Friday, 20 October 2017

Thirteen Nights of Halloween Horror | Night Two - Night of the Living Dead (1968)

image credit: the walter reade organization

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is one of my favourite films. Shot in a black-and-white, film noir style it cemented what I wanted to see in a science-fiction film of the 1950s. When I occasionally came across scenes of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead¸ it gave me similar vibes in terms of cinematography, lighting style and camera angle. That’s when I knew – even before watching the entire film – that it would become one of my favourites … I also watch Shaun of the Dead as frequently as is humanly possible, so that may have also been a contributing factor to this choice for night two.

Often noted as the starting point of the ‘modern zombie’, Romero’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead has a lot to answer for. Whether its Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series (one of my personal favourites) or the slasher genre of the 1980s, Night of the Living Dead’s depiction of the deceased reanimating with a hankering for human flesh was destined to become a popular exploration of the human psyche; often presenting the question ‘are the living worse than the undead?’

Amplified by chiaroscuro lighting and frantically paced camera shots, Romero traps five strangers in one location surrounded by beings that can destroy them, therefore throwing them into a situation that will define their moral compasses’. To some, Night of the Living Dead is a pure horror flick, designed to frighten, disgust and create a nonsensical fear that the dead could rise and destroy mankind.

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For me, Romero displays a deep study on the plight of morality through the characters, and our reaction to their acts. We are invited to agree and disagree with what they decide to do and to think that we would do better in a situation such as this – whereas, in reality, we’d  be as bad as them. Panic, self-preservation and martyrdom set in through adrenaline and fear, producing a group of people even worse than the undead.

Even though the film fully grounds itself on struggles of the 1960s, Night of the Living Dead still holds up as a perfectly timeless feature that is still enjoyed, feared and studied today. It explores a variety of tropes and questions surrounding the zombie invasion genre, whilst proving that the undead can be truly terrifying without excessive make-up. Clever shots, actions and reactions can personify a zombie rather than a reliance on grotesque features.

“They’re coming to get you, Barbra …” 

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