Night of the Living Dead
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this was once considered the ultimate in gruesome horror, with its ghastly premise of armies of undead "ghouls" devouring and infecting the living. One of the zombies is a little girl who ends up killing her parents. The movie is claustrophobic and intense, with one of the most famously pessimistic endings in movie history. Though later cannibal-zombie movies pushed gore-makeup effects to extremes, this one is relatively restrained -- except for the Anchor Bay "Anniversary" edition that adds more severe carnage that was filmed later and edited in (along with the character of a nasty priest).
What's the story?
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD begins when a young woman and her brother are attacked in a cemetery by a zombie, then moves to a group of strangers seeking shelter from the ghouls in a remote house. Barricaded inside, they see TV bulletins linking the zombie plague to "radiation" from a Venus space probe contaminating the environment, and they hear the only way to stop a ghoul is to destroy the brain, with a well-aimed bullet or cranial blows. The panicked survivors split into two factions, a family called the Coopers, who want to stay barricaded indoors and wait for help, and a more pro-active bunch, led by Ben (Duane Jones), an assertive black man, who plan a dash to safety, despite the ghouls massing relentlessly in the dark outside. A famously shocking finale indicates that neither of their plans works out.
Is it any good?
George A. Romero's cult classic brought a virtually unprecedented level of realistic gore and disturbing grotesquerie to creature-feature fans (many of them children). When it premiered in 1968, critics and commentators were outraged kids had been exposed to such a nightmare. Though it's unrated by the MPAA, some posters and ads carried an "X" rating (for gruesome violence, not sex), and that should tell you something. It's still intense today, and pushes a lot of buttons, with its well-rendered camera angles, effective jolts, claustrophobia, and the fate-worse-than-death zombie vibe.
Beware: The film is in the public domain, which means there are lots of fuzzy-looking, technically inferior copies on the market, computer-"colorized" versions, and spoof editions with completely dubbed-in gag dialogue (even with a bad-joke soundtrack, the imagery is still disturbing).
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the mistake the survivors make in their defense strategy against the ghouls; their self-interest and egotism divides them (the zombies, on the other hand, have no such problems). You can also discuss with movie-buff kids why this was such a success on the horror market. Do you think it was because a premise this frightful had never been brought to the screen before? Or was it skillful filmmaking? What examples do you see in today's horror movies of filmmakers pushing the envelope? Do you believe (like some critics) that the movie is trying to make a social point? Or do you agree with the filmmakers, that it's just a scary movie?