909 Night of the Living Dead

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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DarkImbecile
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#76 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:17 pm

tenia wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:08 pm
... and "child eating her parents out" scene...
... are you sure you re-watched the right movie?

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Morbii
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#77 Post by Morbii » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:23 pm

tenia wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:08 pm
"child eating her parents out" scene,
:O

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Roscoe
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#78 Post by Roscoe » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:32 pm

tenia wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:08 pm
Rewatching it years after having discovered it, and years after rewatching Dawn of the Dead only for diminishing returns, it struck me as something cinematographically very dated. I'm not sure if it's the appalling pace (it's not just slow, it's worst than this) or just how empty the movie feels except for its opening, ending and "child eating her parents out" scene, but it never grabbed me at all.
All this just took me by surprised, because I didn't remember the movie being like this at all, and I was instead in another Dawn situation, for which I had again a much better memory than this. Now, both these movies feel like they've become bigger than they actually are, resoning through the history of cinema more for what they unleashed than what they really contain.
I know what you mean, and it doesn't work for me that way. Sure there are rough edges, made to seem even rougher somehow in the new restoration, and some of the performances are, uh, well, what they are. But the pacing never feels off to me -- I'm gripped from the minute the guy in the cemetery turns out to be, in fact, coming to get Barbara, and I'm not let go until the final bonfire. I'll cop, the last couple viewings of the restoration, to wondering about how long exactly the Living Dead crisis has been going on in the world of the film: those newscasts seem to suggest that it has been going on for longer than the mere "late afternoon into evening and then morning" timespan of the film.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#79 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:03 pm

Morbii wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:23 pm
tenia wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:08 pm
"child eating her parents out" scene,
:O
Once again, The X-Files got all the attention for doing something Romero did decades earlier.

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tenia
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#80 Post by tenia » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:31 pm

Roscoe wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:32 pm
I know what you mean, and it doesn't work for me that way. Sure there are rough edges, made to seem even rougher somehow in the new restoration, and some of the performances are, uh, well, what they are. But the pacing never feels off to me -- I'm gripped from the minute the guy in the cemetery turns out to be, in fact, coming to get Barbara, and I'm not let go until the final bonfire. I'll cop, the last couple viewings of the restoration, to wondering about how long exactly the Living Dead crisis has been going on in the world of the film: those newscasts seem to suggest that it has been going on for longer than the mere "late afternoon into evening and then morning" timespan of the film.
I think I was gripped the first time around, but this time, I guess I just couldn't go past the pace, and the performances, and how overlong it seemed.
DarkImbecile wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:17 pm
tenia wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:08 pm
... and "child eating her parents out" scene...
... are you sure you re-watched the right movie?
I'm fairly certain I am.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#81 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:38 pm

Tenia, I knew what you meant: I was just poking fun at the malapropism because, to be explicit, "eating someone out" is slang in English for performing oral sex on another person's orifices, so you were describing a different kind of horrifying movie.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#82 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:57 pm

Or a very popular one on any number of other sites

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tenia
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#83 Post by tenia » Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:57 am

DarkImbecile wrote:Tenia, I knew what you meant: I was just poking fun at the malapropism because, to be explicit, "eating someone out" is slang in English for performing oral sex on another person's orifices, so you were describing a different kind of horrifying movie.
Oh right ! I know the meaning but didnt realise I added "out" ! I edited the post.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#84 Post by Morbii » Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:51 am

tenia wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:57 am
DarkImbecile wrote:Tenia, I knew what you meant: I was just poking fun at the malapropism because, to be explicit, "eating someone out" is slang in English for performing oral sex on another person's orifices, so you were describing a different kind of horrifying movie.
Oh right ! I know the meaning but didnt realise I added "out" ! I edited the post.
That's surely a gnarly Freudian slip.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#85 Post by Murdoch » Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:11 pm

A friend of mine had one of the many DVD releases of this (thankfully not colorized) so I managed to get to this sooner than expected!

I'd agree that the three most iconic moments - the opening, the "death by daughter" scene and the ending - remain the best moments of the film, with the scenes between a largely tedious chamber drama. It may be because I've seen the scenario played out so many times before in various horror films, but I think the acting, especially Judith Ridley who seems regulary confused about what to do when she has no lines, didn't help.

I did kind of love how Harry's idea to have everyone go in the basement - which seems very stupid! - actually ends up saving Ben from the horde at the end.

But largely I appreciate this more for its place within the horror genre and pop culture than for the actual film. I'll admit I've never much cared for Romero's output. I think he's better at creating striking or absurd images than creating a compelling work - the mentioned scenes in Night, the zombies descending on the mall in Dawn, the sentient zombie with a pistol in Day. Although I do have an affinity for Creepshow...

It was interesting to revisit this after spending a decade between viewings colored by reputation and selective memory, but it's not something I'll revisit for a while.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#86 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:14 pm

Yeah, this is a film that completely baffles me with the effusive praise it attracts. It would be better if I hated it, but sadly I'm just indifferent. A good opening scene and some smart low budget workarounds, sure, but beyond that I don't have much to offer. No animus to the fans, I just legit will never get it

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#87 Post by tenia » Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:21 pm

That's pretty much my stance, in the end. It's not so much that I don't like it, just that it leaves me indifferent.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#88 Post by Roger Ryan » Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:56 pm

While the footage of the ghouls is too infrequent, I still find some of those images to be quite haunting and effective. The news report sections are also unsettling in how realistically they are presented (most likely due to Romero hiring actual local TV/radio news anchors to do the job), an approach that was usually missing from higher budget science-fiction/horror films of the era. Also, while it's not usually acknowledged as one of the film's showpieces, that single take scene showing reporters grilling military officials in Washington, DC is actually really well-directed in its naturalistic blocking and layering of dialogue.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#89 Post by jindianajonz » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:58 pm

tenia wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:57 am
DarkImbecile wrote:Tenia, I knew what you meant: I was just poking fun at the malapropism because, to be explicit, "eating someone out" is slang in English for performing oral sex on another person's orifices, so you were describing a different kind of horrifying movie.
Oh right ! I know the meaning but didnt realise I added "out" ! I edited the post.
Don't sweat it, I had a boss who never learned the difference between chewing somebody out and eating somebody out. He'd get all fired up over some inconsequential issue and go on a rant, then repeatedly apologize for having to eat us out, though not without adding that we were all asking for it. It was pretty tough to look sufficiently chastened in those meetings.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#90 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Sep 19, 2018 11:59 am

I don't fault anyone seeing Night of the Living Dead now for struggling with the low-budget and/or dated filmmaking, acting, and pacing, but this is one of those films that I think benefits greatly from an attempt by the viewer to adopt the mindset of an audience in the late 1960s; J. Hoberman's recent NY Review of Books piece on the film lays out the case for the film's resonance at the time of its release quite well, and when considered along with what then would have been the novelties to an audience of the era of the concept, the gore, and the lead character, the film gains a considerable edge that adds to its allure.

Anyway, even aside from all that, there are enough little moments scattered throughout — in addition to those three key scenes everyone has mentioned — that add up to enough objective value for me to make this a worthwhile watch every few Octobers: the shot of Judith O'Dea's near-catatonic face through the rotating pieces of the music box; Duane Jones' steady confidence early, righteous anger later, and the ultimately tragic determination to survive the night; the sound of those trapped in the farmhouse hammering barriers over the doors and windows layered over the broadcast describing the evocatively phrased "epidemic of mass murder being committed by a virtual army of unidentified assassins". The first couple of times I saw the film as a teenager, the picture quality was so bad that I didn't realize that it was Barbra's brother who pulls her into the horde until I was in my twenties, but that's now another of my favorite touches.

It's probably impossible for those who enjoy zombie films to objectively evaluate the film fully disentangled from their feelings toward the progenitor of the whole subgenre, but I do think there are enough quality elements amid the (in my view, largely forgivable) failings of the film to make it more than just a curiosity.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#91 Post by tenia » Wed Sep 19, 2018 12:19 pm

That's actually part of what I'm feeling towards the movie : that its impact and legacy, not only cinematographically but more politico-socially, might be more interesting than the movie itself.

Interestingly, I always feel quite the same towards Dawn, which I discovered way before Night. In the end, I probably prefer Day of the Dead (and probably even more Snyder's remake of Dawn), but as a whole, looking back towards the whole Romero franchise, I can't really say I truly like many of them. Land is mediocre at best, and the next movies even worse IMO (i found Diary appalling, notably). It probably partially explains why, within this whole usually "legendary" oeuvre, even a movie with such a legacy can leave me pretty indifferent.

This, however, doesn't mean I completely dislike Night. There are some very good things there. But I think there is just too many filler in the movie, and that even at a quite short duration, it's way too long and way too heavy on exposition, for characters that, in the end, remain quite archetypal.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#92 Post by Feego » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:31 pm

It's been a couple of years since I last watched Night of the Living Dead, and even more time had passed since the previous viewing, but I was also struck last time by how talky the mid section was and then just how relentless the carnage became as it plowed toward the end. I'm reminded of Roger Ebert's account of his 1969 screening, wherein children "were dispatched to the lobby for more popcorn" during the dull parts only to be left crying and traumatized by the conclusion. As others above have posted, the famous moments of violence and gore stay in your memory, causing you to forget just how much time passes with no actual zombie action. For me, though, this is a big plus for the movie. It takes what certainly at the time and even today to some degree (despite the prevalence of zombie-centric entertainment) is a pretty outlandish concept and places it within a very mundane place populated by, yes, archetypal but otherwise unremarkable people you might encounter anywhere. Tension mounts from watching these people attempt to make sense of this unbelievable situation, not just in trying to figure out how to take shelter/defend themselves/escape, but in coming to terms with just what the hell is happening. It puts the viewer in the mindset of seeing some deadly outbreak being reported on the news, waiting in agony to find out if your area has been affected. It's dated sure, in the sense that these characters haven't been watching The Walking Dead and aren't instantly equipped for the zombie apocalypse, but as this is a film that is so very much about America in the late 1960s, that it doesn't bother me. (This is similar to the fact that it takes Van Helsing in Stoker's Dracula nearly 200 pages to reveal that this bloodsucking count is, gasp, a vampire.)

I'll admit that I have an affinity for amateur acting in low-budget horror movies (other favorites include Carnival of Souls and The Sadist). Their stilted delivery and sometimes visible discomfort helps ground the horror by once again bringing it down to a mundane level. The young couple, particularly Judith Ridley, are the weakest links. Whether that's due to their characters as written or issues with their performances I can't say without watching the movie again (I'm waiting until closer to Halloween to finally watch the Criterion). But everyone else comes across as very natural and believable to me. Not likeable by any stretch of the imagination but as angsty, confused, and surly as you could expect people in their predicament to be.

I know I'm not selling this to anyone (Hey guys, you should like this movie, it's so mundane!). I'm not really trying to sell it because I absolutely understand why it's not everyone's cup of tea or perhaps just doesn't go beyond mild admiration. That's exactly my reaction to Carpenter's Halloween, a movie that is well crafted and contains iconic moments, but one that has never scared me and that I just can't work up any feeling for beyond a general admiration for what it does and its place in film history. Night of the Living Dead is a movie that frightens me. It's not the most stylish horror movie or the most grueling or the most expertly made, but it's one that leaves me shaken every time I watch. I find it hard to put into words just why it does, but I think one (of many) reasons is that it's roughness hits that sweet spot between being too sloppy to take seriously and so polished that it looks artificial.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#93 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 6:04 am

I would agree with Feego about the mid-section, and its something that still makes the Romero films stand out from most of the zombie films that followed in its wake - that the zombies as a threat are both borderline comic (not to mention tragic) figures for a long time and can end up being set aside as all of the tensions start up between the human characters playing out their petty individual conflicts that both keep their sense of society going and turn out to be irrelevant in the end as the sidelined forces eventually build up enough mass to overwhelm and decimate, both from without and within. I also agree with the sentiments above that the relationships feel like archetypal ones, though I would strongly disagree about either aspect necessarily being a bad thing, of the acting being particularly poor or that it even plays that way with the young couple, who are novel in themselves for the period for not being portrayed as young juvenile delinquents or long haired hippy drop-out types, but actually more trying to calm the older men down or at least trying to help...until they get pointlessly destroyed. Their callowness is perhaps as subversive for its time as any other element, as that young couple are the hope for the future that is ignored by the bickering older generation caught up in their ingrained conflicts carried over from before the world collapsed.

That idea of trying to safely ignore a problem (ignoring only becoming more of a pointed idea in Dawn and Day, let alone the much later Land of the Dead) for more general localised conflicts, trying to keep the world as represented by the farmhouse standing until it gets overwhelmed from the outside, is perhaps the biggest aspect of the film and perhaps what resonates the most strongly about it, both for the 1960s as a decade of social upheavals and perhaps still even today. You have the outside pressures and the general issues of the zombies as described on the news media in safely distancing terms (literally mediating!) and using slightly more couched terms (which makes me think that the news reports may be influenced by the Walter Cronkite JFK shooting news reports, with the film coming out the same year as the RFK assassination turning a one-off act into a seeming trend), as well as your more individual and visceral 'right outside your front door' present experience of those events to contrast that with; but also the internal pressures as well (loss of a loved one; race and class; collapsing marriages; generational) that are also working away at this tiny bubble of ersatz normality, until it inevitably pops.

Plus of course the idea that any form of existence can be accommodated, prolonged and made kind of livable at least in the short term until it suddenly is not tenable anymore, usually at the point at which the electricity supply turns off!

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#94 Post by Orlac » Sat Sep 22, 2018 7:08 pm

Night made a huge impact on me when I was 13 - stayed up past midnight to catch it on a BBC2 double bill with the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 2000. To this day, it still gives me nightmares. Part of this was due to its location resembling the farms near my home - that terrible feeling of isolation is very palpapable.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#95 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:26 am

One of the things that I remember struck me quite hard was finding out from the commentary that the farmhouse itself was due to be demolished quite soon after filming, which was one of the reasons why the crew were able to film in it and do things like nail planks across the windows. This is one of those occasions where the action taking place in a real location helps to lend an almost palpable sense of verisimilitude to a situation that just would not be there in the same way if it were on a set. It could be reproduced to a certain extent, but there is a lived-in quality to that farmhouse location that makes its invasion and destruction (both in film and apparently in real life) feel quite strangely moving to me, as if the real location has transcended into only existing on screen!

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

#96 Post by Orlac » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:57 am

Interesting take on the movie, and an unusual presentation to boot - https://neovideohunter.wordpress.com/20 ... trashed-8/

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#97 Post by HitchcockLang » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:02 pm

All of these lukewarm takes on the film surprise me and make me reevaluate my own love for it. I guess, if hard-pressed to come up with anything cinematically masterful I would have a difficult time defending it on that level. My appreciation of Night is on a much more visceral and nostalgia-tinged level. Before, my parents had protected and sheltered me from most frightening films or anything with any level of objectionable content. I had been allowed to watch "older films" for their general lack of a threat to my pristine Christian upbringing. My father would check out Universal horror films from our local library to watch with me and laugh about how the camera would fade to black just before Dracula bit into a neck.

Then I borrowed a copy of Night of the Living Dead on a ratty grey market VHS tape, seeing that it was in black and white and assuming I was in for another film like I was accustomed to. I watched it alone, at night, with the lights out, in our basement with no windows, the door shut, and I was completely and utterly terrified. I found the pace to run at a lightning clip (and still do) without a wasted moment. It seemed like every shot was composed with the sole purpose of terrifying me. The little girl back from the dead stabbing her mother to death with blood hitting the wall and her screams manipulated through some clever sound design still unnerves me to this day. The ending brought my 8-year-old self to a first encounter with something resembling nihilism.

I made my wife watch it years later when we were dating in college and she thought it was fine but not great. Perhaps this is just one of those personal journeys in which the time and the place combined to permanently elevate the movie for me in a way others cannot experience it. My first time discovering the film will always be as an unprepared and alone 8 year old boy, and I become him again every time I dare to revisit it.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#98 Post by domino harvey » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:14 pm

Great story, I can definitely see how that could leave an indelible impression!

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#99 Post by Robin Davies » Fri Oct 05, 2018 2:11 pm

HitchcockLang wrote:
Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:02 pm
Then I borrowed a copy of Night of the Living Dead on a ratty grey market VHS tape, seeing that it was in black and white and assuming I was in for another film like I was accustomed to.
This rings a bell with me. I first saw it at a student film club, knowing nothing about it and the fact that it was in black and white made me think that it was older than it was. As it went on and got more relentlessly grim and gruesome the effect was quite powerful.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#100 Post by cyclometricus » Sat Oct 06, 2018 5:27 am

The first time I properly watched NOTLD was in college, so I came to it at the same time I was discovering the Criterion Collection and expanding my cinematic taste. I had seen clips previously, usually on comedy shows or "scariest moment" countdowns, and I was expecting something silly, but I was completely surprised by what I got. The relentless claustrophobia; the constant rising tide of ghouls; and the survivors' battle of wills made me forgive any acting flaws. Plus, I'm from the Pittsburgh area. I always view the film with a certain hometown pride: it's a classic, and it was made _here_.

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