Night of the Living Dead – 1968

Tonight, we’ll be looking at ‘Night of the Living Dead’ – the 1968 B&W version, not the 1990 colorized remake.

When most people are asked to name a zombie movie, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ will be the one that they come up with – even if they’ve never seen it.  The original, in all its black and white glory, is a bleak, horrible look at regular people in a situation so far out of their control that it actually causes at least one character fairly believable mental and emotional trauma.  The remake (circa 1990) is unfortunately rife with a great many appalling clichés of the genre.

This movie is not for the faint of heart, whether you’re watching the original black and white or one of the colorized re-releases.  While I poke fun of a great many events and choices within the movie, it didn’t get its reputation as a ground-breaking, exploitative gore fest by being coy and suggestive.  It’s a very dark movie and not just because of the way they chose to light it.  If you want a heroic, Hollywood ending, you’re definitely barking up the wrong movie.

And now?  George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ – 1968 – B&W – or ‘How to Make a Career as a B-Movie Heroine with Only One Facial Expression’

Night of the Living Dead opens with a very, very long car ride and some nicely ominous music.  We have endless shots of a car driving along deserted, winding country roads as the soundtrack plucks at our nerves, eventually arriving in a similarly deserted cemetery.

You have to love a movie that gets right into the horror in the first five minutes.  None of this character building/empathizing nonsense.  We’re not here to angst with the heroine about the fact that she’ll never really be able to love her husband (until after his intestines have been eaten by the monster he died defending her against) or to discover how our anti-hero with the well-hidden heart of gold was beaten as a child (and why that fact is relevant to his relationship with the little girl he has to keep rescuing). We’re here to see zombies, damn it.

Luckily for us, George Romero is all about the zombies.  Well, the dead rising from their graves to feast upon the living, really.  Zombie is not a word you’ll find in this movie.

Meet Johnny and his sister, Barb.  It’s their car we’ve been watching trundle along the dusty and deserted roads.  They’re here to pay a duty visit to their father’s grave – midst much complaining about the distance they are from town – three hours, to be exact.

Who the hell puts a cemetery three hours from town?  Seriously.  Do you know what the funeral home would charge just for mileage?  I am going to assume they mean three hours from Pittsburg, not the actual nearest town.

The radio decides to crackle on just as Barb gets out of the car, informing them that it’s coming back on the air after ‘technical difficulties’ – Johnny immediately switches it off to follow Barb into the cemetery.

Foolish, foolish young people.  They should have stayed to listen to the radio, particularly given the rumbles of thunder that start up as Johnny watches Barb kneel beside the grave for a little private communing with their father.  We get a particularly ominous rumble just as Johnny tries to hurry Barb up, complaining, “Come on, Barb, church was this morning.”

Tsk.  See what happens to those who don’t take the Lord seriously, Johnny?  They get eaten by zombies.  Who says horror movies don’t have a moral lesson?

At any rate, 5 minutes and 16 seconds into the movie, we see our first zombie.  That’s George Romero for you – service with a smile… or at least a grimace full of blood-stained teeth.  Sadly, we see him only at a distance, and Johnny proceeds to taunt Barb about having leaped out from behind trees at her here in the graveyard as a child and frightening her half to death.  Barb, being a high-strung sort of girl, gets upset and flighty and twitchy.  I mean, we’ve all been there, right?  Standing in a cemetery, miles from civilization, trapped with an annoying sibling who is determined to bring back the worst moments of your childhood….

I’m amazed more slasher flicks don’t take place at family reunions, myself.  Uncle Fred makes one crack too many about how you’ll eventually grow out of this chubby and unappealing phase and, next thing you know, he’s face down in Grandma and Grandpa Abernathy’s 56th anniversary cake and you’re attempting to carve the face off one of your cousins with the cake knife.  Don’t tell me you’ve never been tempted.

Moving on.

The best and most ironic line in the movie is given by Johnny, rolling his eyes back and putting on a creepy voice to say, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara….”

Barb, being well used to the basic creepiness of brothers, tells him off as he taunts her; pointing at the pale man wandering toward them, telling her that the man is coming to get her and darting off.  Oh, the irony as the zombie grabs Barb and Johnny belatedly rushes to her rescue.  As she cowers behind a tombstone, the zombie, a creepy looking fella at best, kills Johnny.  Barely seven minutes into the movie and we have our first death.  It’s a relatively bloodless death, too.  Johnny gets his head knocked against a tombstone after a short struggle – thus saving the real horror for later revelation.

Our traumatized heroine flees, sensibly kicking off her heeled shoes to run better in the grass – well, after she falls over the first time, at any rate.

Now, here is the reason why I like this movie better than the ones that come after it.  This zombie?  It does not shamble or lurch or stagger.  It runs.  While not a track star, it is certainly not going to wander along in your wake, hands dangling limp-wristed before it while you cruise easily to the nearest fortified building and lock yourself in.  Noooo.   Aside from a few scenes wherein they shamble dramatically, these guys may be a little uncoordinated – but they’re not going to give you those extra two minutes to stop and file your nails in the middle of a chase scene.  Nuh-uh.

Barb reaches the car and gets in.

Again, here we have a priceless opportunity for the by-now classic scene of the zombie pressed up against the glass, groaning and scrabbling.   Of course, this movie predates all those ‘classic’ scenes. This guy doesn’t seem to be able to get in but after pounding on the glass and trying the door handle?  He picks up a stone and smashes the window. 

That might be, for me, the scariest part of the entire movie.  Conditioned by countless bad movies about the risen dead wandering about to feast mindlessly on the flesh of the living, I sure as hell was not expecting problem-solving capabilities.

Johnny apparently had the car keys in his pocket, but Barb releases the handbrake and the car starts rolling slowly down the hill.  (Barb is a wonderful screamer, by the way.  Not too ear-piercing, not too long, sort of frightened and helpless and blonde.  Very apropos.)  The zombie takes off after it, not quite a run, not quite a shamble, very uncoordinated but not exactly slow.

Poor Barb runs the car off the road and against a tree which helpfully blocks the driver’s side door.  She scrambles out the far side and runs for it in her stocking feet.  Zombie in hot pursuit, she legs it down the hill, fetching up against a gas pump beside some outbuildings.  Glancing around wildly, zombie closing in over her shoulder, music crescendo-ing wildly, she spies a farmhouse.

Oh you just know this is leading nowhere good.

After many and various shots of her pretty, frightened face, we finally reach the farmhouse.  The door is, naturally, locked.  Much running and falling ensues as she bolts around the house, pausing to stare at the zombie which is staggering along a few hundred yards behind.    Luckily, the back door is unlocked.

I like black and white movies because of how easy it is to use shadow to be all creepy and menacing while still being able to see what’s going on.  This movie is a good example of that.  Barb staggers around the house and we see room after room, tidy and deserted and ominously shadowed.  The music has ceased its wild crescendos, but that minor key promises trouble on the horizon.

Unlike many a horror movie heroine, Barb stops in the kitchen and helps herself to a butcher knife.  Sadly, she reverts to type almost immediately with the way that she clutches it.  Barb, honey, no offense, but I wouldn’t let you slice bread, okay?  Not with a grip like that, anyway.  Continuing through the house, we come upon what might be signs of a struggle – or occupancy by a teenager.  It’s hard to tell.  She’s looking for lurking men in funeral suits and thus doesn’t dwell long enough for a good look.  The music slowly fades away as she searches.

Moving on, she comes into a room with [insert thrilling rise of music here] ANIMAL HEADS MOUNTED ON THE WALLS!!!!  [DUM-DUM-DUUUUUUUUM].

I’m not kidding.  So help me.  Really.  We get terribly dramatic shots of a boar’s head and what look like a whitetail and a mule deer.   Barb pauses to look… well, I can’t tell if that’s meant to be traumatized or just disgusted.  She doesn’t have a wide range of facial expressions in this movie.

Somewhere in here, ‘midst the animal heads and the wild musical flourishes, night falls.  The movie has a number of scenes wherein it’s night and then day and then night again.  You get used to it.  There are also crickets.  The crickets don’t seem at all put out by the zombies, chirping madly at odd intervals throughout the movie despite the shambling hordes stumbling about in the darkness.   Maybe they’re zombie crickets?

Somewhere out there, someone has made that movie.

So Barb stumbles around inside the house, clutching her knife and peering out windows as the zombie staggers around outside and commits minor acts of vandalism.  Barb gets some of her heroine points back by finding a phone and trying to call for help.  The music rises again as she gives up and peers out to find that having a farmhouse just down the hill from a large cemetery is asking for trouble, as there are more men in slightly moldy formal-wear joining her original pursuer in the slowly gathering darkness.

Scrambling upstairs, relentlessly pursued by the soundtrack, Barb suddenly slows to a more sensible speed and creeps upward only to come face to face with a gruesome corpse – or at least the partially exposed skull of one.  It stares at her, naturally, and she throws up her hands, narrowly missing catching herself in the eye with that butcher knife and gives a maidenly shriek of terror.  Heroine points?  Gone, and she’s moving into the negative numbers as she drops the knife, throws herself down the stairs and cruises straight out the front door.

If this were a fair and just world, the zombies would’ve gotten her right there.  Sadly, the cinema gods look fondly on clueless 1960s horror movie heroines, hence it is at this crucial moment that our hero arrives.

There is a dramatic flash of light, a growl of an over-powered engine and our heroine, overcome, throws up an arm to shield herself.  A strange man leaps out of the truck, tire iron in hand, and drags her inside, locking the door.

As the zombies break the headlights of his truck – which has just run out of gas – he demands to know if there is a key to the locked gasoline pump that Barb leaned against briefly earlier on her mad dash to the house.  Barb remains mute and terrified and pretty.  Our as-yet-unnamed Hero then proceeds to give a brief monologue as he finds and tries the phone while talking about fighting off zombies and escape plans, thus proving to the audience that he has his act together.  Barb continues her contribution to the discussion, silent and traumatized as all get out.

As a side note, of all the strange precedents set by this movie, you’d think that zombies as vandals would’ve been one that carried through.  They smash enough windows, doors and various vehicle parts that you’d think there’d be a specific note in everyone’s insurance riders by the second movie.

Coming face to face with the gruesome corpse at the top of the stairs, our Hero shows he has a sensitive side by being revolted, but recovers by throwing himself headlong into escape plans of various sorts.  As he makes manly and sensible preparations, Barb recovers her knife… and then loses it again as blood drips from above onto her hand and she goes racing around the house, even more traumatized before pulling herself together a little and going to lurk in the safest place – two feet from our capable hero.

He attempts to reason with her and she freaks out.  Leaving her to her hysterics, our Hero goes outside and deals some zombie death with his tire iron in the dark, thus proving that his claim to the title of hero is totally justified.  Unfortunately, a zombie gets in the back while he’s out front getting his freak on, and he has to nip back inside to rescue the traumatized Barb from its cold, dead clutches to the tune of yet more restless, high-pitched music.  Fending off another intruder, he throws it outside to find an entire yard full of shambling corpses.  Leaning against the door, he turns dramatically to proclaim, “Well, they know we’re in here now.”

Really.  Ya think?

Blood on his hands and on his shirt, a corpse on the upstairs landing, a dead zombie in the parlor, a truck with no fuel and shattered headlights, a small army of killer undead just outside and a traumatized heroine to deal with… I’m thinking that this just hasn’t been our hero’s day.  Let’s see, seventeen minutes and thirty-one seconds into the movie… yeah, it’s a pretty good bet that his day is only going to go downhill from here.

Barb chooses this moment to go wandering into the parlor, and the zombie is apparently not quite dead yet, or is still undead, or something.  Is there a technical term for a dead zombie?  Un-undead?  Post-undead?  He’s still plain ol’ undead, and rolls his eyes creepily at her from his prone position on the floor to prove it.  As she stares, mesmerized and horrified, our Hero admonishes her, “Don’t look at,” and drags it away to be dumped outside.

Dragging the body outside, we are greeted with the sight of the same group of zombies as the last time.  This time they are actually shambling – very, very slowly.  Slowly enough for him to have gone in and gotten the body, dragged it outside and also giving him time to set fire to it.   Maybe zombies just have terrible night vision and they’re all afraid of spraining their zombie ankles in the dark?  Then again, they were fast enough in the daytime.  Maybe zombies are solar powered and get all slow and shambly when the sun sets?

Zombies are also, apparently, extremely flammable.  I’m not sure how that works, frankly, given the fact that the human body is mostly water and notoriously hard to set fire to.  At any rate there is much theatrical shrinking away on the part of the other zombies and our Hero darts back inside to drag a convenient table to block the door.

Barb, much like the zombies, hasn’t done much in the intervening time, save to shrink back a bit more and cover her mouth with her hand.  She’s got that move down pat, anyway.  Too bad it won’t do much good against the zombies.  I mean, unless it’s some sort of obscure religious gesture, that won’t even ward off vampires.

Our Hero sends her to turn on lights and digs through a pair of convenient tool boxes, and Barb goes to turn on the lights, fondling her knife as she goes.  Fondling rather ineptly, I might add.  Girl, put that down before someone takes it away from you and hurts you with it.  Please.  This really isn’t the time or the place to try to upgrade this flick to ‘erotic thriller’.

Luckily, she does abandon it, returning to the kitchen to watch our Hero ransacking the place for useful doodads in order to zombie-proof their refuge.

Meanwhile, our Hero is single-mindedly taking doors off of hinges and dismantling the furniture in order to start barricading various doors and windows.  Which he then does, with desultory help from Barb and a soaring soundtrack.  Barb, being traumatized, doesn’t say much, and as they rampage through the house, scavenging material for boarding things up, our Hero keeps up a monologue as to how he escaped the zombies and found himself at the farmhouse.

It’s a fairly impressive monologue, I have to say.  Our Hero is a fairly well-rounded character, sympathetic, afraid and easy to identify with, and yet strong enough to focus on survival and still wanting to help others.  He’s pretty impressive and very, very easy to root for.  Competent people in horror movies are few and far between, sadly.  Of course, if there were more competent people in horror movies, you’d have less, you know, actual horror and many more survivors.

Our Hero has made up for all of Barb’s silence in about three minutes flat.  Thus encouraged, she finally explains to him in turn why they were up at the cemetery… a bit incoherently, admittedly, but you have to remember what she’s been through.   She winds up her story with the realization that Johnny’s still out there and adds a few heart-broken pleas to the effect that they need to go out into the zombie-infested darkness to search for her brother.  Hysterics ensue, as he sensibly refuses her, and she finally slaps him.  He smacks her a good one and she stares at him and then faints.  We will pause to issue her fifty heroine demerits for giving blondes everywhere a bad name and carry on.

Placing Barb upon a handy sofa, our Hero finds a radio and switches it on.  Equally handily, there’s a radio station with a helpful newscaster on the air.

Ah, the convenience of movie news broadcasts.  They’re always saying just exactly what you need to hear.

The newscaster drones on at some length about the current state of emergency and how they’ll be remaining on the air day and night.  As our Hero goes back to his barricading work and Barb remains gracefully and decoratively passed out, the helpful newscaster narrates the current state of affairs vis a vis the dead crawling up out of their graves and attacking everyone in sight.

Amid helpful commentary about private citizens staying in their homes and how the emergency services are overwhelmed, our Hero starts a fire in a handy fireplace and sets about a little creative arson – setting fire to an arm chair and pushing it out the front door in order to set a bonfire on the front walk.  No explanation is given for this action.  Maybe zombies like weenie roasts?   He goes back to his barricading, despite a distinct lack of ‘Kumbayah’ wafting in from outside.

Barb eventually wakes up and our Hero finds her some shoes.  I mention this because of the adorable Cinderella and her Prince bit as he slides them on…  yet she spends the rest of the movie barefoot.  I don’t know, maybe the actress just liked running around in her stockings.  Oh, and our Hero also finds a shotgun and some shells.  A lot less fuss is made over those than the magical disappearing shoes, however.

The highlight of this scene is our Hero assuring Barb that the house is boarded up ‘pretty tight’ despite the open window clearly visible behind him.  I enjoyed the irony, myself.

Leaving our traumatized heroine downstairs as the radio announcer goes on about the corpses being eaten by their attackers, our Hero goes upstairs and tidies away the body.  The announcer repeats himself about six times concerning the monsters eating the bodies.  As if we could possibly have missed it the first time.

“It looks like the bodies are partially eaten.”

“There are reports that the attackers are eating their victims.”

“The bodies have been examined and there are signs that they have been partially devoured.”

“The attackers are devouring their victims.”

“We can report conclusively that in all cases, the attackers are eating their victims.”

He doesn’t even have the common decency to talk about other things in between.  All right!  We get it!  We’re all properly appalled and horrified.  Can we move on now?  Please?

We do move on.   Finally.

Apparently, through all the screaming and the yelling and the dead zombies and the fire starting and the home repair and the rest of it – there’ve been people hiding in the basement.   Five of them.  Our Hero has some caustic words to say on the subject of people who hide in a basement and don’t investigate strange noises, especially upon hearing the screams of our traumatized heroine.

The Junior Hero and the Amazing Grouch have emerged from the basement and frightened Barb half to death.  This leads to much snarling back and forth, bringing forth an argument about safety versus ‘doing the right thing’ and segueing into a bitter argument into whether it’s better to stay upstairs or drag everything down into the basement and lock themselves in.

The Amazing Grouch tells us several times about how five zombies turned over his car.  Yeah, these are not the moaning and shambling zombies who can’t figure out how to turn a doorknob or climb up the side of a building.  That having been said, I don’t think much of the barricading efforts, and am forced to side with the Amazing Grouch, no matter how much I don’t want to.

Barb remains blonde and traumatized and does not contribute.

Eventually, the Junior Hero sides with our Hero, and the Amazing Grouch announces that he’s going to retreat to the basement and bar it against all comers.  So, of course, as the tension rises and violence appears to be imminent – the zombies choose that moment to attack.

Good old zombies.

Well, arms come through one of the boarded up windows and the Junior Hero flaps at them ineffectually for a bit before our Hero shoots one in the shoulder, with little to no effect.  Here is where we discover that you need to shoot a zombie in the head to stop it.

After the Hero and the Junior Hero fend them off and we are treated to a number of scenes of mass shambling as the zombie hordes close in –

Why the hell are there so many naked zombies?

At any rate, the argument resumes and the Hero proceeds to be extra manly at the expense of the Amazing Grouch.  Natch.   The Junior Hero retrieves his girlfriend from the basement before the Amazing Grouch seals it off again – despite the attempts of the Junior Hero to make peace between both parties.

So the Amazing Grouch boards himself in the basement with his wife and injured daughter while the Junior Hero, his girlfriend, the Hero and Barb remain upstairs, thus nicely separating our two parties.  It all reminds me very much of our current political system, frankly.

As the Hero attempts to get Barb to respond to him, the Amazing Grouch returns to the basement and his wife proves to be the intelligent of the two by far.  Arranging for the Junior Hero’s girlfriend to babysit their unconscious daughter, she prods him upstairs again.

So, let’s review.

Inside:

Barb, our traumatized heroine is… traumatized.
The Hero is being heroic and manly all over the place.
Our Hero Junior is comporting himself likewise.
Our Hero Junior’s girlfriend is babysitting in the cellar.
The Amazing Grouch is living up to his label nicely.
The daughter is unconscious.
The wife is being practical and, frankly, should be considered for sainthood.

Outside:

The zombies are shambling.

We can safely leave the character interactions for most of the rest of the night to your imagination as the above pretty much covers it.  The number of times the Amazing Grouch chooses to complain about the windows should be counted up, but I just don’t have the patience.  The man has a one track mind, or maybe just one in need of double-glazing.

Everyone save the two girls in the cellar gather around to watch television, where again we are informed that the victims are being [insert ominous pause] partially devoured.

No?  Really?

We also, at fifty-four minutes and thirty seconds, informed that the dead have come back to life.

You know, way back at around three minutes or so, that might have been a revelation.  At this point the reaction is more of a ‘Try telling us something we didn’t know, genius’.

So he does.   How terribly convenient!

“… we are able to report a definite course of action for you.”

This course of action apparently consists of telling people to make a run for it in order to reach emergency stations which are being stocked for escapees.

So while earlier they were all about finding a place inside to hide and locking yourself in, now they want you to trip merrily out of doors and waltz happily down to the nearest aid station.  You know, holding hands and singing as they skip through the zombie infested fields, one assumes.

Logic, we hardly knew ye.

As wild plans are made to get to the gas pump, unlock it and start the Hero’s truck up again, the announcer goes on to tell us all that apparently strange radiation from a satellite which blew up in outer space has caused all this havoc.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to prefer my creepy movies with a convenient lack of explanation.  So the dead are up and shambling around?  That’s cool.  It could be the end of the world, it could be a voodoo ritual gone wrong or a freaky virus, it could be rays from outer space (Night of the Comet, anyone?) but the moment they come up with an elaborate explanation I am compelled to poke holes in it.  Leave it mysterious, guys.  We’re not here to oooh and aaaah over your supposedly logical explanation for the phenomenon.  We’re not here to compose rational and logical hypotheses in order to explain why the dead have risen just in time for midnight snacks.

We’re here to watch the cast fall victim, one by one, to the risen dead!  I have my ‘Go Zombies’ pennant right here.

After a long and boring news program and several interviews, as well as a truly horrendous amount of repetition, we’re informed that the bodies of those killed must be cremated instantly as they’ll get up and start shambling in just a few minutes.

“… but that doesn’t give people much time to make arrange….”

“No, you’re right, that doesn’t give people much time for funeral arrangements,” the man being interviewed agrees solemnly.

Gee, I always worry about whether my dear departed gets a proper funeral service when the imminent threat of them getting back up and having me for a mid-afternoon snack is at hand.  No, really.  I mean, the fact that they’re going to shamble around and messily devour people must always take second place to seeing that they have a proper, religious service to rest their soul.

Grudgingly, the Amazing Grouch gets on board with the tentative escape plans being made.  There’s talk of Molotov cocktails, resulting in my inner child jumping up and down and screaming and clasping its hands with glee, and of a ring of keys in the basement that might be used to open the lock on the gas pump.

The Junior Hero and the Hero are going to make a run for the truck while the Amazing Grouch tosses Molotov cocktails to clear the zombies away from the door.  The actual plan is a bit more complicated than that, but nobody’s died in almost an hour, so we all know it’s doomed to fail anyway.  This conclusion is underscored by a tender argument between The Junior Hero and his girlfriend as they construct Molotov cocktails together.

Barb remains traumatized.

This is actually a wonderful characterization, despite the complaints many people have made regarding her helplessness over the course of this movie.  Girl watches brother die.  Girl is pursued by the shambling undead.  Girl is traumatized.  Girl remains there for several hours instead of snapping out of it and becoming all bitching and kick ass.

Poor Barb.  Out for a nice, peaceful visit to her father’s grave and now it’s all flesh-eating zombies and Molotov cocktails.  Were I in her shoes (or out of them) I’d be all wide-eyed and traumatized too.

At any rate, the girlfriend joins the escape attempt at the last minute and, as the zombies stagger back from the flames, our intrepid trio make a break for it.  The Amazing Grouch locks the door and  peers out from behind the boarded up drapes while the wife, the daughter and Barb hide in the cellar.

There is much uncoordinated shambling.

See the Undead.
See the Undead Shamble.
Shamble, Undead, Shamble.

The truck careens off as the Hero fends off the zombies with his torch.  They reach the gas tank and the key won’t work, so the Hero shoots the lock off.  They get the gas, they slosh it around carelessly, they ignite it with the torch (accidentally, one hopes), and as a triumphant finale, manage to set the truck on fire.

Desperate to save the truck, The Junior Hero leaps back in with his girlfriend and careens off again.  Realizing that it’s hopeless, the Junior Hero wants to jump, but the girlfriend seems to have an article of clothing caught somewhere.  He tries to set her free – and the truck explodes in the best of Hollywood traditions.

Exeunt the Hero Junior and the girlfriend, leaving the Hero alone at the gas pumps with an empty shotgun and a torch which can’t seem to make up its mind if it’s burning out or not.  Wildly brandishing the torch, he goes racing back to the house where the Amazing Grouch is about to bolt into the cellar, leaving the Hero to die outside.  He reemerges just as the Hero breaks back in, however, and helps him re-barricade the main door.  Once that’s done, the Hero proceeds to smack him around for his cowardice.

Meanwhile, back at the truck, the undead eat the nicely barbequed remains of the Junior Hero and the girlfriend, shambling around clutching body parts and fighting over the entrails.  There are a great many gratuitous smacking noises and close-ups – presumably to soothe the unruly audience after the extreme lack of gratuitous violence thus far.

Audience somewhat mollified, we go back to the tense personal relationships inside the house.

They’re back to watching television again – who says art doesn’t imitate life?  The ever-so-helpful announcer is going on about legitimized vigilante gangs roaming the country gunning down zombies and protecting the citizens.  He also shares the vital fact that the undead can be killed with a sharp blow or shot to the head.  The interviewer asks him if he thinks they can clear all this up in twenty-four hours.

I’ll pause to let that ridiculous burst of optimism sink in.

My favorite exchange:

“Are they slow moving, Chief?”

“Yeah, they’re dead.  They’re all messed up.”

You don’t say?

As the television reporter maunders on, the soundtrack gives a maniacal riff – and the power goes out.  The Amazing Grouch is muttering wildly to the wife about getting the gun away from our Hero when the zombies outside decide that shambling is so ten minutes ago and find a new game.  Picking up the discarded, extinguished torch and some handy rocks, they storm the house.  Storm being a relative term and all, it’s more like a speedy stagger.

Zombies pounding at the door, zombie hands sticking through the holes in the barricades and waving around… you get the idea.  The Amazing Grouch isn’t helping and instead goes for the gun, grabbing it and orders the wife into the cellar.  The Hero and the Amazing Grouch struggle over the gun while the wife tries to hold the door closed and the Hero shoots the Amazing Grouch.

As the zombies claw at the wife (poor woman) the Amazing Grouch staggers down the stairs to the cellar to escape and, presumably, check on his little girl – although I may be giving him too much credit.   He collapses there.

Barb, meanwhile is watching the chaos and snaps out of her trauma at last.  She races over to beat on the zombie arms so that the wife can get away.  The wife races downstairs to find her daughter busily eating her husband’s liver.  The daughter then messily slaughters her mom and, presumably, eats the best bits.

Teenagers and their junk food.

There is much screaming and blood on the walls.

Barb, meanwhile, is being mauled by the zombies breaking in through the door.  She comes face to face with Johnny the zombie and is dragged out the door to a grisly fate.  So much for our poor, traumatized heroine.  The Hero tries to rescue her, but is too late and ends up face to face with our old nemesis from the graveyard.   Apparently Johnny brought friends.

As our Hero backs away, the zombie-ette from the cellar appears and tries to eat his arm.  He manages to make a break for the cellar and proceeds to bar himself in.  The zombies shamble through the house and start beating on the cellar door.

Yes, the zombies have definitely won this round.

It is at this juncture that the Hero finds himself not alone in the cellar, but sharing the space with the Zombie Grouch and his Zombie Wife.  A couple of shots to the head takes care of that little problem, however.   This is why he’s the Hero, ladies and gentlemen.

As the Hero huddles quietly in the darkened cellar, there is much shambling and milling about among the zombies upstairs – sort of like living beneath Michael Flatley’s rehearsal space, only slightly less annoying.

Morning comes, and with it vigilantes with dogs and a cadre of policemen.  They shoot the zombies, like you do, and eventually reach the farmhouse.  The Hero tentatively emerges from the cellar to find the house trashed, but deserted.  As he cautiously investigates, the vigilantes see him through the farmhouse window, shoot him in the head, drag him away with meat hooks and burn the body in an orgy of ‘Yeah, man, we done killed ’em ALL!’

Not kidding, not even a little.  Bring on the brewskis, boys.  We killed ’em all!  I’m only surprised they weren’t toasting marshmallows over the burning corpses.

Thus ends our movie, beginning a fine tradition of zombie movies with no survivors, leaving their audience with a bleakly hopeless view not only of the undead, but of the callousness of their fellow men.

Art imitates life, and all that.

While survival horror is a genre that I love, I enjoy it mostly for the way that those who band together and work for collective survival tend to make it out the other side.  It’s the ‘survival’ aspect that I truly enjoy, and this movie takes no prisoners.  The bleak reality that you can do everything right, try your hardest and still get shot in the head by the people who are supposed to be saving you?

That’s a pretty good definition of horror.

 

– Truth

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About Popcorn Mice

Hi. We're the Urban Amazon and her sidekick, Truth. This blog is dedicated to recap and commentary of various movies in a hopefully humorous fashion. Said movies are mostly of the horror/action/adventure/science fiction and fantasy genres, as that's where our interests lie. Our efforts will, hopefully, amuse and entertain.
This entry was posted in 1968, Hot Serial, It's the Apocalpyse, and I Brought Zombies!, The Shambling Undead. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Night of the Living Dead – 1968

  1. zlsasnett says:

    “See what happens to those who don’t take the Lord seriously, Johnny? They get eaten by zombies. Who says horror movies don’t have a moral lesson?”

    Will always be my favorite comment EVER!

  2. Pingback: Trustees OK $99K in kitchen upgrades | Plumbing Supply NJ

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