Night of the Living Dead
June 13, 2005
Rated: NR Runtime: 96 min Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I’ve declared June to be Zombie Month here at MFG.com, as we’re getting a brand new zombie flick from George Romero – Land of the Dead – on June 24. Throughout Zombie Month, I’ll be reviewing several zombie movies, including a few brand new ones. But I thought I’d begin with the movie that started it all: George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
Now, I’ve never really understood what all the fuss was about regarding this movie. Sure, it’s a ground-breaking low budget horror movie, an inspiration to countless horror filmmakers, and a classic in most people’s eyes. But it is boring!
The opening sequence is very well done, as Barbara (Judith O’Dea) watches her brother Johnny get attacked by a zombie while visiting a cemetary. The zombie then chases Barbara to her car and she escapes. The car runs off the road and she makes it to a deserted farm house on foot. So far so good, but then the movie just grinds to a halt. Ben (Duane Jones) shows up and boards up all the windows and doors. Then they discover five other people who have locked themselves up in the cellar. Meanwhile, zombies have congregated outside the house and are trying to break in to eat at the human flesh buffet.
Unfortunately, the dialogue is flat and the acting is pretty bad. This could have been remedied by some zombies breaking into the house and causing havoc. But they’re all outside, and our heroes are safe from harm.
Finally, the survivors get the idea to escape in a truck. There’s a gas tank in front of a barn on the other side of the farm, and they make the very poor decision to go out amongst the zombies to fill up the tank. At this point, the movie finally picks up speed again. I won’t give away the ending, as it is very good and almost redeems the boring hour that proceeds it.
A quick trip to Amazon reveals that there are multiple versions of Night of the Living Dead available on DVD. George Romero failed to place a copyright notice in the credits when the movie was originally released, and it fell into the public domain. The version I reviewed is a bare-bones DVD with just the movie. However, this is the original cut of the movie, and you can get it for less than five bucks.
In addition to a colorized version of the movie and a 1990 Tom Savini remake starring Tony Todd, there’s a 30th anniversary edition DVD available with tons of extras. Perhaps I’ll check that out and review it in the future. Be warned that this version does not contain the original version. There are some “updated” scenes filmed in the late 90’s, and I’ve been told that they actually make the movie worse. I can’t help but think that just about anything would make the first hour of the movie MORE bearable, but we’ll see.
Night of the Living Dead is definitely worth a rental. If you can pick up one of the budget DVD versions (there are several), then go for it.
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