George Romero

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

1968

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Directed by George A. Romero

Produced by Karl Hardman and Russell Streiner

Written by George A. Romero and John A. Russo

It’s not given to many men or women in the entertainment field to say that they created a genre and even George A. Romero himself would resist being labeled as such. He freely admits in interviews that he “ripped-off” Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in his creation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Me, I think he’s way too hard on himself. Sure, he may have used Mr. Matheson’s brilliant horror/science fiction concept as the springboard for his own now classic horror masterpiece.  But I believe that Mr. Romero brought enough of his own ideas to this interpretation of Mr. Matheson’s book that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD does indeed qualify as a brilliant work of cinematic art in its own right. And besides all that, it’s simply a damn good movie whose main desire is to keep us on the edge of our seats, biting our nails for 96 minutes and it succeeds.

And besides, considering the hordes of zombie movies that came after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, many of them true rip-offs, remakes, imitators, reworkings, parodies and the like, if Romero feels any guilt about ripping-off Matheson, then being ripped-off in return must soothe his conscience. Even video games such as  House of The Dead and Dead Rising owe their creation to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

It’s the day when Daylight Savings Time goes into effect when we meet sister and brother Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) who are visiting their father’s grave in a rural region of Pennsylvania. It’s in the graveyard that we get the now famous “They’re coming to get you, Barbra” scene as Johnny teases her in that truly annoying way brothers tease their sisters. Having two sisters myself I am quite familiar with this technique. Barbra is creeped out by a strangely behaving man coming towards them and doesn’t think that Johnny’s “They’re coming to get you, Barbra” is very funny and pretty soon Johnny doesn’t think it’s funny either as the man attacks them both.

Barbra gets away and with the zombie in pursuit manages to find refuge in a farmhouse. Also taking refuge in the farmhouse is Ben (Duane Jones) who has to take charge of the situation as the shock of her experience is catching up to Barbra. They soon find they’re not alone. Hiding in the basement is the married couple Harry and Helen Cooper (Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman) who barely escaped from a gang of zombies that overturned their car. Their daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) has been unconscious ever since she was bitten by a zombie. Teenage sweethearts Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley)likewise sought safety in the farmhouse after hearing an emergency broadcast.

Harry and Ben immediately start doing the alpha male dance, each insisting their plan for survival is best. Harry wants to stay down in the basement and keep quiet. Ben’s plan is to turn on every light in the house, make as much noise as he can boarding up the windows and doors and playing the radio as loudly as possible. Remember this because I’ll come back to it soon.

While the radio reports that all over the United States the dead are coming back to life and eating the living, the small group attempts to survive the night against the growing number of zombies attacking the lonely farmhouse. That’s if they don’t kill each other due to their constant bickering and inability to work together.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD always gets praised for having as its hero a black man. And as Ben, Duane Jones is certainly heroic looking and heroic sounding. He takes charge. He’s resourceful and courageous. He offers hope to the others that they will survive the night. He makes plans. Unfortunately those plans also get everybody killed. Next time you watch the movie, watch it a little more carefully. Each and every thing that Ben does ends up getting somebody killed. Ironically, Ben survives the attack of the zombies by doing what Harry said right from the start: go in the basement and be quiet. Ben’s turning on all the lights and making all that noise is what draws all the zombies to the farmhouse in the first place. Makes me wonder if the statement the movie is making about having a black man as the hero isn’t the one that everybody praises it for.

But that’s a conversation for another time. Taken as pure entertainment, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD still holds up for me. It’s filmed in a documentary-like manner that should be studied by those filmmakers who are so in love with shaky-cam. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a perfect example of how to make your audience feel like they’re in the middle of the action without giving them motion sickness. Supposedly the cast improvised much of their dialog and I believe it. There’s a real heat in the scenes between Harry and Ben as they’re struggling for control of the farmhouse’s resources and the group. For me, a lot of what makes this movie still effective is that nobody looks or acts like a movie star. For better or for worse they act like regular people caught up in a really terrifying predicament.

So should you see NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? Without a doubt. It’s one of the greatest and most influential horror movies ever made. You’ve probably seen one of the two remakes (1990 and 2006) or the six sequels that were made. If not, it’s a sure bet you’ve seen one of the many zombie movies influenced by the original. Somewhere in your personal movie watching history you’ve seen a zombie movie, I’m sure. So why not take a look at the classic that started it all?

96 minutes

BiTD Basement of Horrors!

It’s become a tradition–around Halloween, The Boys Outta Brooklyn always discuss horror films you might not have considered when planning your movie marathons for the spookiest holiday of all. And during the past seven years we’ve build up a graveyard full of spooktacular episodes focusing on the creepy and the ooky as well as the mysterious and kooky. Here’s a complete listing of the horror themed episodes of BETTER IN THE DARK. Maybe you’ve listened to some or all of ‘em of them before. But if you haven’t, here they go. Bounce on over to the BiTD Fan Page Episode Archive and get to clickin’! 

EPISODE #5: Once again with more enthusiasm than facts (although we’re getting better), Tom and Derrick spend an hour looking at George Romero’s DEAD series. From NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to LAND OF THE DEAD we examine the entire canon, including the remakes. Plus, the guys from Brooklyn tackle the eternal question of “Canada–what gives?”

EPISODE #12: What Made Haddonfield Famous–The Halloween Series
The Guys Outta Brooklyn unleash almost 90 minutes of filmic goodness. Join Thomas and Derrick as they go through the entire eight-film cycle, from the John Carpenter classic to the dumb-ass sight of Busta Rhymes kung fu-ing Michael Meyers. No film goes unmentioned or unpunished!

Episode #17: Hunting In A Black Cemetery For A Haunted Phantasm Before Dawn
Join the Boys From Brooklyn as they discuss with more enthusiasm than facts six of their favorite horror films. From the classic-but-near-forgotten PHANTASM to the insanely wrong-headed (in the positive sense) CEMETARY MAN we’re sure to turn you onto something that’s perfect for your tastes. Also, Tom and Derrick talk about the charms of both versions of THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. It’s a gruesome grab bag of cinematic chillers, so what are you waiting for?

EPISODE #43: The Sleepy Wicker Man Under The Stairs On The Descent To Hell’s Cell
Join Derrick and Tom as they discuss such underground classics as the British pagan thriller THE WICKER MAN, the African-American economic scare story THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, the very literal comedic horror tale HIGHWAY TO HELL and other treats to trick you into screaming! Plus Thomas imitates Gilbert Gottfried, the Guys discuss movies to make you claustrophobic, and we ponder the fate of Patrick Bergin.

EPISODE #59: BLACK GLOVES ARE FOR MURDER: THE GIALLO STYLINGS OF DARIO ARGENTO
The Guys Outta Brooklyn go continental as we examine a quintet of giallo films by the man who helped originate the genre, Dario Argento! From the insanely plotted but compelling TENEBRAE to the insanely plotted and craptacular TRAUMA to the clip show love letter DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?, Tom and Derrick examine the handiwork of this seminal Italian director. Plus Tom gets an excuse to trot out another accent, how the Three Mothers trilogy is like Kill Bill and a word from our sponsor, The Argento Decapomatic! You know it’s all like a dream brought on by too much Ziti Fra Diablo, so get to clicking!

EPISODE #61: TRIUMVERATE OF PASSION AND TERROR–THE FILMS OF CLIVE BARKER
Tom and Derrick team up with Des Reddick, host of Dread Media as they discuss the unique cinematic vision of Clive Barker! Join the trio as they examine HELLRAISER, NIGHTBREED and LORD OF ILLUSION, as well as a number of other films based on the writer’s work. Plus far too many references to baboon butt, teaching our Junior Correspondent how to properly punch his dad, and how Jennifer Rubin ended up on the poster of Nightbreed! It’s a damn sight better than murdering the world, so get to clicking!

EPISODE #67: BEHIND THE DUEL OF MARY LOU, THE LITTLE GIRL WHO BURNT SATAN’S CLAW
Derrick chooses three films from the 70’s including one of Steven Spielberg’s first and a creepy guignol tale featuring a young Jodie Foster, and Tom chooses such gems as a high school ghost story and a ‘documentary’ that follows an aspiring serial killer as he plans his night of grue! It’s a six-pack of sinister ideas–plus some suggestions for a second feature to make those choices even more fun–so get to clicking!

EPISODE #72: TRANSPORTING MR. ROMERO
It started out as a simple episode examining the career of George Romero by looking at some non-zombie movies in his canon. But before it’s done, the Boys Outta Brooklyn will find themselves engaging in the first–and maybe last–edition of Better In The Dark Fight Night, featuring a selection of action movie stars…and Tom Savini. Plus Derrick tells us why Wes Craven deserves a daily kick in the ass, Tom has fun with public domain blaxploitation films, and gratuitous Kristen Bell. After all, it wouldn’t be an authentic BiTD episode without gratuitous Kristen Bell, right?

EPISODE #81: WHAT MADE SPRINGWOOD FAMOUS: THE NIGHTMARE SERIES
In an episode three years in the making, Derrick does for Freddy Krueger what Tom did for Michael Myers and examines the entire NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET ouvre, from the absolutely classic first entry through the rather…goofy end to the attempts to recreate the series in WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE and the monster rally FREDDY VS. JASON! Along the way, The Guys Outta Brooklyn discuss the importance of Robert Englund in creating this horror icon, how Wes Craven attempted to kill the franchise repeatedly, and how the films, as bad as they got never lost money. Plus…we find a connection between the series and the ultra-obscure Adam Sandler vehicle The Unsinkable Shecky Moscowitz and address a great disservice done to Curtis Mayfield. Every town has an Elm Street so get to clickin’!

EPISODE #88: DIRECTOR’S COURT–THE CASE OF ROGER CORMAN
The latest edition of Better In The Dark brings an icon of Drive-In Cinema before the docket! Tom and Derrick examine the influence American original Roger Corman had on Hollywood as both a director and a producer in a career that spans five decades. From his Poe adaptations to the long list of creative types he influenced to the series of giant animal movies that prowl the fringes of Syfy, Corman entire life is put under the microscope. Plus Tom and Derrick mourn Gary Coleman, who you should never patronize a business run by Klaus Kinski, and why a certain film should’ve been renamed MURDER HYUNDAIS! You’ve never lost money listening to us, so get to clicking!

Episode #90: WHO CAN SHANK THE STRANGE CORRUPTION OF THE GRIM PRAIRIE SAUNA (Special Guest–Des Reddick)
It’s time for this year’s iteration of a Better In The Dark tradition, as Tom and Derrick once again provide you with suggestions for Obscure Horror Films to light up your Halloween festivities. This year, however, they welcome the Patriarch of the First Family of BITD (and host of Dread Media), Des Reddick, to join in. The results are an international six pack of horror flicks ranging from the Finish period piece SAUNA to the New Zealand (pretending to be Nebraska) should’ve been a period piece STRANGE BEHAVIOR to the Spanish chiller WHO COULD KILL A CHILD. Plus zombie chickens! Tom Cruise sitting around in his underwear! The world’s most unscary home invaders! Everything goes better with monkeys, so get to clicking!

Episode #116: The Company of Beguiled Wittering Magic Shadows Must Die (Guest: Desmond Reddick)

The Boys Outta Brooklyn once more sit down with their Brother From the North, Des “Dread Media” Reddick, to discuss another six-pack of Obscure Horror Films designed to spice up your Halloween marathons! Tom, Derrick, and Des put the spotlight on werewolves and maniacs, with films set in the Old West, Feudal Japan, a fairy tale forest, and a British boarding school. Plus, oysters, monkeys, and most importantly, The Werewolf Break! You know one of us is a beast, so get to clicking!

Episode #118: Gatekeepers of Childhood Nightmares – The American Horror Host Tradition (Guest: Lord Blood Rah)

The Guys Outta Brooklyn return to their upbringing when they welcome modern-day horror movie host Lord Blood Rah to discuss the origins, history, and resurgence of the American Horror Movie Host tradition! Of course, this being a guest host episode of Better in the Dark, it soon morphs into a freewheeling discussion of the state of horror movies in general. It’s almost two hours of fun and frights in the BITD manner! Plus, the forgotten blaxploitation mummy epic, why Dr. Frankenstein always has the upper hand when other mad scientists host tea parties, and why it might be a good thing that Guillermo del Toro isn’t adapting Lovecraft. It’s time to cut up that giant ameba, so get to clicking!

Episode #129. Director’s Court – Tim Burton

The Boys Outta Brooklyn reconvene Director’s Court to pass judgement on Tim Burton. Tom and Derrick cover the man’s entire career, and try to figure out if he is still blazing new trails or relying on the same old tropes. Plus, Derrick knows the value of Johnny Depp to moviegoers, why the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka may be a demented serial killer, and, for the first time ever, our subject may get his revenge. You know Spectre is really swell, so get to clicking!

Episode #130. The Gentleman with Blood in His Teeth – A Celebration of Christopher Lee

The Boys Outta Brooklyn raise their glasses to honor the great Christopher Lee! Join Tom and Derrick as they explain why this is one of the most remarkable actors they’ve ever discussed, and not just because of his defining horror film roles! If that’s not enough, they struggle to explain the plot of one of Lee’s weirdest films, the insane Scream and Scream Again! Plus, Tom sings heavy metal, Derrick suspects the word “Huguenots” is dirty, and writing talk. You know the world will hear from us again, so get to clicking!

Episode #138. And Soon May The Header Man Skin? With Special Guest Desmond Reddick!

Tom and Derrick once more team-up with Dread Media’s own Des Reddick to pick a bunch of horror films you may not have heard of! From the bleak coming of (twisted) age story, The Reflecting Skin, to not one but two iterations of the atmospheric psychological thriller, And Soon the Darkness, the Guys Outta Brooklyn (and Vancouver) serves up an hour and a half of conversation and movie recommendations for your Halloween festivals. Plus, the debut of Clemens’ Peelers, and the new film rating Ebola! There are too many pretty parts, so get to clicking!

The Reflecting Skin3