Friday, October 22, 2010

Film #45: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This is the “true” story (Truly horrifying storrrieee!)... of seven strangers... forced by zombies to live in a farmhouse... and have their short lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real... The Real Undead World.

Okay, so the 1968 freak film Night of the Living Dead isn’t necessarily a true story. But it certainly FEELS real thanks to the punchy, documentary-type filmmaking of director George Romero. And this tale of flesh eating ghouls has a lot in common with MTV’s The Real World… especially when it comes to bad behavior between “housemates.” That, and this movie is about as real as any Real World season (which is worse, Puck or a Zombie?).

The film starts with siblings Barbra and Johnny having a wonderful time putting markers on their dead father’s gravestone in rural Pennsylvania. Damn Dad with his demanding death! In the distance, they see a ghost white man shambling around the cemetery like a relapsed Robert Downey Jr.

Johnny, a funny-dick who likes to torture his sis, tries to freak out Barbra by saying the weirdie man is coming to kill her. Turns out, he’s right! After a struggle between the crazed man and Johnny results in a Johnny’s death via noggin’ floggin’, the murderous ghoul turns his dead-eyed sights on annoying Barbra.

Sprinting for her life, she makes her way to a nearby farmhouse, and eventually holes up in the joint with six other strangers as more and more ghouls assemble outside. Hmmm, a horde of brain dead people assembling… why does that sound familiar? Radio and TV reports inform the housemates that mass murders are occurring around the country, with the perpetrators actually eating the flesh of their victims.

But the zombies amassing outside are the least of the seven “norms” worries. In-fighting regarding survival strategy causes tempers to flair and ultimately threatens their survival. Live together, die apart is a lesson the group should heed… but they don’t. Can’t we all just get along?!

Can the group cooperate and survive the undead onslaught, or will their bickering result in the feast of a lifetime for the flesh hungry mob.
Find out, in the 1968 zombie classic, “Night of the Living Dead.”

RDHP Ratings and Review
C-Rating: 5.0
Chris Dimick zombie-moans:
“Zombie movies are not about zombies. More specifically, George Romero zombie movies are not about flesh eating ghouls. And that is what makes them, and Night of the Living Dead, brilliant.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching zombies on film. Their gory, rotting flesh. The animal like viciousness in their pursuit of man-meat. The horror of deceased loved ones not resting in death, but becoming unrelenting killing machines bent on busting your brains. Zombies are better than ice cream, and just as melty!

But the best part of the zombie movie is how the non-zombies, human beings, react to the zombie apocalypse. Romero invented this kind of zombie storyline, which has been copied for over 40 years in nearly all following zombie/infection movies.

This story line of human reaction to an unfathomable situation is intriguing because it sets up the viewer to think “what would I do in that situation?” The idealist in most of us feels that given an extraordinary situation like a zombie apocalypse, mankind would bond together, set aside their differences, and fight as one against the invading undead masses.

In reality though, that is a bunch of hippie bullshit. The realist in me knows that given the collapse of everyday society, it would be every man for himself. Kill or be killed. Look out for number one. Get out of my way grandma, or I'll split open your head.

Wearing pants and essentially staring at a computer for food has made most of us forget the survival instinct. But zombie films remind us that deep down, we could fight to save our lives. We'd revert back to monkeys.

This was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, and even after repeated viewings it still gives me the willies. I can easily say this is one of the best horror movies of all time. Some of the acting is over the top, but it is excused by the great writing and powerful interaction between the characters.

The soundtrack of the film is perfectly creepy, jarring and subtle. Romero’s camera angles and editing makes this film seem like a documentary of sorts… and puts you in that farmhouse as the tension builds to a soul crushing weight. It is an outlandish premise… the dead rising to feast on human flesh, but Romero makes you believe it with the frantic interaction between the still living cast mates. Then there is that ending, that leaves you breathless, soulless, empty and cold. There is a reason this movie still feels fresh, 42 years after its release. It was ahead of its time, and rooted in timeless, pure, human emotion.

In Night of the Living Dead and nearly all of his following zombie films (even the shitty 2000s movies), Romero makes a social statement among the gut eating and head smashing. In NotLD, the commentary is that mankind is inherently self-centered… and in turn self-destructive. Without giving away any spoilers, if the seven people who came together in that farmhouse had truly worked together, they might have had a better outcome at the end of the movie. Instead, personal biases, character flaws, and the thirst for power ultimately defeated them before the first zombie bite.
Morale of the story: humans are self-centered assholes.

Depressing, right?! Well, there might just be another morale of NotLD. Zombie apocalypse or not, the world would be a better, safer place if people would put aside their differences and unite to improve the situation. The pessimist in me loves Night of the Living Dead for its biting analysis of humanity. The optimist sees it as a it's-not-too-late warning to those who choose personal gain over the good of all.

And even if no one learns anything from the flick, at least it has some awesomely gross zombies to stare at. Even a naked one."

N-Rating: 4.8
Nick Rich zombie-moans:
"What can you say about Romero's baby? There's just something magical about it... even thinking about it brings me back to that special time in my life before I was an outright horror movie fan. I mean sure, I had watched some Jason flicks and sure, I had seen Event Horizon (IN the theater - SNAP!) and sure, I liked to have the crap scared out of me (what self-respecting teenager doesn't?) but at that point I had just considered myself a 'movie buff.'

Then along came Night of the Living Dead... shambling its way into my heart...

"Wait... old movies can be scary?" Ah, the innocence of youth! Little did I know the treasure trove of goodness that NotLD would unleash upon my world! Eventually leading up to the formation of the RDHP...

But back to NotLD. For my money, conceptually, it doesn't get any better than this. In the middle of the still, 1960's countryside you're suddenly thrown into the throes of the Zombie Apocalypse, with nothing but a rickety farmhouse full of jackalopes standing between you and your brains becoming ghoul fodder - priceless! This film just feels like you're trapped in a world crawling with zombies... from the sometimes grainy and shaky black and white film, to the utter helplessness that is communication in the 1960's (much different from today), to the uncomfortable silences that seem unscripted... everything about NotLD pulls you into a world where the dead not only walk, but want you as their next meal!

Sure, there were things about this film that rate on the "oh come ON" meter, (such as the farmhouse having a brand new rifle in the closet with ample ammo and a treasure-trove of boards perfect for fortifying the house conveniently located underneath the kitchen sink) and yes, there are a few editing and continuity errors... but these things are small potatoes compare to the vast amount of awesomeness that is to be harvested from this most creepy field of corpses. After all, compost piles make the best fertilizer.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you've never seen a zombie movie or if you have seen one - just check this one out! (Preferably in a quiet country house in the middle of nowhere!)"

Things We Learned from Night of the Living Dead:
-People suck, especially in a crisis.
-"Even if you don't enjoy living together, dying together won't solve anything."
-Zombies, like horses, bite and kick.
-NotLD character Tom looks kinda like Chris's brother Jeremy (though Jeremy doesn't sport Tom's bowlcut.).
-You make excuses for the ones you love... in this case, George Romero.
-Molotov cocktails sound like brass horns when they smash.
-Zombies like both barbecue and sushi.
-When you are dead, you are "all messed up."
-They ought to make the day the time changes the first day of summer.
-They're coming to get Barbra.
-Zombies, like Frankenstein, hate light and fire.
-Destroy the brain, destroy the ghoul.
-Zombies are "murder happy characters"
-They also "ain't no Sunday school picnic."
-Barbra is not a good story teller.
-When it comes to "...the Dead" movies, Chris's favorite movie is Night of, Nick's is Dawn of.
-Sometimes it is okay for a man to close fist punch a woman:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Ben tells Barbra about his first encounter with a horde of zombies, who had encircled a diner full of meaty patrons. Ben says first he heard screams, then silence punctuated by eating noises.]
Chris: Sounds like those diners became dinner.
Nick: They got their just desserts.
Chris: Actually, the zombies got their guts desserts.

Night of the Living Dead, the Rich-Dimick Horror Project's 45th film, officially marks the HALFWAY POINT of the project. We've screened 45 films to date, and will screen another 45 films in order to view one horror movie from each year between 1920 to 2010.
At this milestone we raise a blood filled, skull shaped glass to both scary movies and our devoted blog readers! THANK YOU FOR READING AND FOLLOWING THE PROJECT!
We've seen some great films, and can't wait to see what our next 45 films bring us.
As a recap, here are the five RDHP top rated films from the first half of the project, based only on rating score at the time of viewing:

Chris's Top 5 Films:
Scream -- 5.0
King Kong -- 5.0
The Wolf Man -- 4.9
Dead Alive -- 4.8
Let the Right One In -- 4.8

Nick's Top 5 Films:
Let the Right One In -- 4.9
M -- 4.8
King Kong -- 4.7
Session 9 -- 4.6
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari -- 4.5

RDHP's Favorite Zombies
The zombie genre is a personal favorite of both Nick and Chris. There is just something special about watching the zombie apocalypse unfold. Do we want society to break down? Not exactly. But then again, reclaiming the world would give people something productive to do. As an homage to our favorite subgenre of horror, below is a list of our favorite living dead pals from past and present. These folks could chew on our brains anytime.

Zombie #1
Night of the Living Dead practically invented the zombie horror movie subgenre, which means the movie's first on screen zombie, actor Bill Hinzman, invented the zombie look and shamble (and was the first "running zombie," despite all the recent debate). As the first zombie to appear in NotLD, it is only natural that we pay homage to this great undead master. Just look at that face! Karloff eat your heart out! Or, let Bill do it!

Zombie Baby
Dead Alive has plenty of gross out scenes with zombies. One of the best is when two zombies make whoopee and create this little bundle of horror. Some parenting advice, I’d avoid breast feeding this little guy.

Audrina Patridge
Just look at those soulless eyes. OMG, she is so a zombie, Becky! But we can't understand how she got bit by a zombie in the first place... they were barking up the wrong tree if they were looking for brains in this empty acorn.

Red-headed Sawed-off Zombie
One look at this ginger flesh eater is enough to make you toss Oreos... then you hear her voice!
This is just one of many fantastic zombies from killer zombie-com Return of the Living Dead (the naked punk rock chic zombie is bad ass too).

Bill Murray Zombie
In the film Zombieland, Bill Murray makes a guest appearance as a celebrity zombie. Even as an living dead merchant of death, that Bill can still get a laugh out of us.

This is one of the few likeable zombies in history. Bubba is one of the stars of Romero's third zombie flick, Day of the Dead. Chris once worked with a cook on the Denny's midnight shift that looked exactly like Bubba. Actually, Bubba had more personality, and brains (in his stomach, naturally) than that pot-addicted moron who once stopped his car in the middle of the expressway for "the light to change" -- nearly killing Chris.

Robert Pattinson
You might think he is a vampire, but nope, he's a zombie. The blank look, the mindless way he reads his lines, and the slack-jawed pie-hole all scream undead flesh eater. Bonus example, you'd have to be dead to stand more than 10 minutes of Kristen Stewart.

Zombie Twins
Come on Wrigley, why weren't these two included in the Doublemint Gun commercials?!
Double your pleasure!

RDHP's Tackles The Eternal Question:
Where are you safest during the Zombie Apocalypse - the cellar or main floor?
The characters of NotLD heatedly debated this question throughout the film, so we here at the RDHP would like to finally provide our readers with some much needed closure on the subject.

While Mr. Cooper is a staunch supporter of the cellar due to its easily defended door that is 'locked up real good', Ben contends that it is a 'death trap' with no chance for escape! Ben argues that the main floor has means of communication (via radio and TV), but Mr. Cooper counters that there are 'a million windows' through which the ghouls could get in!

Both men make credible cases (as they should, seeing as their lives are on the line), but after extensive research the RDHP has finally determined that neither man is correct.
Dear reader, can you guess what the correct answer is?


  1. Upstairs, with the stairs destroied behind you!

    Also, I just got a bowl cut, finally completing my transformation into Tom. I am just glad some one finally noticed (single tear).

  2. Jeremy Dimick.... you are CORRECT!
    Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!
    When trying to keep a horde of zombies away from your brains, the best solution is to take all supplies to the second floor of your safe house and destroy the stairs behind you!
    This renders you unreachable by the brain dead monsters, who are too dumb to think of using a ladder to reach you.
    Your correct answer wins you... the satisfaction of knowing you'll survive the Zombie Apocalypse! Congrats!

    P.S. I can't wait to see the new hair-do! :)