Blu-ray Review: Night of the Living Dead (1968): 50th Anniversary Edition

February 14, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

I fucking hate reviews like this…Night of the Living Dead is regarded by multitudes as the one of, if not the, greatest fright flicks ever made; and I am definitely one of those folks! You’ve most likely seen the film, read countless reviews and studies of it, and loved it for years, so what can your’s cruelly add to the mix? Well…umm…I swear a lot…

In case you’ve never seen Night of the Living Dead, as improbable as that is, here’s a sinister synopsis for your arcane asses: Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) head out to visit their father’s grave. Once there they are attacked by a zombie (Bill Hinzman in a role forever enshrined as a horror icon). John-John buys the farm and Babs gets her flee on and finds herself at an abandoned farmhouse where she is joined by the heroric Ben (Duane Jones). as time passes the duo discover other refugees inhabiting the abode, as Harry (Karl Hardman) and Helen Cooper (Marilyn Eastman), and their daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) have been hiding in the cellar. Joined by Tom and Judy, the rag-tag group attempts to survive not only the monsters at their door, but the in-fighting and paranoia within!

Of course Night of the Living Dead is a straight up, goddamned horror biz masterpiece! George A. Romero created a fright flick that works not only as a spine chilling zombie film, but as a pointed social commentary as well. The late ’60’s were a turbulent time, and this film touches on a number of relevant issues such as race (how some characters interact with Ben…an African American), mob mentality, and even elements of revolution (the small gathering of living versus the zombie majority). Speaking of Ben, having an African American as the hero of your fright flick was absolutely unheard of in those days (and what a hero he is as he is the only level headed character in the entire damn picture)…see what I mean creeps; revolutionary!

Along with all of that heady business, the film also established many tropes of the genre including the small group of survivors holing up in a single locale to fight the advancing hungry hordes, the zombies lust to devour the flesh of the living, and their plodding gait. And of course it contains so much iconic imagery, from the Hinzman ghoul, to the transformed Karen’s attack on her mother, to ribbons of flesh entering hungry undead mouths…this flick will absolutely refuse to exit your subconscious!

It also absolutely has to be mentioned that this film accomplishes so much terror with so little; sure you get the zombies and some decent and shocking gore for the time, but what really creates the eerie aesthetic are the news broadcasts and stories the characters tell of their zombie experiences…your mind fills in the details with all the demonic details. Now honestly I’ve never been a fan of the “what you don’t see is scarier” aesthetic; film is a visual medium and I want to “see” every damn devilish detail in my fright flicks…but this is one of the few examples where this technique actually works like ghoulish gangbusters…helped in no small part by the fantastic performances of the cast.

As for negatives they fall on this Blu-ray itself rather than the film. Besides a decent transfer of the film, you get zero extra features…but the price can’t be beat, and it’s a huge step-up from some of the previous bargain basement releases the film has endured.

If you don’t already own (or own a shitty version of) Night of the Living Dead this is a good way to go; the price (under ten bucks!) is easy on the wallet, and the transfer is descent…so grab it already boils n’ ghouls!





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