In much the same way Halloween is the grandfather of the modern slasher movie, Night of the Living Dead is the grandfather of the modern zombie movie (and zombie culture in general). It defined the rules for zombie movies. Later films went on to break some of those rules, but the legacy this film established is undeniable. It inspired so many later zombie movies and pretty much gave birth to what has become worldwide zombie culture. It is without a doubt one of the most influential movies of all time. Many horror hounds prefer Romero’s classic follow up Dawn of the Dead for its modernized social commentary and expanded playing field (a farmhouse is replaced by an entire shopping mall), but I think Night is still the superior film for its bravery and the fantastic imagery and sense of dread it creates. Its impact is definitely measured against its timing. Think of the shower scene from Psycho in 1960. It wasn’t gory at all. It barely showed anything violent actually happening, but it literally freaked people out. People couldn’t handle it at the time. That is a testament to Hitchcock’s brilliance in setting up such a scene. Only eight years later Romero ramped up the shock value and actually portrayed human flesh being devoured, disembowelment, and even a young girl killing her mother with a garden trowel. Pretty tame fare by today’s standards, but back then, it was groundbreaking. By no means am I saying that all of the film’s value lies in its shocking portrayals. It truly is a well-made, engrossing film that I love, and Romero made a big impact with it and laid the roots for his rightful place amongst the fathers of horror.
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