- Gareth Crook
Night of the Living Dead (1968) - 8/10
I always feel a bit out of my depth with horror. It just didn’t ring with me when I was younger and I generally avoided anything other than the classics. This though slipped through the net. Watching it 50 plus years later does have its benefits. For starters the appreciation of something shot well in 4:3 Black and White. I say shot well, there’s a fair bit of loose hand held stuff, but it adds to the lofi eerie tone. I’m going to be honest. I know this is a cult classic and responsible for probably it’s fair share of tropes rather than relying on them, but it does mean I’m a little desensitised to much of the scares. It hangs on to its score far too much too. Fun as it is, it telegraphs too much. Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and Ben (Duane Jones) find themselves trapped in a remote country house, surrounded by woodland and zombies…. space radiation fuelled zombie no less. High concept stuff it’s not, but give it time. I guess for the 60s it was quite frightening, shocking, exhilarating and it does have a good amount of gore. For me though it’s the pacing and the story arc that Romero creates with a very small cast and limited location. It’s also refreshing to see a black man lead an American film in this era, even in this belittled genre. Jones is a great screen presence. Confident, resourceful and fearless. Taking charge and protecting O’Dea’s shellshocked Barbara, as they barricade A-Team style in the house. It’s a zombie epidemic, spelled out to us on radio and rather brilliant TV news bulletins, but Ben and Barbara aren’t alone. There’s more folks hiding in the basement. Before long they’re faced with a battle of social tension inside the house and flesh eating monsters outside. I’ll admit I was unsure in the first act, a bit flat, hackneyed, simple, but this builds superbly. A diverse rich cast really flex’s and flesh’s things out. The zombies are almost incidental. Aside the fact that need to get past them to escape the house and find safety. There’s a reason this film is held in such high regard. Yes it’s of it’s time, but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant.