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Night of the Living Dead is a classic horror film first released in 1968 and served as George A. Romero's directorial debut. Filmed on an extremely low budget, the movie follows a group of people who have found shelter together inside an abandoned farmhouse after an outbreak of the walking undead. At first, we're merely watching as Ben (Duane Jones) and Barbra (Judith O'Dea) work to barricade the doors and windows, but after a while, they learn that a group of people has barricaded themselves in the cellar beneath them. When Harry (Karl Hardman) makes his way to the first floor, a spat ensues between he and Ben as they debate whether it's safer to hide in the cellar or in their present place. He informs Ben and Barbra that his wife and injured daughter, as well as a young couple they picked up along the way, are also hiding beneath the house. Reluctantly, both groups join together as more and more zombies continue to surround the house...

I've been meaning to watch Night of the Living Dead for a while, and seeing as today is George A. Romero's 71st birthday, I thought, "What better day to watch it than today?" All I had ever heard was that this is a classic horror film that has stood the test of time and remains one of the best horror movies ever made. And after watching, I'd have to agree that it is very, very good. In terms of the actual horror, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone from my generation that's going to have nightmares over this one, but I can only imagine the shock and terror it caused upon its release in the late '60s. It must have been horrific. I know that this wasn't the first ever "zombie" movie, but I think it's safe to say that Romero's vision changed and revolutionized the entire concept of a zombie flick.

One of the strengths of this movie is actually its story. Normally I say "screenplay" rather than story, but I think that the screenplay (which includes story AND dialogue) has some issues, mostly with the dialogue of our lead characters. However, the basic storyline is actually devastatingly powerful. I won't spoil the fun, but I just felt like the story came full circle, and I'm a bit of a sucker for full-circle storylines. It's very simple, and in a movie like this, the story can get thrust into the background, but this story of survival is so strong that it demands to be heard.

Now, the acting in Night of the Living Dead isn't exactly the best acting I've ever seen, but it works for this kind of fare. In fact, I found most of the characters to be believable, with one strong exception: Barbra. Judith O'Dea played the character way too over-the-top, and she stuck out like a sore thumb. To make matters worse, the film sets her up as the lead female protagonist (if you watch the movie, you might get the inclination that she's not by the end of the flick, and you'd probably be right - it's more a personal judgment call than anything else). Because she's introduced as the apparent lead, however, we as the audience want to hang on her every word and action, and that just made me want to hate her even more. In the end, her character really wasn't necessary, save for one emotional encounter during the film's climax. Aside from her, however, I have no real qualms with the level of the performances.

Sure, it's not scary by 21st century standards, but there's an aura about Night of the Living Dead that makes me feel like its an absolutely necessary film. There's bits and pieces that are rather disturbing, especially when you consider when the movie was made. It's a definite must-see for any horror aficionado, and it's probably a good introduction for someone who hasn't really introduced themselves into the grandness of the horror genre.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up

1968, Duane Jones, George A Romero, horror, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, movie review, Night of the Living Dead, and more: