Night of the Living Dead ★★★★★

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!"

Every damn person on the planet knows what a zombie is. I am pretty sure if you asked a baby that was born earlier today what a zombie was, they would be like "Oh sure, zombies. When is the next season of The Walking Dead?", and the current blast of zombie popularity can absolutely be attributed to the overwhelming success of the television series. Long before Zack Snyder made them track stars or AMC began dominating Sunday night ratings, the genius who is the real man to thank for the fascination with zombies was crafting brilliant, scary, satirical gems. That man was George A. Romero.

Night of the Living Dead was the first and in my opinion also the greatest work involving zombies ever created. Released in 1968, the film takes place over the course of one day and night and for the most part takes place in one brilliantly utilized single setting, a house that both feels like salvation and also a prison, facing a sentence of an unknown time frame as no one knows what is happening to the people infected and no resolution is in sight.

An explanation of the plot or breaking down the various technical aspects of filmmaking will not properly explain one of the main reasons why I admire Night of the Living Dead so much. This is a groundbreaking feature for a few major reasons beyond the simplicity of its place in horror or, more specifically, zombie cinema history. The two leads of this film are a a white female protagonist and an African-American male protagonist. Remember the release date I mentioned above? 1968. Not only are they they leads, but the African-American takes control of the house and the situation and is often times bossing around the white men inside the home with him. The interesting thing is, the part wasn't originally written to be specifically a black male, which makes the decision to cast Duane Jones for the role that much more fascinating and progressive. Romero says he simply chose to cast the person best for the role, and Jones was it, and in the 1960's to ignore color and not worry about the potential backlash over the decision is beyond admirable, it's remarkable.

If you think you love zombies but have never seen the Romero zombie films, especially where it all started with Night of the Living Dead or the follow up Dawn of the Dead released a decade later, do so immediately. In 2009, Spike TV honored Romero with the "Mastermind Award", and it was presented by Quentin Tarantino who pronounced that the middle initial A in Romero's name stood for "A fucking genius."

Well said, Quentin. Couldn't agree more.

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