Sunday, September 18, 2005

Short Cuts: Night of the Living Dead

So much has been written about this seminal horror film, but I guess I’ll add my two cents to the bulk, dross, and critical appraisal however redundant it may be. Though I’ve seen this film numerous times throughout my life, it’s been awhile, and Lynda and I have been planning on revisiting George A. Romero’s original “Living Dead” trilogy in preparation for the DVD release of the fourth, uncut installment, Land of the Dead, in October. Our enthusiasm was also high since we watched the new Starz Encore documentary Midnight Movies a couple of nights ago, which focuses on six of the first true cult films of the late-1960s-early 1970s, NOTLD being one of them. Well, we just finished watching it and man, does it hold up. For those of you who have never seen it (is there really anyone over the age of ten who hasn’t?), NOTLD is one of the great horror films of all time dealing with a disparate group of humans held-up in a country house, forced to battle a marauding tide of flesh-eating zombies gathering outside while battling one another inside. Shot in stark black & white, the film is powerful, politically subversive (especially for the time), and filled with nightmarish images of the living dead scavengers devouring their human victims, ripping them apart, and tussling with their gutty works like ignorant children playing with streams of silly string. But however visceral and disconcerting the violence may be, the real impact of the film stems from the selfishness and recklessness that the human characters perpetuate and from the savage dénouement that never fails to leave me shattered. Sure, some of the performances are awkward or amateurish (many of the “actors” were locals or friends of the filmmakers), but Duane Jones’ lead role as Ben, the reluctant yet resourceful “hero” of the film, is thoroughly excellent and commanding. The film is also not as slick as the subsequent chapters in the series, but Romero’s direction and editing is frequently startling and brilliant. It’s not by chance that this ruthless blast of cinematic apocalypse has managed to infiltrate the pantheon of great horror films. Next up for our viewing pleasure . . . Romero’s follow-up, Dawn of the Dead, will be screened and I can’t fucking wait.


guile said...

i love zombie movies..

Derek said...

Well, I'm glad you do too. I'll be posting some more zombie reviews very soon.