Night of the Living Dead (1968, Black and White) ****1/2 out of *****
This movie is genuine horror. When it opens up, the dark, gritty view of the cold countryside, and the haunting music, send a chill down your spine, and if just an innocent opening can do that, then imagine how much the whole movie can shock you.
It starts out with a brother and sister, Johnny and Barbara, driving way out of town to visit their dead father in a far-off cemetery. During the visit, Johnny teases Barbara about living-dead folk coming to get her - when one is headed their way. After a fight with Johnny and the monster, Barbara escapes the cemetery and finds herself holing up in an abandoned farmhouse. Soon enough she is joined by a tough black man, Ben. We find out that other humans have been hiding in the basment, while the zombies pile up outside. The group decides to board up the windows, and survive the night - but a feud between Ben and Harry Cooper makes cooperation impossible....and the whole night is spent fighting, fighting not the dead, but themselves.
As you can imagine, Romero is trying to tell us that....well, humans may be the smartest animal on the planet, but we may be the most uncivilized of all. He asks with this movie, How can we survive the enemy when we can't even survive our own selves? It is and was a legitimate point made, especially during the 1960s, when America was at war with Vietnam - and itself. The brutal feauding between the two dominating forces (Ben and Harry) reflects just what was happening with society at the time. This all gives this movie a golden caliber that is hard to top.
As for the movie itself, the lighting, camera work, script, and dialogue were superb, just to name a few. The story keeps you hooked, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The way Romero uses the zombies -- the way he makes them approach with such menacing force leaves you frightened and only adds to the quality of the story, and the quality of the cinematic beauty. The characters are all three dimesnionsal, even if some of them are with a one-track mind. There is just nothing bad to say about this work of art. It will go down in history, cinematic history, and should have been on that poorly-chosen AFI 100 best movies list (sorry, Mr. Kane, I liked your movie, but you don't belong at the top). The problem with that list is, they were looking for 100% cinematic beauty, popularity and awards (they even stated it). They don't know what they're missing.