NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. 1968. DIRECTED BY GEORGE A. ROMERO. STARRING DUANE JONES AND JUDITH O’DEA. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’d been hearing about this iconic horror film for years and years and years before I finally plucked up the courage to watch it. I’d heard all about how brilliant and famously groundbreaking it was. I’d seen grainy black-and-white stills from the movie online. I’d heard people saying: ‘They’re coming to get you, Barbara…!’ and I’d be left wondering who Barbara was, and by whom- or what- she was being pursued. And I used to wonder too if this Barbara ever even made it to safety.
But a lifelong fear of zombies stood in my way. I was the kid who was scared to death of Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video. I still can’t watch that in its entirety to this day. Pictures of zombies in books or magazines put the fear of God in me. Seeing ‘Mother’s’ dessicated corpse in PSYCHO set me back about twenty years in terms of watching films that were in any way scary, or that might have a zombie or a zombified being or just a regular old corpse in them. A TV ad for THE CREEPING FLESH, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, put the heart crossways in me when I was a kid. Imagine that…! I was a proper little ‘fraidy-cat back then.
It’s only in the last two years that I’ve managed to conquer some of my childhood fears. This year alone, I’ve stood up to ‘Mother’ Bates at last and won by finally re-watching PSYCHO, and what’s more I’ve watched all three sequels since and only been s**t-scared a few times, haha.
I’ve tackled all the AMITYVILLE HORROR movies, and I’ve even watched my own personal ‘Everest,’ THE EXORCIST. Mind you, I was probably only able to watch that because I’d seen so many clips of the film online and so many pictures of Regan’s ‘monsterised’ face that a lot of the horror in the film was already known to me. Nonetheless, I did it. After that, there remained only one stumbling-block yet to sweep out of my way. Zombies…!
I borrowed a really cool old George A. Romero boxset from a family member. It’s called TRILOGY OF THE DEAD and, true to its word, it contains NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD. The bonus disc has a NOTLD documentary on it and there’s a booklet containing an essay on all three films as well. All for the piffling sum of three quid in a charity shop! It’s truly amazing the stuff you can find in these places.
Anyway, of course the film is as brilliant as everyone says it is, and I finally found out who Barbara is! She’s a lovely girl with blonde hair who goes to the cemetery with her brother Johnny to lay a wreath on their dad’s grave. They’ve picked a bad time to do it, though. Radiation (it’s always radiation, isn’t it?) from space is causing the recently deceased to re-animate and run amok, killing the living and eating them without so much as a by-your-leave. Tsk, tsk. It’s hardly civilised, is it?
Any-hoo, it’s a bad time to be hanging around the old graveyard, as you can imagine. Barbara and Johnny get chased around the place by an executed child-killer, which is hardly the way they saw their excursion going. Barbara manages to make her way to a big old house in which a few others are also holed up for safety. She meets Ben, who’s busy making the whole place zombie-proof, and the interesting thing about Ben’s character is that it’s apparently the first time a black actor was chosen as the male protagonist in a film.
Ben is not just the main male protagonist, however. He is the man. I’m telling you that he is the mother-f***ing man. I mean, he is seriously proactive. He’s chopping wood and nailing it across windows and doors as if he’s been fighting off zombies his whole life, he’s checking upstairs and giving orders left, right and centre and he even gives Barbara a good hard slap when she gets hysterical, which we all know is what women need in such circumstances, heh-heh-heh. I personally love Ben. He seems to know exactly what to do and when to do it. I want Ben in my corner when the zombie apocalypse comes.
I loved the grainy, black-and-white photography (apparently used to keep down costs), the terrifically edgy musical score and the scenes of zombie-cannibalism that caused Reader’s Digest to start a campaign to get the movie banned. They were unsuccessful, by the way. In fact, they just ended up doing the film a favour, as is often the way.
I simply adored the hilarious news bulletins that kept people apprised of the murderous shenanigans by the Mysterious Un-Dead Assassins.
I also loved (but was scared by) the scenes in the cellar with the kid who… Well, I’m not telling you what she did, but it surely constitutes some form of parental abuse. And I also loved (but cried buckets at) the heartbreaking ending I’d heard so much about.
God, what a brilliant film! And I still have the other two films in the trilogy left to watch, which I’m thrilled about. I did have nightmares after watching NOTLD, but they weren’t about zombies per se. I was back in the school gymnasium, having to perform a dance for the entire school. Now that’s f***ing scary…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY