Review Date: 6/2/12
Written and Directed By: George Romero
Cast: Duane Jones
George Romero's classic horror flick defined an entire genre and was the blueprint for nearly every zombie film that followed for the next thirty years. Barbra and Johnny are visiting a cemetery when they're attacked by crazy man. While Johnny struggles with the attacker, Barbra manages to escape and finds shelter in a farmhouse. Several other people make it to the farmhouse as well, including Ben (Duane Jones), who quickly takes charge and sets up a line of defense against the ever increasing hordes of undead who are slowly descending on the house. All of the horror film character archetypes are present, and it's up for grabs whether they'll kill each other before the zombies get to them. Survivors get picked off one by one until a zombie response team arrives to clean up the mess.
It's a micro-budget film, and the production quality and editing are terrible. However, creative lighting and deep shadows help set a tense mood and maintain a sense of dread. The back story unfolds via emergency radio and TV broadcasts, which is both a cheap cop-out and a brilliant way to enforce the isolation of the characters and hopelessness of their situation. The acting is decent and credible, and the film is really a character study in how people react when put together in extreme situations. It's a surprisingly smart film, and has a lot more depth than you'd expect from the horror genre. The gore is minimal and mostly off-camera, but I'm sure it was shocking and scandalous when the film came out. Romero should be commended for what he achieved with so little, and for having the guts to pull it off. Additionally, the downbeat and unapologetic ending is a risky move and a pleasant surprise.