Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand the original black and white look gives the movie that perfect dark and gloomy look that works wonderfully to emphasize the horror aspects of the film. But at the same time, if there was one thing that really hit my eye when re-watching the movie now, it was how the limited lighting at times really was amateurish and distracting: There were more than one scene where the picture was  too dark, to a point where the character could almost completely disappear to the shadows and looked awkward instead of stylish. I found myself in this paradoxical situation where in terms of mood, the lighting would encapsulate the intensity and terror of the scene perfectly but at the same time I would just as easily be so distracting by it and actually have it take me entirely out of the scene. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it is a bit distracting once you start picking it up.

Another thing that that kept bugging me, though this was more of an interesting tidbit rather than a genuine complaint, was of course the way the “ghouls” moved and acted. Being the first film in the series, Romero’s Zombie Rules were not yet fully developed, so the first zombie at the graveyard is rather fast and agile, able to run after Barbara with moderate speed and it among few others end up showing this uncharacteristic signs of intelligence by picking up rocks and other things to use as weapons in order to smash windows and doors down.

Speaking of Barbara, it was a bit interesting to notice how Barbara spends most of the movie either hysteric or catatonic before horribly getting killed by the horde of zombies. I didn’t recall any of that, and it really felt sexist now. But on the other hand, is it really that bad to depict her that way?  When you think about it, in the span of very short time period, she was first brutally attacked by a zombie who then kills her brother in front of her eyes, she is involved in a car crash while trying to flee, and ultimately instead of finding refuge, she gets trapped in a strange house with no way to get help and escape impossible thanks to numerous zombies prowling the house from all angles. So is it really any wonder that she might have had a small mental breakdown and simply be too distressed and traumatized to be any use? After all, everyone has a mental breaking point, it’s just an unfortunate stereotype that is seen too often with female characters. To Romero’s credit he did in fact later address this very issue, and fix it by radically revamping Barbara’s character the 1990s color remake (directed by Tom Savini of all people) where she was turned to a more proactive and strong hero character, to a point where she is actually the sole survivor of the group when the local militia arrive at the house the next morning.


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