This week’s movie is one that really needs no introduction. If you know what a zombie is, then chances are that you also have at least some passing familiarity with George A. Romero’s seminal work, “Night of the Living Dead.” The term “zombie” wasn’t born until much later, but the shambling, flesh-eating undead that terrorize the movie’s human players were the template for all of the zombies to come.
Terri: I think what really struck me the most about “Night of the Living Dead” was how literal a framework it created for zombie films that came after it. I think the only element of “random people come together to fight against an undead apocalypse” that’s been altered is the second-in-command woman is a bit more badass than “Living Dead”’s whiny Barbara.
Jenni: Barbara needed to get it together. I’m not very familiar with the zombie genre to be honest. Is it a genre? You know what I mean.
Terri: I think it is.
Jenni: There’s “White Zombie” with Bela Lugosi, but yeah, the whole “strangers come together to fight zombies.” I don’t know if it’s a definitive first, but Romero definitely made it his. I’m not really into zombies, like I said. I respect the political and social subtexts of “Night of the Living Dead,” but I found the movie frustrating.
Terri: The zombie films I have seen all seem to follow the same pattern set by “Living Dead.”
Jenni: I think it needs to be seen in a certain mood, a certain crowd. What were your thoughts on it?
Terri: On the political and social subtexts? To be honest, I didn’t read into them too much. I was more focused on watching it as the grand-daddy of all zombie flicks (which I guess is the subsection within the realm of horror I am more familiar with). Why were you frustrated?
Jenni: Hmm, I’m not sure I can explain. I guess I prefer gorier, sillier movies like “Return of the Living Dead.” Which obviously come from “Living Dead.”
Terri: I was actually really impressed with “Night of the Living Dead.” I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I was expecting it to be silly from things I had heard.
Jenni: Yeah, it’s not silly. I love the beginning when Barbara’s brother teases her, because I think it’s sampled in a lot of songs.
Terri: “They’re going to get you, Barbara!” CLASSIC.
Jenni: Totally. I guess I expected more explanation.
Terri: Ooh, I liked the fact that there wasn’t an explanation. I think now there is such an emphasis of explaining everything, and it takes the fun out of it. I mean, like in “28 Days Later,” the virus explanation works as a social commentary and in the context of the film, but I like how in “Living Dead” they just left it at, for whatever reason, undead walk the earth.”
Jenni: That’s true.
Terri: Also, with the exception of “Shaun of the Dead,” this was my first experience with slow zombies!
Jenni: Slow zombies! Are they scarier than fast ones?
Terri: I don’t know. No, I don’t think so. You technically should be able to escape them, but you never do. I just remember at the “Zombieland” roundtables at Comic-Con there was a big debate about fast versus slow zombies, and I didn’t understand it until now.
Jenni: HAHA. The fast zombies are too modern.
Terri: This is true. But seeing a zombie walk out of the corner of the screen at a snail’s pace doesn’t make you jump out of your skin half as bad as some of the fast ones.
Jenni: True, true. I think my favorite character was the guy who took charge. There always has to be someone who takes charge!
Terri: In a way, I was surprised they opened up the movie with Barbara when she ended up being such a supporting character.
Jenni: And a boring one.
Terri: But between Ben (the guy who took charge), Harry Cooper (the man who opposed Ben) and Harry’s daughter, who was bitten by a zombie, it seemed like such an exact template for all the zombie films that came afterwards. Or at least the ones I’ve seen. I can’t speak for the entire genre. When will people learn that being bitten by something slathering and undead probably won’t end up all rainbows and gumdrops happy?
Jenni: Yes, I think flesh-eating children are always good, though. I think the problem I had with “Living Dead” was that it was very serious. Generally speaking , I appreciate it as a big daddy of zombie flicks as they stand now — not the gory Italian ones, but ones like, say, “Zombieland.”
Terri: I think everyone should have some small appreciation for “Living Dead” if ONLY because it helped spawn “Zombieland.”