Night of the Living Dead review

:. Director: George A. Romero
:. Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea
:. Running Time: 1:36
:. Year: 1968
:. Country: USA


When George Romero shot a little black and white film called Night of the Living Dead back in 1968, little did he know that his film would become an instant classic and launch one of the most popular subgenres of modern cinema.

Mostly centered around a black man (Duane Jones) and a blonde ingénue (Judith O'Dea) stuck in a house surrounded by zombies, Night of the Living Dead used the fear of zombies as a pretext to study the psychology of humans trapped in a hostile setting.

While in today's standards the film has an outdated Twilight Zone feel, which is mostly due to its black and white facture, its rather basic make-up and props and its low scare factor, Night of the Living Dead, however, is an undeniable masterwork when it comes to building suspense on a simple setting.

Contrary to modern revisionist zombie fares, where the undead are fierce, aggressive and fast-runners — and Mr. Romero certainly didn't embrace that trend to 28 Days Later — here they are walking vegetables and easy kills. What makes them dangerous, however, is their multiplication, which is the basis for the characters' fear here. Throughout the film, we watch them preparing for an imminent invasion, which creates a sense of thrilling suspense.

Of course, if you're familiar with the work of Mr. Romero and the context of the film — the late 60's — you realize that, beyond his horror movie envelope, Night of the Living Dead is fueled by strong socio-political commentary.

In the fear of the invasion, you can see as much communism as the hippie ideology, while featuring a couple composed of a black man and a typical blond woman is a clear nod to integration. As for the militia that comes to save — or not — the day at the end, they symbolize that American taste for vigilantism and military conquest, which from the Vietnam war finds echoes nowadays.

Drenched in irony and strong in suspense, Night of the Living Dead showed the path for a new cinematic subgenre and is the foundation for Mr. Romero's emblematic zombie filmography, remaining strangely relevant despite its old look.

Extras: This new DVD edition of the film features a couple of commentary tracks, an interview with two of the actors, a Q&A with the director, an audio interview of the late Duane Jones, a trailer, the script and still gallery. Even though, I must admit being a fan of Mr. Romero's Zombie series and even owning the Dawn of the Dead ultimate edition set, extras here proved to be quite disappointing as I found both the documentary and the Q&A to be pretty bland, lacking any sense of excitement and turning into one of these quite boring "memories of old people" stories.

  Fred Thom

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