With the unfortunate death of George A. Romero this year, now is the best time to re-visit “Night of the Living Dead.” It’s hard to believe what one small mistake could have done to alter history, as Romero’s accidental omission of the copyright sign for “Night of the Living Dead” allowed his horror masterpiece to become public domain, and for his idea of the zombie to become open game for anyone and everyone with an imagination. Just imagine if Romero had copyrighted the concept of the flesh eating zombie and we probably wouldn’t have about eighty percent of the zombie movies we have today.
That said, “Night of the Living Dead” is still one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and one of the most important statements about humanity and class warfare that Romero would become known for, eventually. If you haven’t yet seen it, “Night” is set on a farm house where a young girl named Barbra narrowly escapes a deadly confrontation with an undead ghoul in a graveyard. Barbra is saved by a young African American man named Ben, who reveals that the entire mass of Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh is being overrun by flesh eating ghouls. Forming an uneasy pact with the owners of the farm house, and a dysfunctional married couple whose daughter was bitten by one of the ghouls, the group has to fend off the living dead and survive the night.
That is if they don’t turn on one another first. “Night” is still a viciously compelling horror film filled with subtle overtones about the widening social class gap in America, and the hysteria and paranoia that can emerge from times of crisis. Romero perfected the idea of guerilla filmmaking, using his low budget to his advantage, as “Night” tends to feel like a documentary some times and an endless nightmare other times. We’re never quite sure how the world outside the farm Barbra and Ben are stuck in are dealing with this epidemic, but the implications of pandemonium reveal these characters are damned if they stay in the house, and damned if they attempt escape.
The 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray from Mill Creek comes uncut, and with a Digital code that allows you to redeem the movie to view on any digital platform. You can find the movie just about anywhere online, but it’s good to have, just the same.