Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. The first of a week of shameless plug movie reviews to get you pumped about my new novel, “The Night of the Freaks”, available now for free on Inkitt.com. I figured I’d start at the beginning of modern zombie cinema, the granddaddy, Night of the Living Dead. Eagle-eyed readers might say to themselves, “Boy, your book title has a lot of the same words as the movie you’re reviewing,” to which I say…yeah…that’s true. Almost like my book title is an allusion or something.

In all honesty, this is one of those movies I could talk about for hours without ever touching on plot points just because the behind the scene stuff is so interesting. Hell, it’s so interesting they made a documentary about it, “Birth of the Living Dead”, which, if that were more prolific, I’d be writing about that. Yet here we are.

One of the things I find most fascinating about this classic is that at no point are the zombies referred to as zombies; they’re mostly called “those things” or “ghouls”, but damn it all if this isn’t the birth of the modern zombie film. This film pioneered the whole zombies eating flesh and death by head shot thing. You know, Zombie 101.

The movie tells the story of poor shell shocked and useless Barbara (Judith O’Dea), who after seeing her dick-head brother Johnny die at the hands of a zombie, flees to a farm house where she meets Ben, played by Duane Jones.

Now, real quick, 1968 was a different time. Duane Jones, as everyone who’s seen the movie knows, is African American. This one piece of casting added an entire social commentary to the movie because of the way the plot plays out. All that’s unintentional. Duane Jones was just the best actor to show up to the casting call. That’s way, if you note, the fact that he’s black is never brought up. In 1968, in a room full of white people put in mortal danger who are at ideological odds with Jones’ character, you better believe there would have been some unsavory comments sent his way. Those comments aren’t made because, well, they weren’t in the script. That almost plays into the social commentary of the film in a way; the fact that race isn’t at any point an issue. Either way, for the time it was a bold casting choice that added layers to the movie that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

Anywho.

Barbara and Ben (but mostly Ben) barricade themselves in this farm house only to find more people barricaded in the basement. Then the great debate starts. Team basement, which as Brad Pitt will tell you is a terrible tactical nightmare, and Team Ben aka Team anywhere but the basement.

This movie isn’t exactly a thrill a minute, I’ll give you that. The four stars it wears is mostly for it importance in history. Seriously. This movie cost $114,000 to make, and it grossed $30 million. It made over 263 times its budget from the box office. Holy fucking shit, that is impressive. The first time I saw this, twelve year old me was transfixed. Twenty-seven year old me wonders how much the extras playing zombies hated their lives. According to that documentary, everybody on set had a blast. Kinda makes you wish you were a zombie for George A. Romero.

But in all seriousness, being a zombie would totally blow. Being stuck in a zombie apocalypses would blow. But you know what would even suck more? If the apocalypses was all psychosomatic and it was up to you and a merry band of misfits to convince a city full of cannibals that they are living out a lie. Such are the events of my new book being shamelessly plugged, “The Night of the Freaks”. You can find it on Inkitt.com for the low low price of free. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the longest thing I’ve ever written is being given away for the same price as air. Don’t be caught dead without it. Muhahahaha.

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