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Tag: Duane Jones

Night of the Living Dead

by on Oct.24, 2010, under Daily Review

This one has a very special place in my heart. No matter how many times I come back to this one, it never fails to surprise me. This is the first place for Z flicks, the absolute true beginning of the genre. Sure, we can take some earlier examples, but this was the first definitive template of how thousands have come to replicate. Many have built of this primary, many have attempted a reproduction, but very few capture the true heart which keeps this one magical.

Barbara and Johnny have traveled to a remote cemetery to place a wreath on their father’s grave. Whilst Johnny begins to goof about, a stranger staggers towards Barbara (Judith O’Dea). A fight breaks out, with Johnny falling victim. Barbara escapes to the safety of a farm house. She’s soon in the company of a few other survivors who argue and complain and debate over the situation which is filling their nation. The dead are returning from the grave hungry for flesh.

George A Romero struck gold with this one. A stunning plot which, although builds and creates the original idea of the contemporary zombie theme, actually focus’ on the human side of things. This is a soap opera of survival and a conflict of interests, be it a family with an injured daughter, two youngsters in love, a woman alone after her bothers dead or the main hero, our protagonist, the spectacular Ben (Duane Jones) and Afro-American character, taking the lead here which for the time is something of a very special move for Romero. For the most part, Ben seems to be the only person with any common sense although, interesting enough, changes his survival plan towards the end of the film, to that of Harry (Karl Hardman) which if taken earlier, could have solved a lot of issues.

Romero is a master of cinema, and here shows exactly why this is. The film is stunningly filmed, paced and scripted. It’s creepy, aerie and atmospheric. Zombies here are pretty horrific and just do not stop, even in black and white, the dripping blood still seems red. The rotting corps on the 2ndfloor is grim and as they surround the farmhouse, more and more shuffling and waiting creates an amazing atmosphere of claustrophobia and hysteria. Meanwhile, Romero’s characters argue amongst themselves and battle for leadership and supremacy. This also reflected in TV reports with local groups cleansing the state taking ownership of who lives, regardless of Z’s or not. An early report states three ghouls around a barn, obviously there for the people inside, which reflects our protagonists outcome.

More than anything, this is a dramatic feature of human greed and accountable actions whilst under extreme stress. The steady build up shows basic survival tricks, but the instant snapping dialogue between Ben and Harry shows the ultimate conflict which this film challenges, of racism and sexism. The film is also not afraid to tackle any taboo, even when it comes to the striking of a woman by a man, or a child eating the flesh of her father. The actions are strong images, but nothing will prepare you for the final scene.

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