Saturday, September 5, 2009
Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead; horror, USA, 1968; D: George A. Romero, S: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman
One evening, girl Barbara and her brother Johnny go to the cemetery to visit the grave of their father. But there they are attacked by a zombie who kills Johnny. She runs away and hides in a house in the valley. There she meets the African American Ben who just ran away from a real zombie army. On a television, the reporters announce how zombies attacked the whole country and that the reason may lie in the radiation of a defect satellite, as well as that they can only be killed with a shot in the head. The owners of the house, Mr. Cooper and his family, as well as Barbara, are killed by zombies. In the morning, only Ben stays alive. But he is shot by the police who mistake him for a zombie.
Unusual camp horror "Night of the Living Dead", that was shot for only 144,000 $ but grossed over 20 million $ at the box office, was heavily disputed during its premiere yet achieved cult status with time and inspired a whole series of zombie films. The sole story about zombies admittedly falls under the unappreciated horror genre and does not seem like a high concept, but a sole topic or high concept do not constitute a film alone. Director George A. Romero wasted his career later on with cheap sequels, but here he has a sense for the creepy, already manifesting a relaxed tone and opulent mood in the ironic exposition on the cemetery, deepening it with unusual camera angles, while it only starts to wear off towards the overstretched finale. The messages of the film underwent various interpretations: some saw the zombies as an allegory for people who are so inhibited by an ideology (Communism, religious or ethnic fundamentalism...) that they become soulless, mindless killers (on Television they are even described at first as a "sect that is committing mass murders") while others deciphered it for consumeric, bankrupt society that is destroying itself. One thing though, and the ending underlies that specifically, is an obvious symbol, namely that the "monsters", the zombies, look almost like "us", and seem like a mass agitated. They are evil, but they also show at the end how quickly the "good" can become evil too when faced with the same situation.