Though it was low budget, it didn’t need to be a big budget movie.  The movie is grim and dark and as a result, the horror really oozes out.  It has a few straight jumps but it is more of a creeping horror built by atmosphere.

Night of the Living Dead is a deserving classic.  The movie has been tweaked and modified over the years.  It received a remake in 1990, a 3D remake in 2006, and an animated version of the movie (using the original dialogue) in 2009.  The original is still the best, and I’d still say the best in the series despite a strong argument for the film’s sequel Dawn of the Dead which was released in 1978.

Related Links:

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Day of the Dead (1985)

Land of the Dead (2005)

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Night of the Living Dead:  Reanimated (2009)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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