Criterion Throwback Review: George A. Romero’s Taboo-Breaking ‘Night of the Living Dead’

Shambling zombies, covered in blood and gore, hungering for human flesh, approaching a small group of hopeless survivors – we’ve seen it in The Walking Dead, iZombie, World War Z, Resident Evil and countless other pieces of horror media. The zombie has become an inescapable cultural figure that’s found, not just on TV or movies, but on shirts, hats, board games, phone cases, and more. But we wouldn’t have this cultural zeitgeist without George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. With almost no budget, Romero defined the horror genre and broke through societal taboos around race, class, and nihilism. Romero rejected conventional horror tropes and created something that reflected a nation in shambles during the Vietnam War, as well as the corrosive effects of capitalism on society as a whole.

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The film’s protagonist, Ben (Duane Jones), is a Black man. While Ben’s race is never explicitly addressed in the film, it is hard to ignore as the rest of the cast is white. Unlike the other white characters, Ben has the most control of the situation, immediately taking the role of the group’s leader. When he arrives at the farmhouse, he begins to board up the windows and doors by tearing apart the stereotypical home of the 1960s family. He pulls apart tables, chairs, and parts of the kitchen to keep the undead out of the home; to protect those in the house he must literally tear it apart.

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12 Horror Movies You Should Definitely Check Out This Halloween

Staying in for Halloween this year? Gonna camp out in front of the television/computer with popcorn and pray you’re not disturbed by trick-or-treaters? Not sure which movie you should watch? Never fear, we’ve got you covered – and with recommendations from six different sub-genres, there’s something for all tastes in this list.

With special thanks to our guest contributor & full-time horror enthusiast Georgia, who can be found on twitter at @GeorgiaMaeSixx

Psychological Horror Films

GEORGIA’S PICK: 1408 (2007, dir. Mikael Håfström)

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It’s very hard to keep an audience captivated when the majority of your film is one actor in a single room, but John Cusack sells it. An unconventional story about a haunted hotel room with one of the most solid twists in recent memory, this film is definitely unsettling. Mike Enslin, a skeptic who writes about the ‘haunted’ locations he has stays in, decides to visit the eponymous room 1408 in The Dolphin hotel, and the fun ensues. The director successfully adapted the Stephen King short story whilst putting his own twist on it. The film does not rely on the grisly details or gore and instead goes for imagery that truly disturbs. Samuel L. Jackson also stars as the owner of the hotel and also delivers a strong and unnerving performance. The film also features three endings including the theatrical release so make sure to watch all three as they offer very different resolutions to the film.

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