Yep, I'm talking about the original, the big king granddaddy of all zombie movies, Night of the Living Dead, released in 1968. I love this movie so much. The plot goes like this. A young woman and her brother go to visit their father's grave. While they're in the cemetery, a staggering man attacks them, killing the brother in a struggle while gnawing on him a bit. The young woman escapes to a farm house, where she is soon joined by a fellow who secures the house to keep the zombies out. The zombies want to eat the living people, you see. It's just what zombies do. According to the radio and TV reports, recently dead corpses are being reanimated, although no one is sure why. Soon, two other couples emerge from the farm house basement, and things pretty much go downhill from there.
Not to toot the "cheap movies that went on to make scads of money" horn too much, but they made this movie for $114,000.00, and it pretty much spawned every single zombie movie that has been filmed since. It also introduced the splatter film genre, which spawned Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason and their thousands of cousins. It changed film history, and how great is that? Yay, George Romero. It's grim, it's gory, it's spooky, and, the first time you see the ending, you're going to say, "Oh, no, really?"
It's also one of the most subversive, nihilistic movies I have ever seen. Every time I watch it, I'm shocked, and I've seen it many many times. Not only are people eating other people, children are killing parents, and society in general is just going to hell in a handbasket. The nuclear family is a disaster, and the group dynamics of the people barricaded inside the house are almost scarier than the zombies. The government is either covering up or clueless about the cause. Everything is falling apart, and no one knows why. You can't even bury your dead relative or friend. Instead, you have to take out their brains so they stop killing and eating others. Rough stuff.
A lot has been written about how this movie was filmed in 1968, during the Vietnam War, when American society was in great upheaval. Also, the fact that the hero was an African American was almost unheard of at the time. Romero claims that he didn't intend for any of those subtexts when he made the film. His main idea was this: "What if the dead stopped playing dead? And how would people respond or fail to respond to this?" Most of the work he did before Night consisted of documentaries and industrial training films, and that eye adds a realistic feel to this movie that makes it all the more effective.
Classic, brilliant, and great zombie apocalypse fun. It will fill you with wonderful dread. I'm not a big fan of the sequels or the remakes. Dawn of the Dead in the mall is fun, but then the rest seem to get watered down from there. Night of the Living Dead outshines them all.
Can you imagine what the first few audiences in 1968 must have made of this? Goodness.