Horrortober: Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

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OZ: Original Zombie
  • OZ: Original Zombie

FILM TITLE:
Night of the Living Dead (1968)

ELAPSED TIME: 13:22

WHY DID I STOP WATCHING? Blonde lady discovered desiccated body

If there is one reigning moral in horror movies that I can really get behind, it is that a certain amount of forbearance when it comes scary shit will pay off in the end. See: the different between Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and her rube of a brother in the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead (1968.) Barbra and bro drive up to a rural cemetery in order to place a wreath on the grave of a dead relative. It’s a dreary scene, and Barbra’s hapless brother is all complaints: “A lot of good the extra daylight does us,” he says. “You think I want to blow Sunday on a scene like this?”

Judith O'Dea as Barbara.
  • Judith O'Dea as Barbara.

Barbra, on the other hand, is reverent at the grave. Her brother teases her, recalling a time when they were kids and he scared her. Haha, he says when she winces, “You’re still scared.” Barbra demurs, but she easily could have responded, “No shit. There are fucking zombies in this cemetery, and they are about to kill you, you worthless scrub,” because that is the direction that everything goes. A big ole zombie, a sentient member of the 1960s undead (you can tell it’s the 60s because the zombie wears a suit and has nicely coiffed hair), emerges from over the hill and knocks out broseph. Barbra escapes the cemetery, at least for long enough to barricade herself in an old farmhouse.


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The point here is that if you don’t tempt the undead by being a sarcastic jerk, you have a better chance of escaping when they come for you. So why — why?? — would I exercise anything but utmost caution and fear while reviewing a movie about zombies. “Ha ha, zombies are fake,” another critic might write, flaunting their critical thinking skills and rational brains. Not me. Memo to zombies: I think you’re very scary. Leave me alone, please.

So Barbra makes it to this half-lit farmhouse, where she grabs a knife from the kitchen. Nothing comforting about this place at all, except that it temporarily contains no zombies. (Aside about these zombies: they seem smarter, in general, than zombies do now. A little more expressive and mobile. The scariest contemporary zombie movie I’ve seen is Shaun of the Dead, but I can tell you that those zombies are dumber than 1960s zombies, which seems to bode ill for us as a culture. Even our nightmares are getting dumber.) Barbra makes her way around the farmhouse, climbs some stairs and sees a desiccated body, presumably of farmhouse owner. A body that is just eyes in a chewed out skull.

Our columnist did't get this far into the movie.
  • Our columnist did't get this far into the movie.

For more information about this classic piece of cinema, I will refer you to the Rotten Tomatoes page, because I stopped watching at 13:22. “You’re so scared,” you might say, doing an impression of the guy who gets killed in the first 5 minutes of Night of the Living Dead. “I’m going to survive this horror movie we call life,” I say back to you as I stockpile peanut butter and duct tape in my cubicle. I'll see you on the other side. 




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