On this day in 1968, George Romero‘s “Night of the Living Dead” premiered at movie theaters across the country. The film that launched a thousand zombie movies was met with astonishing success, and it was the most profitable horror movie of its time.
By today’s standards, the black-and-white, low-budget “Night of the Living Dead” seems campy, absurd, unintentionally hilarious, and hopelessly cliched. But it undeniably laid the groundwork for every American zombie film that would come after it, from Romero’s follow-up “Dawn of the Dead” to “28 Days Later” to “Zombieland.”
It is therefore fitting that we ring in the Halloween season with the 44th anniversary of this zombie classic.
For those of you who have lived under a rock for your entire life, or are simply embarrassingly uninformed about modern zombie lore (let’s be honest, the two are basically interchangeable as far as this zombiephile is concerned), “Night of the Living Dead” is the story of a group of strangers holed up in a farmhouse on the day the dead rise from their graves with a taste for human flesh. Led by hero Ben (Duane Jones), the group must work together to defeat the living dead and find safety. Since this is a Romero movie, they are of course unsuccessful.
After the success of “Night of the Living Dead” Romero went on to make five other films in his zombie series: “Dawn of the Dead”, “Day of the Dead”, “Land of the Dead”, “Diary of the Dead”, and “Survival of the Dead.” Each one takes place in the same zombie apocalypse, but are not connected by any common characters and only loosely connected by plot. in 2004, Zack Snyder made his directorial debut with a remake of “Dawn of the Dead.”
“Night of the Living Dead” was a landmark film that defined a genre and delivered a message about social prejudices, racism, and paranoia. And for that, Mr. Romero, we salute you