(© Article by Neil Fawcett, added 6-Apr-1999)
This article was written for Throttle Box's Night of the Living Dead (look in the Bits and Pieces section).
Be it by luck, design, or a combination of the two, when George Romero completed the filming of Night of the Living Dead in 1968 he had quite literally produced a horror masterpiece, and what was to become one of the most successful independently produced films ever made.
Its disturbing vision of a world where the dead for some unknown reason were rising to search for the flesh of the living quite literally shattered existing conventions. All the more atmospheric for being shot in grainy black and white, necessitated by the low budget, the camera no longer cut away from gruesome scenes, it instead simply zoomed in. In doing so it opened the door to a whole new breed of darker and more gruesome films. It could be argued that every horror film made since owes something to Night of the Living Dead.
However, to only see this film for its gore would mean overlooking its many other qualities. For its limited budget it is extremely well produced, edited and acted. The film itself is very taught and juggles the viewer's emotions between irony, absurd humour and of course horror. Neither does it make the mistake of falling into predictable pitfalls. For example, although the lead character Ben is black, no mention is made of this in the film. It would have been easy for Harry, the cowardly bully, to throw racial comments and insults at him, but instead this issue never arises. On a more ironic level, although Ben is the hero, he leads everyone to their death by convincing them to remain upstairs in their besieged house and not lock themselves below in the cellar as Harry, the coward, suggests. A final glorious twist is that Ben alone survives by locking himself in the very cellar which he so adamantly warned everyone not to enter.
With so much money at stake, films are now becoming big business ventures. Fewer chances are being taken in their content and story, summer blockbusters are all the craze, big name stars are a must and a happy, up beat ending seems almost a certainty. As it now seems so unfeasible for a small independent group to produce a feature, and with large film companies so unwilling to be radical, we may never again encounter another horror film as revolutionary as NOTLD.
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