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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 8.47%
Average: 3.39%
Pretty Bad: 2.54%
Total Crap: 7.63%

3 reviews, 100 user ratings

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Night of the Living Dead (1968)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"One of the genuine game-changers."
5 stars

Fifty years ago this past October 1, George A. Romero invented what we know today as the modern zombie — not the previous voodoo kind, but a reanimated, cannibalistic corpse.

Throughout Night of the Living Dead, though, the word “zombie” is never spoken. The mysterious aggressors are referred to as “ghouls” or, at one point, “flesh eaters.” Romero also laid down the first rule of zombie stories: The danger lies just as much with your fellow human survivors as with the zombies. This dictum has served zombie cinema well in the subsequent half-century, from Romero’s own five sequels to The Walking Dead.

In Romero’s later zombie films, especially 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, he used the genre as a Trojan horse for social satire and commentary. Here, though, any commentary is more or less incidental. The hero, Ben (Duane Jones), is African-American, because Jones was the best actor for the part — Romero never intended to be subversive, even when Ben is slapping hysterical white woman Barbra (Judith O’Dea) or beating up dickwad white man Harry (Karl Hardman). Nobody really seems to take notice of Ben’s race; he’s simply a smart, resourceful man who has the better survival instincts. (The depiction of Barbra as a useless, frightened girl is another story; in the 1990 remake, written by Romero, Barbra is far braver and tougher, and is played by stuntwoman Patricia Tallman.)

The movie remains unsettling after all these years because of its bleak simplicity. Everything is distilled down to these people’s struggles to survive in a remote house — Ben, Barbra, Harry, Harry’s wife Helen (Marilyn Eastman) and their sickly daughter Karen (Kyra Schon), who has been bitten by a zombie, and a young couple who seem to be there as an afterthought. It’s the ultimate Z-budget bottle-episode movie, and it has a chiaroscuro ghastliness the more expensive color sequels lack, as engaging as they often are. The seething black-and-white grain of the images makes the horrors seem caught almost on the fly; sometimes the action is artfully composed, sometimes the camera eye seems dead, as if we were watching through zombievision.

The most gruesome moments, when the zombies have a midnight snack on two of the more expendable characters, have a casual nightmarishness backed by a doomy electronic pulse on the soundtrack. The 28-year-old Romero, already a veteran of local TV commercials (and short films for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!), threw a lot of stuff at the wall, and fortunately most of it stuck. The mood is dark and near despair, but there’s a spirit of play in the filmmaking, a spark of on-the-cheap expertise. Romero’s first Dead trilogy (rounded out by 1985’s Day of the Dead) were all claustrophobic, isolated affairs, but his second trilogy (2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead, and particularly 2009’s Survival of the Dead, Romero’s swan song) got out into the air and the world a bit more.

Here, though, we have a haunted house haunted from within by distrust and hostility, and threatened from without by ghouls that can’t be reasoned with or appealed to. Once a dead person becomes a zombie, that’s it, there’s nothing personal, they’re going to eat you whether you’re a stranger or their relative. Social norms become meaningless. Some of the dead come in suits, some naked. All are bodies interrupted en route from life to dirt or flame, and become the Nightmare Life-in-Death, the neither-nor, death devouring life. Romero wasn’t thinking about any of this, though; he was just riffing on I Am Legend.

Subtext gathers around this stark, pure story; analyses leech onto it; but in the end it is a classical horror film that seems to exist above what we say about it.

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originally posted: 10/16/18 07:02:44
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User Comments

10/17/18 Louise Ludicrously over-rated rubbish, Tom Savini`s 1990 remake is a much better movie. 1 stars
7/25/17 Chaz Walter The greatest zombie film of all time. RIP George Romero. 5 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell a classic zombie movie haters drop dead 5 stars
12/11/12 Jamie Fucking shoot yourself 'Art'. Cunt. 5 stars
6/17/11 art 1932's White zombie BURRIES this Overrated Junk! 1 stars
9/13/10 art the only "ZOMBIE" flick's i have ever seen,are BELA Lugoisi's WHITE ZOMBIE and 1980's ZOMBI 1 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper This and Psycho are the best 60's horror movies. 5 stars
12/21/09 art FOR A BETTER VERISON WATCH THE 1990 REMAKE! 1 stars
12/01/09 Silkworm Yep! Excellent - eery and great ending 5 stars
8/29/09 Julian The best zombie film 5 stars
5/22/09 art you'd have to BE MENTALLY ILL TO ENJOY THIS! 1 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Political,audacious,brutally frightening horror film.Easily the best horror film ever made. 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner This film got me hooked on horror films! 5 stars
9/22/08 don Great 5 stars
11/15/07 mr.mike an unforgettable classic 5 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold Among Romero's very best! 5 stars
2/06/07 David Pollastrini still the king of zombie movies 5 stars
2/06/07 action movie fan eerie and atmospheric but otherwise dull-ignored upon release, the crazies was romeros best 3 stars
11/23/06 Billy Backstabber NOT an absurd story. It smells as real as 9/11, Katrina, or other disasters. so much depth. 5 stars
10/27/06 Isaac Baranoff If you love horror, you must see this. Accept no substitutes. 5 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, frightening 5 stars
10/01/06 Agent Sands Very clever and novel for its time. 4 stars
8/25/06 havthat This is easily the best of Romero's zombies. 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist A legendary horror classic!!!!!! 5 stars
7/11/06 David Cohen Proof that Low budget" doesn't have to mean "bad" 5 stars
5/21/06 mr.mike low budget horror classic 5 stars
3/28/06 Josh Standlee Dark as fuck! It must have been NC-17 when it first came out! 5 stars
3/24/06 Jack N Perfect movie to watch home alone at night 5 stars
3/24/06 Freddy Incredible how this movie is still terrifying 5 stars
3/24/06 ColoredHero I love the original and i think the colorized is great fun 5 stars
3/24/06 Vlad Absolute Classic 5 stars
3/24/06 BlackCat Made me curl up to my master prrrowl many times 5 stars
3/24/06 Darkness Black & White B-Movie Masterpiece 5 stars
3/24/06 Luciferi666 scary, terrifying, shocking 5 stars
3/24/06 Ben still gives me the creeps 20 years later 5 stars
3/24/06 sweet_baby_rhi The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever!!!! 5 stars
3/24/06 UndeadCaleb You can't get much better than this 5 stars
3/24/06 Dethbyhashi The Greatest B-Movie Ever 5 stars
2/20/06 chris f classic zombie horror at its best 5 stars
12/01/05 Bene Knowles great movie! color only adds to the gore & nothing else,bringing out the best in the blood. 5 stars
10/20/05 Eden One of the best. The opening is horror gold 5 stars
9/03/05 ES Liked it, havewatched it a few times, but slow zombies are laughable, not laudable 3 stars
8/06/05 Pierre Great! 5 stars
6/26/05 DennyRoss The beginning - scary as hell and superb acting. A must-see!! 5 stars
4/25/05 Indrid Cold I don't care how "influential" it is, it has little or no impact on today's audiences. 3 stars
2/16/05 Wilt Chamberlin Best zombie film of all time 5 stars
1/29/05 Mmmm...Brains If you hate this movie you're clueless! 5 stars
1/29/05 She's one of them! The beginning graveyard scene speeks for itself 5 stars
1/29/05 Evil Brain Eater from planet Zolum 5 Could you ask for a better horror movie? No you couldn't! 5 stars
1/29/05 ZombieMonkey The only flaws are budgetary. Nuff said! 5 stars
1/29/05 Rockchic When I'm home alone or alone at someone else's house I think of this movie 5 stars
1/29/05 DethbyHashi NOTLD is my favorite horror film and has inspired 1,000's of other movies 5 stars
1/29/05 Calebx NOTLD is why i love horror movies 5 stars
10/18/04 trex scariest movie I have ever seen 5 stars
8/19/04 Zombies Eat People Yesssssssssssssssss! 5 stars
8/04/04 Jessica Scott No matter how many times I watch it, it still creeps me out. 5 stars
4/24/04 The More You Know It's flame-broiled, flesh-a-flying fun & finishes in a bittersweet pyrric victory. 5 stars
4/23/04 Jack Sommersby Sags in the middle, but it's still a good deal of fun. 4 stars
4/10/04 American Slasher Goddess Excellent,brought to life the zombie genre. 5 stars
4/01/04 Samuel classic horror at its best, thid movie definetly changed the face of horror forever 5 stars
3/31/04 true review - correct review everytime brilliant best movie ever about so much more than just zombies, one of the best films ever 5 stars
3/20/04 truth one of the best films ever made, better than Citizen Kane by a long shot 5 stars
3/16/04 Spencer Turner Loved almost every minute of it! 4 stars
2/10/04 Whatevr THe best of them all! 5 stars
1/31/04 Jingo P. Not too scary, but groundbreaking, well-done, and HUGELY entertaining. SYAMALAN SU X! 4 stars
1/24/04 Elena Worth a look just to see the concept that spawned a legion of ghoulish followers 4 stars
12/13/03 darkofnight A film robbed of its power by poor direction, ineffective music, and bad acting. 2 stars
12/05/03 john as much a classic of the genre as Frankenstein or the Wolf Man - brilliant! 5 stars
11/07/03 Samuel A really great movie, still havent saw the remake yet tho... 5 stars
11/03/03 Luke Thompson I saw this film when I was younger, but now I look back at it I see how great it was. 4 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess The movie that really released the zombie genre. Great stuff. 5 stars
4/01/03 Luke Skywalker ahead of it's time.. 5 stars
3/31/03 Steven (Boy) a landmark horror film and epitamy "zombie genre" movie 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby It's no masterpiece, but it's admirably realized and executed. 4 stars
9/30/02 Charles Tatum Creepy but intriguing, like my ex-wife's family 4 stars
9/22/02 Morally Sound The best black-and-white horror movie ever. 5 stars
9/13/02 sebastian excellent what can I say but that much better than the turd that is made at present 5 stars
7/28/02 Butterbean I loathe the ending, even though it worked for the film. It has it's slow parts. 4 stars
6/24/02 David A. Classic precursor to Friday the 13th. Ben was bossy, Cooper was right--stay in the cellar! 4 stars
6/09/02 Gummibear X I fell atsleep at the opening, wow, talk about a boring horror movie! 2 stars
4/29/02 Phoenix A horror classic, but only good movie George Romero made. 5 stars
2/12/02 Monday Morning Class-sick! 5 stars
1/30/02 Chris K. This is a GOOD MOVIE. Hollywood, take some lessons from this flick! 5 stars
1/13/02 the earl Very creepy, claustrophobic, and in its own way realistic horror classic. 5 stars
12/18/01 Chris K. Not a B-movie, but A material all the way! Example of good filmmaking on a low budget! 1 stars
12/11/01 Andre Massena It sucked ass 1 stars
11/29/01 annette ahonen Great movie! Acting wasn't the greatest, but for a black and white film,it was done well! 5 stars
11/04/01 Andrew Carden It Was Boring, but It Created A Generation Of Excellent Horror Films. 5 stars
10/17/01 Jake It's everything the sequel wasn't. It gets better the more I see it. 5 stars
9/30/01 Mohammad J. While not up to Dawn, still a classic. 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Still creepy after all this time. Revolutionized the horror film and still isn't matched! 5 stars
6/13/01 King Jackass As far as horror movies go, this is simply the greatest of all time. 5 stars
1/31/01 Bob THE GREATEST Zombie Movie made!!! 5 stars
7/24/00 Matthew Bartley See it in black and white for the full horror! 5 stars
6/28/00 DAVID Im a big Romero fan but i think this movie is overrated!! 3 stars
3/21/00 jake mostov sucked big mother fucken ass 1 stars
3/09/00 Zach This movie is a classic...don't miss it! 5 stars
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  01-Oct-1968 (NR)


  N/A (R)

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