Night of The Living Dead (1968) 50th Anniversary!
As today marks the 50th anniversary of the film that reinvented a subgenre within Horror, I am going to list the top five reasons why George A. Romero's Masterpiece is so damn relevant if not great!
5. How a small time Director had big ideas!
Prior to working on NOTLD, Director George A. Romero, a Pittsburgh native, worked on Television programs like Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Feeling ambitious, he along with a group of nine or so individuals developed what is known as the first survival horror film.
Most of the actors were either friends or relatives of the group called Image Ten and needless to say one actor who was not intentionally cast because of his physicality, had become the most significant character of Night of The Living Dead.
4. Resurrecting the genre
Back in the early days of horror cinema, Zombies were walking mindless subservient beings in tandem with Voodoo folklore until Romero made the living dead concept more threatening by implementing cannibalistic overtones. The "ghouls" as they were called had a craving for fresh flesh and for a cheaply done film, the gruesome visual effects were very convincing if not terrifying!
This had set the precedent of the Zombie genre forever!
Despite having a low budgeted production with a script that some would quickly write off as another Plan 9 from Outer Space, this B&W thriller had enough nuances to exceed expectations! From its nihilistic setting, dramatic pacing accompanied by a soundtrack that echoes dread, you have a movie that scared the living shit out of most who were brazen enough to have seen it! I know it kept me up at night for a period of 6 days!!
When asked what the most intriguing factor about NOTLD is, I and most others would mention the casting of an African-American as the protagonist Ben who had a commanding presence and with his acumen and tenacious nature, he managed to outlive the others after facing an undead legion-only to be shot and butchered by a white militia of law enforcers.
The metaphors were very transparent but not limited to the film's cryptic ending, prior to that, Barbara, a Caucasian female is held up within a farmhouse alongside a Black man while outside, something far "worse" is waiting in the midst!
One of my favorite scenes is the exchange between Ben and Harry Cooper, who felt that because of his "birthright", he could run shit.
But he was in for a rude awakening afterwards!
"You're the boss down there (basement) while i'm the boss up here"!
Mind you, this was during the turbulent 60's where Black people were fighting for their civil rights and equality!
Without NOTLD, there may have not been this succession of heroic black characters in film or television so rapidly especially when the portrayal of blacks was less than favorable. i.e. buffoonery and negative stereotypes.
Without a doubt, Night's cultural impact is still ongoing as demonstrated from the current crop of Zombie films like Train to Busan, Videogames as in Resident Evil and most notably, TV series such as The Walking Dead is a testament of its greatness and of course, how much of a contribution to the Pop Culture landscape. Had George been alive today, he would have been even prouder after reaching this fantastic milestone!