Horror Half-Week: Favorite things about… Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Kicking off this year’s spooktacular Horror Half-Week with a truly groundbreaking classic of the genre: Night of the Living Dead! Starting with today’s ’60s flick, we’ll be working our way backwards in time. Stay tuned tomorrow for a review of a ’50s film, and throughout the next couple of days for reviews of chillers from the ’40s and ’30s!

The favorite film:
Night of the Living Dead, a 1968 zombie flick directed by George Romero

(Image via Girl Meets Freak)
(Image via Girl Meets Freak)

The synopsis:
Over the course of one night, seven strangers must fight for their lives when the dead start to be revived… and get hungry for human flesh. Hiding in a farm house, the group finds itself splintering and falling apart as the zombie threat outside begins to grow.

The cast:

Judith O’Dea as Barbra
Duane Jones as Ben
Karl Hardman as Harry
Marilyn Eastman as Helen
Judith Riley as Judy
Kyra Schon as Karen
George Kosana as Sheriff McClelland
Keith Wayne as Tom

Fun facts:

  • The film was shot on a budget of just over $100,000.
  • Kyra Schon is real-life the daughter of Karl Hardman, who plays her father in the film.
  • Russell Streiner (“Johnny”) served as a producer and made a cameo in the 1990 version of the film.
  • Chocolate syrup was used as “blood” in the film. Homepage of the Dead has a great photo of Bosco syrup being applied to one of the film’s “victims.”
  • Marilyn Eastman, in addition to playing Helen, appears as a zombie in the film.
  • The film has been preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.
  • According to an interview with Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman: “The script had been written with the character Ben as a rather simple truck driver. His dialogue was that of a lower class/uneducated person. Duane Jones was a very well educated man. He was fluent in a number of languages and went on to hold a professorship at Vassar. Duane simply refused to do the role as it was written. As I recall, I believe that Duane himself upgraded his own dialogue to reflect how he felt the character should present himself.” (Source)
Scarier than Psycho?! Oh my! (Image via Cinema Junkyard)
Scarier than Psycho?! Oh my! (Image via Cinema Junkyard)

Favorite things:

  • The music. So eerie, so atmospheric, so perfect for this type of film.
  • “I think you complain just to hear yourself talk!”
  • “They’re coming to get you, Baaaa-bra!”
  • The mannerisms of the zombies. Effective spookiness from all members of the undead mob!
  • Ben (Duane Jones) being a total badass, taking down multiple zombies with a single tool as a weapon
  • Delusional Barbara thinking that it’s a great idea to leave the farmhouse and look for Johnny
  • “These are the facts as we know them. There is an epidemic of mass murder being committed by a virtual army of unidentified assassins.”
  • Ben being a total badass, scouring the house for supplies and boarding it up with no help from traumatized Barbra.
  • The classic television broadcast
  • “You’re right, it doesn’t give them time to make funeral arrangements. The bodies must be carried to the street and… and… and burned.”
  • “Well, the television said that’s the right thing to do. We’ve got to get to a rescue station.”
  • The attack of the truck
  • “Kill the brain… and you kill the ghoul!”
  • The return of Johnny!
  • “Everything appears to be under control.”

Though there’s a lot of fun to be had in this film there are also some truly gruesome, frightening and disturbing moments, which is why this list is somewhat short. While these moments are certainly effective and make the film a great one, I hesitate to list them under a category of “favorite things.” I love a good horror flick, but a list of “favorite” deaths or limbs stolen by zombies seems far too morbid for me!

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