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A Horror Newbie Watches 'Night of the Living Dead' for the First Time

A Horror Newbie Watches 'Night of the Living Dead' for the First Time
From Slashfilm - February 6, 2018

(Welcome toThe Final Girl, a regular featurefrom someone who has steered clear of horrorand is ready to finallyembrace the genre that goes bump in the night. Nexton the list: George Romeros zombie classic Night of the Living Dead.)

This may come as a shock, but I kind of love zombie movies. I know this whole series is based on the fact that I wouldnt touch a horror movie with a 30-inch pole, but I would gladly double-tap on any zombie movie.

Theres something about how zombie movies magnify emotions and present a warped reflection of the human conditionall beneath the pretense of blood and guts, of coursethat draws me in. Its a simple B-movie premise, but zombies speak to larger ideas that I find utterly fascinating.

I can trace back my interest to its lame, nerdy beginnings. It began, as all passions do, with a college seminar. I had attended a seminar by one of my film studies professors, who introduced the theory that movie zombies were a manifestation of the deeper societal fears that plagued America at specific moments in time. Its by no means an original idea, but it blew my mind open. And it opened me up to the slow, reluctant acceptance of horror movies.

So its time to go back to where it all began. Its time to finally explore George Romeros Night of the Living Dead.

(To preface this dive into my first time experiencing Night of the Living Dead, I have to admit that Id already seen and fallen in love with George Romeros second Dead film, Dawn of the Dead. His treatise on the follies of capitalism shook me to my core, and cemented my deep, abiding respect for zombie movies. But I knew I had to go back to the beginning with Night.)

The Curse of the Modern Prometheus

We begin in a graveyard. Its an obvious (verging on on-the-nose) choice, but it almost feels refreshing in the larger context of the zombie genre. Ive grown so used to zombie movies being cramped, claustrophobic affairs, that the opening scene in a wide, open field in the middle of rural America feels like Romero taking a page from another movie. And in a sense, he is. Horror is a genre that inevitably borrows from itself, either in homage or in metamorphosis of an idea. Thats why this setting feels so classic, like it appeared straight out of a Gothic horror story. Thats right, Im bringing it back to one of the movies I covered for this series: Frankenstein.

James Whales Frankenstein also opened in a graveyard, with the titular Doctor and his monstrous assistant Fritz robbing a grave for body parts to make his manmade creation. Its not surprising that Romeros zombies would be the next step in classic movie monsters after Frankensteins monster. Like Frankenstein, the monsters appearance is heralded with a sudden, ominous thunderstorm. Like Frankenstein, the shambling caretaker who attacks Barbra (Judith ODea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) has long, gangly limbs that recalls the movements of Boris Karloff as Frankensteins monster. But here, the monster is relatively unmarked, a normal human being for all intents and purposes, except for his heavy moments and dead-eyed expressionsintelligent enough to throw a rock through Barbras car window, but still mindless in his chase. Later, the zombies even show a very Frankenstein-ian aversion to fire.

The Uncanny Valley of the Zombies

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