Night of the Living Dead (1968 Film)

I just finished watching the 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead, and I am not sure how I feel about this movie. I understand it is a classic in horror films, but for me, it didn’t appeal at all. I sat there watching the video and thinking is this supposed to be scary, horrify, or make me wonder, what if. The movie did none of those things for me.
The movie starts with Barbra and her brother Jonny going to the cemetery to place flowers on a relatives grave for their Mom. When the movie first started I felt like they were more husband and wife than brother and sister. They just argued like a married couple. It wasn’t until Jonny started teasing Barbra telling her “they are coming to get you Barbra” over and over that I caught on that they were brother and sister. Most husbands wouldn’t be dumb enough to do that to their wives unless they planned to sleep on the couch.
The chase scenes were comical. These living dead or zombies were shambling along, and no matter how fast the victim ran it was right behind them. That didn’t make much sense to me. Also, how did they know where to look to find them? They are dead and operating on basic instincts. So maybe they had a heightened sense of smell. Another thing that bothered me was the fact that they all had this six sense of knowing when there were humans around. It made me think back to Sarah Pinborough book Breeding Ground where the spiders have this type hive mind, and I wondered if that was the same thing for the living dead.
One part I did like was the conflict inside the farmhouse. I think they did a good job of creating the tension between Ben and Harry Cooper. They both wanted to be in control and felt that they were right. People behave like this all the time. It’s evident in the workplace. Ben is sure that is safer to be upstairs because his logic dictates that they can run off they need too. While I agree with this in some aspects, it also leaves them vulnerable to attack of the living dead breaking through his little defense of boarding up the windows and door. In that same vein, why would you use just a hodgepodge of boards? If they can get their hands inside, then they can start to rip it apart.
On the other hand, Harry Cooper argued that it was safer in the cellar. I can see the logic with one exit and entrance to defend but let’s get real for a moment. If you barricade yourself in a place like a cellar, you better have enough food and water to last a few months and something to do so you don’t go insane. Plus if those things get in there, you have no way you and you might as well shoot yourself. I did not think his idea of staying down there was a good idea.
One thing that drove me insane was Barbra’s character. I understand that she lost her brother and was scared of those things chasing her but did she have to be so weak and feeble minded? At one point they make you think she is one of the living dead but that was just a bit of foreshadowing. They do this by having her sit there staring at the pattern on a piece of lace and gets scared when the other women light a cigarette. Barbra barely says anything that is useful. I just couldn’t relate to her. I would have much preferred a character who took charged and help and then once it was over break down. That would be more understandable.
Overall, I was not impressed with Night of the Living Dead. It left me wanting more from the movie. I did try to think of it in the context of when it was made, but that didn’t help. If they had made it more realistic, I could have gotten into the movie. I just don’t think the dead coming back to life are going to be that smart.

4 thoughts on “Night of the Living Dead (1968 Film)

  1. Barbra seemed to serve the purpose of “the person who never quite recovers from the trauma.” I think Romero was trying to show us that no one was safe, not even our “insertion point character.” Her death is like the last drop before the roller coaster gets down to serious business. It’s basically blood and carnage from there to the end.


  2. Hey Louise,

    Yeaaaah, Barbara. There are a couple of things that stand out to me more watching this movie as an adult than the bajillion times I watched it as a kid. One of those things is Barbara. On one hand I get why she acts the way she does. Romero attempted to showcase a whole range of reactions that people may have to a situation like this. Some real remain calm and collected, some will run and hide away, and some will break down. When coupled with the other female characters though, well, I don’t quote Reese Witherspoon very often but “Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do?”

    From my recollection of Romero’s sequels, he does get better with his portrayal of women. In Dawn of the Dead a woman is pivotal to the escape at the end, and the protagonist in Day of the Dead is a female scientist who challenges the rule of a base run by corrupt survivors of the military. However, I have not re-watched any of these movies recently, so I can’t say for sure that Romero got better, but I think he did…now I have some movies to re-watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You focused in on one of my biggest issues with the film, which is the inconsistencies among the zombies. Some zombies had more abilities than others, and we never learn about how they can track the humans at a snail’s pace. Fleshing these out would have really improved the film.


  4. Hey Louise,

    The chase scenes were pretty funny, especially the first one. That zombie at the graveyard just wouldn’t quit! I’m guessing they knew people were in the house because they could hear Ben and Harry yelling at each other. I did notice that the zombies seemed to get slower and stupider as the movie progressed, but that might have been my imagination. When Ben hid in the cellar, they didn’t even notice, which I thought was weird. Why bother breaking into the house if you’re going to let the human escape?


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