Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead ★★★★★

Oceanside Intl. Film Festival 2018 Entry 5 of 7 - Screened with Live Accompaniment by Morricone Youth

Romero’s creation of the modern undead genre isn’t something to ever take for granted. With his exploration of social class division through the allurement of all things macabre, this most important artist of the last century ripped open the then most taboo of floodgates. His zombie films were always so special, in that, the walking corpses were always secondary to the film’s main plight. That situation being in the form of human divide or conflict, which leads them down a sure path of destruction. Although teamwork would most likely result in certain victory for those with a pulse, the deceased overtake them due to humanity’s petty battle with its own species. 

In George’s original outing, we see the most bare-bones representation of this structure. Survivors held up in a slightly fortified household, unable to accept the fact that they need true leadership from one source, or will disperse into complete chaos. Turned against each other through a lethal mixture of pigheadedness and racial tension, it only results in separate “teams” in the end, weakening their defenses considerably. As the aggressive living fight, the hungry dead eventually reach their gourmet targets. It’s not a matter of how they stay protected, but how long they can delay such an inevitable fate. 

Bleak & met with full force of the unknown, Night of the Living Dead has always been my favorite of Romero’s undead saga. It’s the most pure and unabashed version of the concept one can ever view. Before there were rules or canon origins behind a zombie outbreak, there was a beautifully creepy black & white thriller about America’s working class struggle. Crafted through meager means and shot within the directors hometown, Living Dead really is Romero’s love letter to his blue collar roots, as it is simply the life he lead each and every day, seen through gaze he chose to behold. Nothing says more so, however, than George’s response to his then controversial casting of an African American lead: He was just the best man for the job. 

More is owed to this picture than most made within the latter half of the last century. It continues to be loved more than almost any other film within public domain status, with its recent Janus restoration being a true wonder of the world. We screened this tremendous piece of classic cinema at OIFF 2018 with an incredible, Goblin-like live re-score by cult musical act, “Morricone Youth”. It was wonderful being able to celebrate its anniversary with such a great duet! Here’s to the future of the genre and full hope that it can remain fresh, if not impactful, for many more years to come. 

- The Spork Guy

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