I first saw the original 1968 film "Night of the Living Dead" in the mid nineties. It was on an old, slightly warped VHS tape that my older brother insisted I watch. I was maybe ten years old but probably closer to around nine.
The film started out - in black and white, of course - on a lonely stretch of Americana back-roads somewhere in Pennsylvania. Graves littered the background. "They're coming to get you, Barbara!"
What impressed me the most was the starkness of the film. The music (if the scene had any at all) was atmospheric, thoughtful, dreadful. There were long scenes where actors gave sometimes meandering soliloquies, their thoughts. How should they live in a world now overrun with the dead? They were among the first trying to make sense of this strange new world they now found themselves in. Sometimes poetic and noble, always frightened and uncertain, though. I can't count how many agonizing and terrifying long takes there were. Romero seemed to have just set up the camera and slowly panned in on his actors, creating genuine fear with a simple trick.
The film is now in the Library of Congress as a film deemed worthy enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other truly remarkable films. And it really is a simple, low budget movie with political undertones. Filmed on $114,000, it quickly brought in over $30 million internationally.
George A. Romero scared the living hell out of me as a kid. And I can't thank him enough for it.
Farewell to one of the best. -Fritz
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