Night of the Living Dead Review

Image for Night of the Living Dead

In 1968 George Romero changed the rules of the modern horror film with Night Of The Living Dead, a black-and-white zombie flick that was one step up from a home movie.

Notable for its Vietnam-era social undercurrents, contemporary settings, relentless shocks and downbeat ending, it was, thanks to the naivety of its creators, never properly copyrighted, meaning that if Romero and his partners didn't undertake a remake themselves, anyone else could. So Romero remade it himself to make sure it was done properly and to pre-empt other filmmakers - though the original has been so influential as to render another version superfluous.

As directed by Tom Savini (the make-up mastermind noted for his splatter work on Romero's Dead sequels) and scripted by Romero, this sticks pretty closely to the original plot and characters for most of the time, then pulls some major changes towards the climax. The dead have risen with a lust to eat the flesh of the living and our heroine (Tallman) flees a zombie attack in a cemetery by holding up in an abandoned farmhouse with a passing black guy (Todd), later joined by more survivors who have been hiding in the cellar.

The humans divide their time between realistic quarrelling, fortifying the house and making futile escape attempts, while the zombies congregate outside, shuffling and drooling. Savini trades on his audience's familiarity with the original, casting actors for their resemblance to the obscure players of the first film, then sneakily changes the details, going for some grim ironies that cast doubt on the mental or moral worth of the sort of people tough enough to survive crises.

Surprisingly restrained in the splat department, this revs up the tension with unfussy efficiency, and has some spot-on hysterical performances and wonderfully unsettling atmospherics. Still far from necessary, of course, but better than anyone had a right to expect