Despite its seemingly giveaway title, “Night of the Living Dead” has a lot more to offer than one would expect.
This 1968 treasure is able to combine an eerily familiar kind of horror with strong cultural and social references.
Our story is centered in a quiet, deserted U.S. town where our characters eventually congregate at an old abandoned farmhouse to protect themselves from zombies that have been borne out of the result of a virus (specifically a mutation arose from radiation). Once bitten by these creatures, this virus spreads to you and you also become one of the living dead.
Modern day film and TV zombies are normally layered with gallons of fake blood and CGI-fabricated disfigurements and abnormalities. NLD’s monsters rely only on some makeup and severed limbs, but ultimately the creatures look mostly human. As teens of the modern age, a lot of us might initially dismiss the late 1960s lack of advanced creature make up and CGI technology.
However, I found that the human likeness of these creatures makes it more difficult for us to ignore the fact that this is exactly what these creatures are: Human.
Dead, but human.
Because these monsters were once humans, what happens to them draws in viewers and makes it relatable. Even as the movie begins, I wasn’t able to distinguish between the zombie and the “normal” people. Just imagine if you had to watch a loved one die in front of you, only to be resurrected as a mindless cannibal with no memory of who you are, knowing only that it needs your flesh to survive.
There is actually a character in the movie who has to cope with this exact ordeal, and honestly, I could relate to the outcome.
A lot of horror movies today focus heavily on blood, gore, and graphics to scare viewers, but if you are a real horror master like NLD director George Romero, you can psych out your viewers’ minds.
Have your viewers question their own motives, morals and sanity. Make your story relatable because we all know that deep down nothing is more scary than the real life.
Almost 50 years later, that’s the lasting power of “Night of the Living Dead.”