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Night of the Living Dead

Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman
Running time: 90 minutes
Rating: Un-rated

Story: A brother and sister are visiting their father's grave when a man attacks them. The woman flees and hides inside a farmhouse with a small group of survivors. Turns out the people doing the attacking are the dead come back to life.

Review: Before '28 Days Later,' before 'Shaun of the Dead,' even before the 1990 version of 'Night of the Living Dead,' there was this ultra low budget walking dead film that has not been forgotten. It's influence is still seen in movies today and it's shown on TV every October. Now four decades old, has the film held up? Does it still have the power to send shivers down one's spine? Yes and yes. Ok maybe it's not as terrifying as it was at the time of it's release, but much like 'The Exorcist' and 'Halloween' it's more than just scary movie, it's a great film in general.

Aside from a few little things, time has been kind to this film. The score is one of those things that's a bit dated, but yet it's still pretty effective. Shot in black and white, the photography is just stunning. That being said, avoid the colorized 30th Anniversary Edition like the plague. The acting, though maybe a little over-the-top in some cases, is quite strong especially for a cast of virtually unknowns. Especially good is Duane Jones as Ben, the only man in the group who has some sense.

The zombies are quite frightening, even compared to their more aggressive modern incarnations. Sure they're slower, but unlike the ones in the 'Dawn of the Dead' remake they show no emotion. Director/Co-writer George A. Romero and his writing partner John A. Russo do a terrific job of keeping things both suspenseful and unpredictable. Plus Romero keeps things moving at a good steady pace, even during the somewhat draggy midsection. Something not seen in too many horror films, especially these days, is an intelligent script.

Instead of just a run-of-the-mill zombie gorefest, we get a film that's both scary and filled with social commentary on the current events of the late 60s. And speaking of gore, there's a surprisingly healthy amount of it in the last 15 minutes. But considering this was before the rating system I can see how they were able to get away with it and they did a good job too. Now the ending is one of those type of endings that people will either love or hate. Personally, I love it mainly because it's one not often seen in horror films, but that's all I'll say.

The list of negatives isn't very high though. First of all, the movie is really lacking in character development. No matter how hard the actors try, they just can't add more than a tiny bit of depth to the thinly written roles. And second, as I mentioned earlier the middle of the film kind of drags because it's mostly the characters yelling at each other and trying to agree on a plan. A good zombie attack thrown in the midsection would have helped a little.

Minor flaws aside, this iconic and still very creepy film is a cut above the rest. No sequel, remake, or rip-off can diminish it's power.

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