Rewind Reviews – Night of the Living Dead

Posted on 31 October 2018
By Andrew Siddall
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Back in 1968, horror mastermind, George A. Romero, brought one of the most influential horror films of all time to the big screen. In the first of two Halloween specials, Rewind Reviews takes a look at the classic original, Night of the Living Dead.

The original black and white Night of the Living Dead follows a group of people as they try to remain safe when the dead suddenly come back to life by barricading themselves in an old farmhouse.

One of the first characters introduced is Barbra, played by Judith O’Dea (Safe Inside). For the first part of them movie, the story is told through her perspective as she tries to survive a zombie outbreak. She’s played well, but there isn’t much for her to do as she spends most of her time traumatised and unable to escape the damsel she becomes.

Introduced a little later is Ben, played by Duane Jones (Vampires). He’s a great addition to the film with easily the best performance. He’s very resourceful and proves to be the kind of person you would want around during a zombie apocalypse with his level headed attitude.

There’s a wide variety of characters introduced throughout the runtime, most of which have become a must-have in zombie survival troupes. There’s a sick one, a quiet one, an aggressive fighter and the couple. It’s a great dynamic that works well, provides conflict and gives the characters more personality, seeing how they interact with each other.

The story is so simple and yet so effective, with the characters being caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak and trying to find a way to survive until they can escape or help arrives. This is a story that provides tension and natural stakes for the characters.

The majority of the film takes place in a small farmhouse. It’s a brilliant setting for the movie and establishes a constant feeling of dread and claustrophobia as the undead surround them, which is something many zombie films avoid doing these days.

Speaking of the undead, this is the movie that set the standard for what they are, with their slow movements, glazed-over stare and a taste for human flesh. They aren’t as dumb as modern zombies, being able to pick up objects and use them as weapons. They can even move faster when necessary, which gives them an edge and differentiates them from many other interpretations.

The horror is done extremely well, shifting between graphic gore fest and tense thriller. It’s just right for a movie like this, with some viewers finding certain things scary and some with others. It doesn’t rely on jump scares, although there are a few, instead allowing the tension to build as the living dead close in on the survivors. There’s even a few scenes that were lifted directly from this and used in the terrifyingly brilliant It Follows (2014).

The soundtrack was compiled by Scot Holton, who has crafted an eerie score that gives off a ghostly feel. It sets you on edge and makes you feel uneasy. It’s far more orchestral than today’s horror flicks but it suits the film and enhances the terror.

Overall, this is an absolute must-see for all horror fans that crafted a lasting legacy. Yes, it is dated, but it is still engaging and frequently chilling with a tense finale that’s full of twists and turns.

Purple Revolver rating: 4/5. A chilling classic.