Oct. 1 marked the 50th anniversary of George A. Romero’s groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead. The 1968 film is one of the most iconic and terrifying movies ever made, and it changed the way zombies are portrayed in film. They were merely mindless lackeys of voodoo priests in horror movies up until Night of the Living Dead came out, but that film re-envisioned them as the shambling, rotting cannibals we know and love today.
Although it was made independently on a very low budget ($112,000), Night of the Living Dead was very successful. It changed the horror genre forever.
Night of the Living Dead begins with a brother and sister visiting their father’s grave out in the country. After a strange man attacks them and kills the brother, the sister, Barbara (Judith O’Dea), runs for it and ends up in a farmhouse. Then another person, Ben (Duane Jones) arrives, but more of the creatures show up and the situation becomes a siege. It seems that the dead have somehow returned to life and are driven by a desire for living human flesh. Since the creatures are, well, dead, the only way to kill them is do destroy the brain.
The movie is intense. The small setting — trapped in a house besieged by hordes of ravenous ghouls — is extremely claustrophobic.
The zombie genre was kick started by Night of the Living Dead film and Romero himself revisited it himself five more times. Zombies have swarmed the screens since. Like a lot of the movies in this year’s series, I’ve written about Night of the Living Dead before: here’s my original 31 Days of Horror post.