starring Judith O'Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman
screenplay by John A. Russo
directed by George A. Romero
by Walter Chaw George A. Romero's drive-in shocker is not only one of the most important independent and genre films of all-time, but also a dead brilliant civil rights metaphor featuring an unfortunately enduring rarity: a strong, virile, uncommented-upon African-American lead. The casting of Duane Jones came about, according to legend, mainly because Jones was the best actor any of the filmmakers knew. Say what you will of Night of the Living Dead, if you see no other ways that this seminal picture casts a long shadow, it casts a long one by just this merit-based example. The culmination of a lot of themes and trends in the American cinema at that time, the film features neighbour-suspicion, fear of children, fear of provincial National Guardsmen, and the creeping dread that the world may be ending because our government is run by assclowns and nepotists. It's a testament to the undertow of this text (or a testament to how short-sighted we are as a nation) that it still works in the same way over thirty-five years later. But Night of the Living Dead is more than just a devastating metaphor for the class struggle, for the rising tide of suspicion and corruption that tore a chasm through the middle of the United States: it's a tightly-edited, claustrophobically-framed horror film that retains, along with its relevance, its ability to startle and appall.