Thursday, October 27, 2016

Night of the Living Dead

Directed, shot, and edited by George A. Romero and written by Romero and John A. Russo, Night of the Living Dead is the story of seven people trapped inside a house in rural Pennsylvania as they’re being stalked by the living dead. The film is considered the very first film that can be called the zombie movie where humans try to deal with the dead who have come alive to eat their brains. Starring Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, and Keith Wayne. Night of the Living Dead is a chilling and gripping film from George A. Romero.

Set in western Pennsylvania near a small town with farms, the film is a simple story in which the living dead have been awaken due to some strange radiation as they haunt the living where a young woman has an encounter and goes to a farm where she is aided by an African-American man fighting them off as well as five other people. It’s a film about survival as well as what people try to do to survive as there are those who are just full of fear while some try to fight out against the living dead. The film’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot though it starts off as this strange comedy where a man taunts his sister that the dead is coming to get her where a living dead guy comes in and attacks the man as it goes into full-on terror. The young woman Barbara (Judith O’Dea) becomes traumatized as the only person who can help her is Ben (Duane Jones) as he is trying to lift moral as a way to survive.

While they would later discover others in the house that they hide in, Ben is the character who is the most sensible and determined as he has to deal with a coward who has been hiding his wife and ailing child in the cellar while only get help from another person and his girlfriend who had been hiding in the cellar. Their only means of outside communication is through the radio and television where they learn what is going on as it plays into this dark reality of what these characters had to go through. Especially in what they need to do to kill the living dead as well as what happens when one comes in contact with the living dead.

George A. Romero’s direction definitely play into its low-budget aesthetics as it is shot on grainy 35mm black-and-white film stock where some of the footage shown on television plays like a documentary. Shot on location near Evans City, Pennsylvania, the film definitely play into something that doesn’t start off as some horror movie where it acts like a comedy until the living dead come in as they would terrorize Barbara until she finds this farm. Much of the direction has Romero use medium shots and close-ups to play into the intimacy as well as the suspense where it adds to the sense of tension as well as what is at stake. There are some wide shots in the film to establish some of the locations as well as the scenes of the living dead waiting around the house.

Serving as the film’s cinematographer and editor, Romero would maintain that grainy look as if it was shot like a newsreel but also play up that air of suspense. In the editing, it is stylized with some jump-cuts while being very straightforward as it help play into the terror and some of the news footage in the film. Yet, there are also these elements that are quite dark as the film also play into not just the severity of what these characters are facing but also the outside world. Overall, Romero creates a riveting yet engaging film about people trying to survive against a horde of zombies.

The special effects work of Tony Pantanella and Regis Survinski is terrific as it play into the look of the zombies as well as the look of blood where chocolate was used for the look of blood. The sound work of Marshall Booth and Gary Streiner is superb for the way it captures some of the natural elements as well as the gunshots and explosions that occur in the film. The film’s music soundtrack consists of many orchestral and incidental stock music that had been used in other films as it includes compositions from Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel, William Loose, and Ib Glindelman.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Bill Cardille as a TV news reporter, Bill Hinzman as the first zombie that is shown in the film, George Kosana as a local sheriff who has begun a war with the zombies through the news reports, and producer Russell Streiner as Barbara’s brother Johnnie who becomes the first victim of the living dead. Kyra Schon is wonderful as the ailing young girl Karen who is down at the cellar feeling sick while Judith Ridley is terrific as Judy as Tom’s girlfriend who tries to help Ben and Tom get gas for an escape. Keith Wayne is superb as Tom as a young man that helps Ben as he would try to create a plan of escape for everyone.

Marilyn Eastman is excellent as Karen’s mother Helen who is trying to take care of her sick daughter as well as comprehend the chaos that is happening. Karl Hardman is brilliant as Karen’s father who is keen on staying in the cellar for safety as he is also a coward that irks Ben. Judith O’Dea is amazing as Barbara as a young woman who would be one of the first to encounter the living dead as she becomes nearly catatonic over what she saw. Finally, there’s Duane Jones in an incredible performance as Ben as the one person who takes action and does whatever he can to survive as he is almost the heroic figure in the film that audiences can root for where he tries to do whatever for himself and other to survive.

Night of the Living Dead is a sensational film from George A. Romero. Featuring a great cast and an inventive premise that would serve as a template for many other horror films to come. It’s a film that is quite compelling as it play into not just the idea of zombies trying to kill many but also what some will do to survive. In the end, Night of the Living Dead is a phenomenal film from George A. Romero.

George A. Romero Films: (There’s Always Vanilla) - (Season of the Witch) - (The Crazies) - (Martin) - (Dawn of the Dead) - (Knightriders) - (Creepshow) - (Day of the Dead) - (Monkey Shines) - (Two Evil Eyes) - (The Dark Half) - (Bruiser) - (Land of the Dead) - (Diary of the Dead) - (Survival of the Dead)

© thevoid99 2016

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