Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What was one of the first movies of the modern era that scared you to death.

For me it was Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romano who died in his sleep sometime early last Sunday morning surrounded by his second wife and daughter.

I remember watching it on TV as the brother tells his sister that ‘they’ are coming to get her while they are in a cemetery to visit the grave of their father. Soon we learn that the strange people are not living and they like to eat human flesh. Barbara makes it to a farm house where other living people, including a black man named Ben, have taken shelter.

night of the_Living Dead_Each tries to come up with a plan to escape and find a safe place although that may not be possible according to news reports.

As the film goes on, we discover what is happening although not why it is happening. And no one in that house is going to make it out alive.

This was George Romero’s first feature-length film and it remade all of the rules known at that time for the horror genre.

There would be no survivors, the monsters were zombies who ate human flesh. There was no reasoning as to how the dead became re-animated. The lead actor was a black man at a time in our country when there was tremendous upheaval for blacks to have equal civil rights. There was no battle for good and evil, these creature just were.

It was terrifying because a scratch or a bite could mean that you were about to become a zombie. The only way to kill them was a shot in the head and cremation. And our friends in the house did not always act in a valiant manner.

Romero shot this movie on a tight budget in a house that was about to be demolished near the city of Pittsburgh. Back then the cemetery was quite deserted but since has become a popular tourist stop for fans of the movie.

Secondly, in casting Duane Jones for the leading role, Romero changed how the movie might be perceived in context to the discrimination of the time. It didn’t matter because audiences loved this and his other movies in the dead series.

George Romero-Romero didn’t make money off of this movie because of his poor business acumen but he kept making movies, kept getting better, and inspired future film-makers. He eventually did make money off of his movies. The producers of the Walking Dead set their rules of Zombies after his movies.

Romero created that without digging deep into the sociological explanations of the movies. Some claim that the first movie released in 1968 was about the civil unrest facing America in those days. Some could claim it was about the toxins we poisoned our soil and water as they were carelessly dumped.

But George Romero made no such claims. What he did was put out good horror films that scared and scarred some of us for life. He created a body of work that dared people to think differently. That is an accomplishment.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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