The Night of the Living Dead movie is a classic example of zombie horror media. It was the brainchild of director George A. Romero and co-writer John A. Russo. It’s a classic Black and white horror movie with a disturbing racial message. But, it doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of horror cinema. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you decide to watch it.
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead
While the original version of Night of the Living Dead was an outrageous splatterfest, the film was far more sophisticated. The film was loosely based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. It drew parallels to Malcolm X’s assassination and American history. A tense and violent ending brought the film to a disturbing close.
The film was made on a budget of $114,000, and the first victim was the producer Russell Streiner. The blood in the movie was not real, but rather chocolate syrup. Initially, it was rejected by New York distributors, but the Walter Reade Organization, which owned a chain of New York cinemas, saw potential and backed the project. However, the movie failed to find a distributor and was rebuffed for two years.
Romero enlisted the help of a small group of Pittsburgh residents to shoot the movie. In addition to Judith O’Dea as Barbra, Judith Ridley played a local secretary. Keith Wayne played an actor from the area. In addition, the use of close-ups of real animal organs provided the effect of queasiness. This technique was later adopted by the 28 Days Later movie.
The original film has become synonymous with the zombie genre. The original film spawned sequels, remakes, and imitators. And yet, George A. Romero, who died in 2017, revealed many of the film’s secrets. In fact, the movie was made on a shoestring budget of $114,000 and was shot over nine months. This made Night of the Living Dead a film with a documentary feel.
The Night of the Living Dead is a seminal film in the history of zombie films. Despite its reoccurring presence on film posters, it is also a distinctly American creation. The original film harks back to off-Broadway living theater and is as didactic and politically oriented as any of its predecessors. Its homage to the Dutchman play and the concept of the “Dutchman” evokes uncomfortable themes about identity and alienation.
As a work of horror, Night of the Living Dead uses the conventions of genre cinema to explore themes of mortality. Todorov distinguishes between two types of verisimilitude: the fantastic and the uncanny. The latter describes bizarre events by referring to another level of reality. The film fits into the marvellous category. The resulting iconography is a representation of a particular type of horror.
In terms of race, the Night of the Living Dead strays from the racial stereotypes of major Hollywood films. The narrator Johnny uses a vampire voice to acknowledge the monster movies of yesteryear. Similarly, Barbra is prone to getting frightened in cemeteries. This is because she associates them with scary places, and Romero reveals a more realistic view of cemeteries.
Night of the Living Dead was one of the earliest horror films to be made in black-and-white. It was shot over seven months on a shoestring budget and influenced many other international horror films. Barbra, played by Annette Bening, flees from an assailant after learning that her husband has been killed. She meets Ben, a man who is also on the run from zombies, and the two set up a farmhouse as a safe haven. However, they soon find that they are surrounded by zombies.
The film was a hit on the box office. The movie is an important part of Black history. Night of the Living Dead was also the first major role for an African American actor. Duane Jones was hired as the lead, though the character of Ben wasn’t actually written as a black man. George Romero hired Jones because he had the best audition. He played a character who led a group of white people to safety.
The movie is notable for its examination of gender roles in the horror genre. While Ben is the film’s hero, Barbra’s role is less pronounced. She sits on her living room sofa for most of the film. Only after Helen Cooper is attacked by zombies that she moves into action. It’s a disturbing movie that explores the boundaries of gender roles. However, while the film is an enjoyable horror movie, it’s also a profoundly serious work.
The first Night of the Living Dead was unintentionally racially charged, as it was released during turbulent times in the United States. It was released on the day of MLK’s assassination, a time when black power and civil unrest were widespread, and fear of nuclear annihilation was prevalent. In fact, it was the first movie to feature an African-American lead role. However, the film was criticized for its depiction of racial issues, and Romero himself defended it.
The Night of the Living Dead is not without its share of racism, with several examples of white hoodlums shooting an unarmed black man. The movie’s plot echoes the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Michael Brown, as well as the tragic deaths of Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and Michael Brown. The movie is also an unfavorable commentary on white racism.
Another example of how a zombie movie can be racially charged is in the way that it depicts white militancy. While zombies are a common genre for horror movies, Romero’s movie also shows rural white militia and an armed biker gang. While the story does not directly address race, the movie hints that white power is liberated by the zombie invasion. Similarly, in the film’s final scene, a white gang rips the pearls from an African-American zombie wrapped in a headwrap.
Imitation of Get Out
The original Night of the Living Dead trilogy has had numerous remakes, with varying degrees of success. The 1990 remake of Night was a faithful reproduction directed by George Romero, working with his longtime friend Tom Savini. A second remake followed in 2006, this time with three-dimensional effects and without Romero. Earlier this year, news broke of a sequel to the 1968 film. Russo and Romero were credited with writing the script, but it was never made.
The film had its share of controversies, including the audience-assault film L’age d’Or. The Chicago Sun-Times’ attack on Night of the Living Dead was reprinted in Reader’s Digest, but no contemporary reviews mentioned the 500,000 American troops in Vietnam or the widespread violence following Dr. King’s assassination. As such, it was a wildly successful movie despite its controversial content.
The first zombie in Dawn of the Dead was a child killer. The parents paid for the burial and spit on his body before burying him. In the movie, Reverend Hicks declares that zombies are actually demons from hell and must be killed. Although the rant is clearly insanity, Hicks is rescued by the first zombie with a shovel and escapes.
Influence of Get Out on Night of the Living Dead
Many people might not have realized that Jordan Peele’s Get Out movie had an influence on the original Night of the Living Dead. While the two films are completely different, both feature socially conscious themes. However, the Night of the Living Dead was the first film to tackle the theme of race, while Get Out focuses on racism in contemporary America. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Peele explained that his movie was inspired by Night of the Living Dead.
Despite its unique premise, Get Out does not merely follow the formula of Night of the Living Dead. It consciously evokes the rapacity of racism in the present. Rather, it capitalizes on social anxiety that is a result of racial resentment in America today. While this may seem counterintuitive, it does not mean that the film was wildly ahead of its time. It was a satire that aims to make a point about white, liberal racism.
Although Romero’s film recycles some elements of other classic horror movies, the movie is unique in its depiction of a world that is dying. The white American male zombie is presented as a dying breed and the black American male as an outcast. The film also features the concept of a dying world, which is reminiscent of the BBC’s Underground series from 1958. Although the film may seem to be an allegory of the 1960s, many viewers will still find this film a powerful one.