director George A. Romero
I really am not trying to scare the hell out of my kids. I have to admit that after watching Poltergeist (1982), that I was highly amused at their reactions. And I did show them a few films that I thought would be frightening. Even a few Twilight Zone episodes. But in the end, I really was just trying to watch movies with them and horror films are a particular interest of mine. October has become a focal point for me and horror films, so it’s a kind of natural connection.
Night of the Living Dead is indeed a classic by a number of measures. It’s one of several fascinatingly awesome independently produced horror films, though possibly the most influential of them. It of course launched George A. Romero’s whole career and redefined the idea of zombies from some Creole legend to the more popular, contemporary dead people seeking brains.
Most significantly, it is a pretty great film.
Shot in black-and-white on a low budget, Romero scored quite a casting coup with his actors. While none of them became recognizable stars, they all deport themselves finely. And the simplicity of the situation, holing up in a single house with the lumbering dead outside, the drama stays taut and keen.
The funny part to me was that as the first walking corpse accosts the brother and sister in the cemetery, Felix said aloud that they weren’t too scary-looking. There isn’t a great deal of make-up effects throughout. They are just wan humans, largely,…until they try to eat you. But it wasn’t more than 15 minutes further into it when the kids were squirming and freaked out. The menace of the ghouls, as Romero referred to them, evolves subtly from near banality into a much more evocative horror.
Felix eventually abandoned the room. It was too much for him. Clara stuck it out.
The film is many things, much written about already. It’s societal critiques, implicit or explicit. It’s most shocking imagery, the girl eating her father’s hand. It’s nihilistic ending: no protagonists survive.
The consensus was that Night of the Living Dead is one of the scariest films that we’ve watched together.
I posed it as “one of the best horror films of all time” in opposition to our planned film for the next night, Ed Wood, Jr.’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), as “one of the worst horror films of all time”, perhaps one of the worst films of all time, to which it is popularly referred. Both films about resurrected dead. The kids appreciated this idea. Though Felix I guess knows his limits.
I really am not trying to frighten them or show them stuff that is too explicit. But again, here, in this grainy black-and-white, the zombies munching on supposed human entrails and such, Felix noted that it was a more graphic horror film than we have perhaps watched before. And maybe he’s right.
Well, however it goes, our October horror selection is running out and we’ll switch over to other fare for a while. Hopefully that will allay any guilt feelings that I develop as to whether I was selecting appropriate material of not.
If I measured it by Clara, who is still only 9, I might still think I was doing okay.