James Rolfe: Welcome to Cinemassacre's "Monster Madness". We are halfway through the month of October, halfway through our history of horror films and the movie today is "Night of the Living Dead".
Johnny: They're coming to get you, Barbara…
James: Ironically I always think of this as the middle ground of the horror movie timeline. It was the first to depict gruesome acts of violence such as zombies getting stabbed, flesh getting eaten and guts all over. But it's shot in black & white, even though color was available, so it's kinda like a crossover between classic chillers and modern splatter flicks. It's a little tame for today's standards, but back then it was definitely a turning point in horror history and movies in general.
A month after "Night of the Living Dead"'s premiere the american rating system came into effect. Wether or not it had anything to do with it, it was the first and last horror movie of its kind to receive an attendance of preteens and adolescence without restriction – and nobody knew what hit them. The film was also innovative for its casting decisions. Back then a black man in a starring role was actually unheard of. So here's a movie that finally decided to break down the boundaries.
It was also one the first independent films to gain worldwide popularity. The appeal of this movie is in its cheap low budget and realistic setting. The shitty black & white look just adds to the flavor and the title is one of the best titles ever; "Night of the Living Dead". 'Living' contradicts being dead but also just has its creepy ring to it and ushered in countless titles beginning with 'Night of…' or ending in 'Dead'. It also has one of the best opening scenes of all time. Any other horror movie back then would've probably spent the first act explaining why the dead are rising and set it all up. But this movie just hits you right off the bat.
Radio announcer: There is an epidemic of mass murder being committed by a virtual army of unidentified assassins. Medical authorities in Cumberland have concluded that in all cases, the killers are eating the flesh of the people they murdered. It has--
James: The way the film plays is that everyone is trapped inside this one house, trying to stay safe from the zombies outside. If they can learn to work together they might make it out alive, but they can't stop arguing. It's an interesting study of human behavior and survival instincts. What it comes down to is that everyone is for themselves.
Director George Romero had made a movie no one else dared to make and unknowingly he created one of the biggest sub-genres in horror films; the zombie flick. I'm not gonna give away the ending but what I will say is that it has balls. Romero actually had an opportunity to sell his film to a major studio, but they wanted him to change the ending and add a love story subplot – he said 'no'. He has always stayed away from the mainstream because he's a true filmmaker and he has balls. And balls are what this genre is all about.