Tyler Talks Horror: Night of the Living Dead

Published on September 23rd, 2016 in: Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Retrovirus, Reviews, Tyler Talks Horror |

By Tyler Hodg

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Hi, I’m Tyler Hodg and I’m a horror n00b.

My status is not an exaggeration. If I was to chronicle my experience with the genre, it would exclusively include the climax of Saw, and about 40 minutes of Amityville Horror II: The Possession. Impressive, huh?

Despite my ignorance, horror is, and always has been, alluring. What is so enticing about torturing yourself with a scary movie? How do original classics hold up in today’s standards? Can a seemingly desensitized generation see the merit in classic horror films?

The sole solution to these questions is to turn off all of the lights, grab some Twizzlers (best snack food of all time), sit down, and get to watching. With a healthy variety of classics, cult classics, and modern films, maybe I’ll be promoted to horror rookie.

Night of the Living Dead

“They’re coming to get you Barbara!”

I figured the perfect introduction into the horror genre was Night of the Living Dead, as it’s widely recognized as the quintessential zombie movie. The cultural importance of the film is undeniable, however, its legacy in pop culture today is routed in initiating a movement, rather than being a cinematic masterpiece.

With that said, I enjoyed my time with Night of the Living Dead. There was never a moment where I was truly terrified, but it’s easy to see how this film shocked audiences in 1968. The black and white aesthetic is a perfect match for the heightened score, and despite the lack of dialogue, many of the sequences remain suspenseful to this day.

There is one scene in particular that will stay with me forever. It features one of the protagonists, Ben, in a conversation with fellow survivor Barbara about how he “plowed right through them” with his car (referencing what the movie calls “ghouls”). This interaction gives context to the horrific situation without relying on the visual depiction.

There are certain moments in the film that don’t translate today, such as good-guy Ben’s physical abuse on Barbara. While I understand the action was to exhibit the high tension, it creates an unnecessary attribute for his character. The racial symbolism depicted by his death is slightly tarnished due to modern views about violence against women.

Consequently, the most interesting aspect of watching the movie was seeing the evolution—or devolution, in this case—of zombies. In Night of the Living Dead, the creatures are normalized and rarely have visible transformations; zombies today have a signature decrepit look which transcends series and properties with little to no innovation. Examining the juxtaposition was quite eye-opening.

Night of the Living Dead isn’t a good movie by any means, however, it is easy to look past the cheesy fight scenes, primitive effects, and horrendous dialogue to understand how it innovated and inspired the horror genre. Personally, I see Night of the Living Dead for exactly what it is: a trailblazing low-budget independent film released nearly 50 years ago.

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