Fiziko is in transit, so I’m posting his review of Night of the Living Dead, a classic low-budget horror that probably did more than anything else to establish the zombie genre.

Did your town have a Zombie Walk this week? Watch this movie and see where it began. “They’re coming to get you, Barbra….”

Title: Night of the Living Dead

Cast and Crew Information

Duane Jones as Ben

Judith O’Dea as Barbra

Karl Hardman as Harry Cooper

Marilyn Eastman as
Helen Cooper / Bug-eating zombie

Keith Wayne as
Tom

Judith Ridley as
Judy

Kyra Schon as
Karen Cooper

Charles Craig as
Newscaster / Zombie

S. William Hinzman as
Cemetery Zombie

George Kosana as
Sheriff McClelland

Written by John A. Russo and George Romero

Directed by George Romero

Premise

A satellite carrying strange radiation back to Earth from Venus. This radiation is causing the recently deceased to become reanimated and feast on the flesh of the living. This story is told from the perspective of one small group of people trying to survive against the attacks.

High Point

The inevitable fate of Barbra. That was telegraphed ten minutes into the movie, but with something this cheesy, it’s what passes for irony.

Low Point

The strangely shot and rather overplayed death by trowel.

The Scores

This is somewhat original. If viewed out of the context of time, it seems incredibly cliche, but in the proper historical context, one realizes that this was instead the source of many of these zombie film cliches. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were very minimal. We’ve basically got makeup and squibs. However, the filmmakers were quite aware of their technological and budgetary limitations, and worked around them, so that these effects are all that were needed. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting was pretty poor. The entire cast were single dimensional tropes and stereotypes, but most of them still had troubles playing that single note. O’Dea did well in the shocked catatonia, Jones also did a decent job most of the time, but the remainder of the “living” cast were just as stiff as the dead ones. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story is minimal. There’s just enough meat and plot to keep things moving, and even then there are logical issues (where characters forget what they’ve already known, or don’t notice the bloody obvious) and problematic timeframes. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response starts out remarkably bland, but starts to pick up for the last five or ten minutes. The feeling of suspense they are trying to create works okay, but it’s not until the final wave come into the house that I started to actually get engaged with the movie. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production was done on a very limited budget. The sound mixing and recording was very bland, essentially just using a single on set mike and recording what was recorded. The lighting was nicely done, with some nice use of shadows in a few scenes. The editing and cinematography was remarkably basic. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is good enough to create a new genre for the diehard horror fans, but it’s not going to change the minds of those who aren’t horror fans in the first place. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Night of the Living Dead receives 26 out of 42.