Saturday, May 21, 2011

Night of the Living Dead: Why It Works


If you haven't seen "Night of the Living Dead" (enjoy it above)

If you have seen it, have you ever wondered why so many decades later, we can still hold such a fascination?

Let's look at the elements:

A home-movie like feel. You can almost hear the reel projector, can't you? Black and white and bleak. Can anything else be more depressing?

It feels as if this could actually happen. The countryside is one you're familiar with. The simple task of visiting a grave, arguing between siblings, all familiar mindless events. It moves almost boringly slow the first minutes, if it weren't for the Twilight Zone kind of spooky music hovering lightly in the background.

There's no huge onslaught like in "28 Days Later" where the hero wakes up in an abandoned hospital and encounters hordes of ghouls. This is just one stumbling man in a graveyard. Then, it becomes strangers looking for a haven, trying to make a plan for something no one could foresee.

There were no brilliant scientists to rig up electricity to kill the monster like in "The Thing." These are folks using what's around them, just like we would, and trying to figure out what to do without the help of the outside world to tell us what the fuck is happening.

The drama in these situations, like in real life situations of dire circumstances, depends on the mettle of the people involved. Remember that plane over PA on 9-11? It could have had a hundred different scenarios, but in this case, it included putting up a fight. Some characters in the situation, like the older man in this movie, crumble and show their true character. Others become heroes like the young couple. And, everyone has that one basketcase relative, like Barbara, who is going to totally lose it and get a good slap.

This movie had ghouls and feasting, but not in a gratuitous manner like, say, "Dawn of the Dead" remake. You spend much of the movie inside the house not sure what is occurring outside. Upon occasion, we get a glimmer of wandering dead of different sizes, ages, state of being. We see them gnawing on bones, nibbling on intestines, but only brief glimpses, no full-on "here it is," but instead "what am I seeing???"

I love this movie. I think that the fact Romero didn't give us a happy ending shows a certain amount of class. This was like the Indie movies of today, done by talent, smaller budgets, and really original visions that may not scream "box office" but definitely scream "classic"!

5 comments:

  1. Not that I thought I would have the time to get through the whole movie, but I wouldn't have made it past "They're coming to get you, Barbara!"

    What do you think of the color remake of this classic?

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  2. Leaves me cold. Part of what was so fascinating with it was the black and white of it. Black and white in so many ways--the racial/the dead/alive, the bad/good, the right/wrong. As a writer and a romantic, B&W totally!

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  3. My step-dad has actually been to the Graveyard where they filmed the opening scene. His car broke down there.

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  4. this is the grandfather of all the zombie movies, without the simplicity and gore-ish grace... we would not have had many of the zombie-type movies. i still feel the tingle on the back of my neck, from the return of the dead to the misunderstood ending that feels a little racist. i will forever remember the people eating, more like devouring their own kind... mmmm it's refreshing.

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  5. Jeremy;
    You're totally right about the way they feasted. It was possessive instead of just angry. (chills)

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