Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead ★★★★★

"I think you complain just to hear yourself talk."

A film's enjoyment and the affect it has on you is a complicated matter. I grew up near a cemetery. I grew up riding my bike in it. Going for walks there with my Mom. Strangely, my Dad was buried in that same cemetery years later. When I visit there it feels nostalgic. Like so many things that feel like home. Like Night of the Living Dead.

I have never felt more comfortable with a horror film. Like Sunday with fishing poles (and Derma Wax holes).

It's impact is impossible to measure and it will always remain underrated no matter how high it's held. It belongs up in the stars with Mr. Romero, radiated from Venus, bringing us all back to life.

The living dead advance on us from all sides. Echoed and eerie stock needle drops remain ominous after all this time. Endlessly fascinating. A young director takes us to ghoul school and has no idea the trajectory of his zombie missle. Uncertain he was even making a zombie film.

Big shout out to Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman for being the unsung make-up artist here.
Also to Hardman's real daughter, Kyra Schon, for playing his terrifying daughter in the film. I have a VHS signed by her.

So much has changed since 1968 (and hasn't). Maybe George saw only errors when he watched this. Maybe he also saw the headaches and heartaches that proceeded it. The Russo frustration and copyright issues. A lot of history. It's difficult to see your own contributions to the universe with any clarity.

"We may not enjoy living together... but dying together isn't going to solve anything."

Night stands tall, as one of the greatest films ever made. It allows you to enfold into it without fail. Genuine acting goes down and it's deeply immersive in it's monochromatic splendor. This may not be Romero's best direction from a technical standpoint but his acting troop rival any he ever worked with. Iconic incarnate. Respect and undying love.

" ...I realized that... I was alone, with 50 or 60 of those things just standing there,, staring at me."

The emergency network newscaster (Charles Craig) has a voice and delivery that sells it all. Watching Ben work to survive is poetry. Duane Jones gives smoke and fire at every turn. This enigmatic human being gave us a gift with this performance. Judith O'Dea is given less to do but I think she bodes well. Audiences love to make fun of her catatonia but that may very well be how many would respond. They'd shutdown.

"The killers are eating the flesh of the people they murder."

In 2021, the ghoul hoard in the woods with just crickets chirping may seem tame. But it's the zombie paradigm. It feels right. And the nude undead woman was the first naked lady I ever saw. So there's that.

"Go down in your damn cellar! Get out of here!!"

I'm finally getting old enough that Helen is becoming super sexy. She was 40 here so the math checks. I still hate Harry just as much as ever.

With it's quasi-singular setting and intense dialogue driven narrative it does feel like a play.
The mood and vibe is tuned to crystal water. Romero adjusted the receiver just right, detecting the desired effect an audience craves. Authentic storytelling.

Keith Wayne and Judith Ridley's back and forth as young lovers is the only weak moment in the film. It's a short scene. But it served a purpose.

"My jacket's caught."

I could watch Ben punch Harry in the face all day. It's a ballet of a beat down. This is the undead's iconography. The score goes full industrial. The fiery food truck in the darkness. Barbecued Tom and Judy. Cannibal holocaust.

The newscaster is breaking it all down for us. And this really is the secret ingredient to Night. The TV inside the TV. It's fucking brilliant. A genius literal plot device. A very useful and memorable tool used to mass effect. The modern horror film.

Faces and shadows. Inevitability. The flesh eaters are coming to get you. It's not if, it's when. Harry (the coward) shows his truest colors in the end. It's up for debate whether Ben had to cap his ass. Barbara gets a moment to shine and takes it, saving Helen, but it's in vain.

Kyra Schon is excellent in her big moment, finishing what Ben started. Two shocking moments in the late 60's. I'm sure of it. She eats Dad and then dispatches Mom masonry style with the trowel matricide heard around the world. And it still packs a punch.

Everything is right in the universe, watching this (rifle cocks). It will always be in my top 3 and it's my #1 Romero film. I adore everything about it. The film is pure. The ghoul hunt feels like reality and a terrifying hangover.

"That's another one for the fire."

The static photographs are chilling with scans and zooms. It illicits feelings of genuine unease. The perfect nihilistic ending. The natural sounds of the hunt creep up your spine. Man is the most dangerous animal.

"No! No! Johnny! "

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