Monday, October 24, 2011

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Too much "B" and not enough "Movie."

- Made on a tiny budget with no big names and no high-end production values, Night Of The Living Dead (1968) has stumbled and groaned its way into a classic status. Spawning the horror sub-genre that features a group of main characters fighting to stay alive amidst an apocalyptic barrage of zombies and continuing the classic horror tradition of combining style and scares, Night Of The Living Dead left me with mixed feelings.

I think it is easy to see that Night Of The Living Dead has a very powerful look and feel. The black-and-white picture gives a new meaning to the word "dreary;" the lighting is exquisite, highly expressive and creates mood all by itself; and Romero employs some creative camera work that is also essential in the film's creepy visual vibe.

However, the great look and atmosphere are about the only things I would say that the film does exceptionally well - the rest is all B movie bumbling. The film's biggest problem is that every frame is bubbling over with stereotypical one-dimensional idiot characters that say dumb things and make even dumber decisions. The many bad actors chosen to play these stupid characters make the film so unintentionally funny that it hurts.

Really the only worthwhile character in the film is lead Ben played by Duane Jones, who actually goes against the stereotype of African Americans that most of America was engaged in at the time (Romero insists that he cast Jones in the role because he was simply gave the best audition, not because he was trying to make a statement on race). Ben is a strong, smart character and the only character in the film who is not a complete jerk and/or moron.

But the unintentional laughs continue nonetheless and Night Of The Living Dead cannot be taken completely seriously, even though it does feature some disturbing images that have aged particularly well.

I am torn: in some ways, I can see why George A. Romero's Night Of The Living Dead is a classic horror film but I also see many flaws as well. The one thing I am sure of about my thoughts on the film is that I appreciate the place of Night Of The Living Dead in cinematic history. It was a revolutionizing film for the horror genre and it is one of those horror films that does not sacrifice style for gore and scares. I cannot, however, say that I loved the film. Night Of The Living Dead feels less like a scary film from supposed horror film expert George A. Romero and more like an unintentional laugh-filled film from Cesar J. Romero.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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