(Review originally written at 19 December 2006)
It's amazing how one low-budget flick influenced and redefined an entire genre.

Before "Night of the Living Dead", zombie movies were mostly movies that relied on its atmosphere and not necessarily its horror or gore and were mostly set at exotic, far off, locations. Zombies weren't flesh eating monsters, they're were slaves that were controlled by a master, as showed in classic zombie movies such as "White Zombie" and "I Walked with a Zombie". George A. Romero completely threw this existing genre elements overboard and almost completely reinvented the genre. Sometimes I miss the old zombie flicks but George A. Romero introduced us to a totally new and great world of horror movies, that influenced many later movies. Copied a lot, never surpassed.

Perhaps the best thing about the movie is that its low-budget but that this mostly doesn't show on screen. With creepy zombies and simple locations, George A. Romero creates a creepy, as well as realistic (and maybe because of that creepy) atmosphere. The movie could had easily gone over-the-top and became a real campy one. Considering the resources they had, they did an extremely good job with this movie. The movie is shot in atmospheric black & white. Perhaps this was done to tone down the graphic moments of the movie? Or just because it was the cheapest thing to do? But whatever the reason is, it works well for the movie and its atmosphere and it reminded me of some old '30/'40's atmospheric horror classics. George A. Romero definitely knew his classics.

The story is kept very simple and chooses not to really explain anything. It focuses on just a few characters and mostly chooses not to show anything else that is happening to the world at the moment. It makes you feel close to the characters and their fears. It's one of the reasons why "Night of the Living Dead" works well as a creepy horror movie, although it nowhere ever gets really scary or real tense. The movie is mostly predictable, which is also due to the formulaic, stereotypical horror-characters that we're all accustomed to but in the '60's still were quite renewing and became later genre-defining.

Still the movie is a bit too amateur like for my taste at times. The directing and editing is really off at times and the acting is just plain bad. The two main character played by Duane Jones and Judith O'Dea pull off quite alright but everyone else is terribly overacting and clearly has no talent for the movie business. It was like watching an Ed Wood movie at times but luckily the moments and atmosphere of the movie compensated for this.

As for the gore and graphic moments, it's was pretty shocking for '60's standards and so was the fitting ending but of course in todays perspective it's all rather toned down, also especially when you compare it to George A. Romero's later movies, such as the direct sequel "Dawn of the Dead".

Not as good and entertaining as "Dawn of the Dead" but considering the resources and the enormous influence this movie had on later genre movies, this movie remains a classic horror must-see!


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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