Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Nominee #16 - Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A group of seven Pennsylvanians find themselves trapped in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of zombies.
Director: George A. Romero
Writers: John A. Russo; George A. Romero
Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman
Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a classic independent horror film that was directed, written, photographed and edited by George A. It stars Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea, and it centers around seven people who find themselves trapped in a rural farmhouse, which is surrounded by a growing group of the “living dead.”
Barbra and Johnny are driving to rural Pennsylvania to visit the grave of their father. While they’re at the cemetery, Barbra is attacked by a strange man. As Johnny attempts to protect his sister, the man kills him. In a panic, Barbra crashes the car and is forced to escape on foot with the stranger chasing her. That’s when she arrives at the farmhouse, where she finds a mangled woman’s body. When she attempts to get away, she is confronted by a group of ghouls.
A man named Ben arrives on the scene, helps fend off the ghouls and takes her back to the house. Barricading the doors and windows and finding only a radio and a rifle to manage with they spend the night there as Barbra slowly descends into madness.
A while later, Ben discovers a cellar, where they find an angry married couple, Harry and Helen, and their daughter Karen. They were hiding there after the same ghouls attacked them. Later, Tom and Judy find the farmhouse after hearing about some brutal killings in the area. They also find that Karen is sick after being bitten by one of the ghouls.
Harry asks everyone to hide in the cellar with them, but Ben doesn’t think it’s a good idea and he continues barricading everything upstairs with Tom. The radio reports that a wave of mass murder is sweeping the East Coast. Then, they find a TV, and reports confirm that the recently-deceased are reanimating themselves and ….eating the living. Scientists suspect this is due to radioactive contamination from a space probe that blew up in Earth’s atmosphere while it returned to earth.
As far as zombie movies go, this one was probably the grand dad.
Once they hear about local rescue centers offering safety and refuge, Ben and Tom try to refuel Ben’s truck at a nearby gas station so they can get Karen some medical assistance. The plan is to get to the station while Harry throws homemade Molotov cocktails at the ghouls from an upper window. Tom accidentally spills gasoline and then it’s set ablaze by Ben’s torch. While Tom and Judy, who followed Tom out of fear for his safety, try to move the truck away, it explodes, killing them both, and the ghouls start eating their flesh.
Ben goes back to the house only to find that he’s being locked out by Harry, but fights his way back in. Later, a report reveals that the ghouls can be killed if they’re shot in the head or if they’re set on fire, and that armed men are trying to restore order in the countryside. Eventually, the ghouls break through the barricades and everyone’s fighting for dear life.
Night of the Living Dead is considered a cult classic and even though it was criticized for its explicit gore, that’s one of the reasons it went on to become a culturally, aesthetically and historically significant film. As far as zombie movies go, this one was probably the grand dad.