George R. Romero had an idea. Back in the 1960s, without the help of a major movie studio, George decided to go out alone and shoot his idea. Looking back, it’s hard to deny that Night of the Living Dead is wihtout a doubt not only one of the best and most influential horror movies of all time, it is worthy of study as it provides a cold hard look into the human condition.
The first time I saw this movie in its entirety was in my second year of University. It was part of the curriculum, and of course it was being shown to us the day before Halloween. When it was done, I walked out of the classroom with a sense of having seen something amazing. A horror movie where the monsters, the zombies, were not the true monsters. It was us; the people in the movie, and the people watching and not engaging in anything more than just a form of voyeurism, not saying anything.
It lead to some of the most intelligent discussions I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. For a 1968 movie, a time when civil rights and the world at large was in a state of upheaval, Romero was bold enough to make a movie that touched on and spoke out against such travesties and tragedies.
However, at the time, no one noticed. They noticed the gore, the violence, and for those first audiences that watched it in the cinema, they were appalled that their children observed such terrors. Granted this film was released before the MPAA was established. Still, parents of the 1960s, what were you thinking? Did you not see the title? I don’t think Romero is to blame. He should be congratulated.
Below the chocolate syrup/cornstarch blood and the guts, lies a commentary on the world that still carries weight and importance in the 21st century. How often are the marginalized pushed aside and feared? What becomes of those who stand up and react against such a force of nature? How will they be dealt with? Live by the gun, die by the gun?
As much as this film fuels and reinforces my love for zombies, I love this movie because it is so much more. Give this film a viewing, a serious viewing. Maybe not with the kiddos. Not yet. But see what you find within. You’ll see some pretty interesting things.