Retro Review: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I have been putting this off for a long time now, but it is time to get into some zombie action, for real.  What better place to start than the mother of all “Modern Zombie” movies…

Night of the Living Dead is a classic horror film that rewrote what everyone knew about zombies.  George A. Romero and John Russo delivered a game changing film that not only changed zombie films, but all horror films. This was the film that broke rules and made new rules, their own rules. To me Night of the Living Dead ushered in the beginning of a new era of horror and gave us the modern zombie, the flesh eater. The original title was Night of the Flesh Eaters, really the film went under a few names like Night of Anubis and as simple as Monster Flick in which Romero referred to the zombies as “Ghouls”.

As I said this film brought us the modern zombie. What does that even mean, well in the past the term “zombie” a corpse that would rise up usually by witchcraft, voodoo or some kind of magic. Sometimes it is as simple as someone who is hypnotized to another’s bidding as in films like White Zombie and the Serpent and the Rainbow. But Romero and Russo, who wanted to make this film a horror/comedy changed the game. These were re-animated corpses brought back by some unknown force and they were hungry for flesh.

When it comes down to it, Romero was the more serious of the two.  The comedy isn’t there in Night of the Living Dead or any of Romero’s zombie movies.  We see more comedy in the films Russo and Dan O’bannon made, Return of theLiving Dead, great flick for sure.

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I am sure by now we have all seen this film, so I will not go over the plot or details. Rather, let us take a moment to think about how big the modern zombie is today, it is everywhere and if Night of the Living Dead was not made, this would not be. Think about what we would be missing out on, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and the Walking Dead comic and the wildly popular television show. It seems these days everyone just loves the zombie so much that a terrible film like World War Z could make 500 million dollars at the box office.  When films like Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead did nothing near that, even with inflation.  Different times, we live in a world where zombies are not as shocking as 1968 or 1978.  Zombies have become a household thing and all thanks to George Romero and Night of the Living Dead.

In 1990 we got to see the return of Night of the Living Dead in the form of a remake.  Tom Savini directed the remake and stayed very true to the original.  Sure, Barbara was a lot more useful and the ending was slightly different.  But the movie worked.  The zombies looked more updated and the story itself got an update.  Overall, there are mixed feelings about the remake.  Some horror fans call it “not necessary”, while others embrace the update given to Romero’s classic.  For me, I saw the remake first and I 100% embrace the 1990 version.  Hell, Tony Todd plays Ben.

With seeing the remake first and eventually, about 3 years later seeing the original, I thought it would be a walk in the park.  No, no way.  I think part of the appeal of the 1968 version, the original, is how raw the movie is.  At times it feels like we are watching footage of reality.  I like to try and put my mind back to 1968 and imagine how shocking Night of the Living Dead would be for people.  My mom couldn’t sleep for a couple of days and she saw it in 1975 after seeing the Exorcitst and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  She was a horror fan and seeing people eating the flesh of other people, made her…cringe.  Her favorite horror movie, Dawn of the Dead.

Night of the Living Dead, it works on many levels.  There is a teacher who shows it his classroom, as it is such a classic film, not only horror, but classic in film.  I read a story of a father who uses Nightof the Living Dead to punish is daughter.  I don’t agree with this, but it is that terrifing.

So thats all I have for this edition, lets watch Night of the Living Dead and enjoy this film, this piece of history, if not for Night of the Living Dead, the world would be so different.

IMDB.com has a rating of 8.0

I rate Night of the Living Dead 8.2

While it is a classic, Night of the Living Dead is not my favorite Zombie movie or Romero Zombie movie.  My favorite is Dawn of the Dead and I believe his best is Day of the Dead.  To me that speaks to how good of a writer and film maker Romero really is.

About Ray Marek III 261 Articles
I am a lifelong horror fan. I have written for a few web sites, Kung-Fu Comrades, Nightfall Unlimited and Rage of Rayzor. Freddy's Revenge was the first Horror Film I watched, I was 5. When my mom found out I liked horror films, she began challenging me. Soon to follow were the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. Horror is in my blood, I want to share that with you...my blood...horror. I write unpublished comics. Lifelong dream is to write comics for a major comic book publisher or build my own comic book company.