George A. Romero’s classic zombie thriller gets a much needed restoration and theatrical re-release
The Days when Zombies were Smart and Humans were Brain Dead
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Restored review
by TS Alan
It had been a while since I had seen Goerge A. Romero’s 1968 seminal film Night of the Living Dead. So when the Film Forum in New York City presented a theatrical run of the new 4K restoration from the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Foundation, there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to see it.
George Romero stated, “This is closer than anything we’ve seen to the definitive version of the film.” And his statement rings true. The film has been scrubbed of all blemishes but the grain of the original film still remains. With retaining the film grain the high contrast imagery resonants even more with gritty esthetic beauty. However the imagery is not the only thing that got a makeover. The soundtrack also received an upgrade, and now Barbara’s screams of terror are more chilling than ever.
There was one thing I had forgotten with Romero’s first zombie film, and that this was different from the ones that would follow. The zombies in Night of the Living Dead were for the most part not brain dead, even though they are the reanimated deceased. The zombies in this film are quite smart, when it comes to getting at the living. They break out vehicle headlights with rocks, they remember how to open doors, and they use makeshift clubs to batter down doors and break windows.
As for the living holed up in the farmhouse, well most of them are not too smart nor are they likable. There are definitely characters that are irritating, and you’ll wish they would meet a horrid end. And in the end, the characters don’t have the guile or the sensibility to survive and do meet tragic ends; some worse gristly than others. [SPOILER] Even the more likable Ben, who’s the smartest of the group meets a tragic end after being the last survivor of the group.
There are many memorable moments in The Night of the Living Dead, some more iconic than others. Probably the most icon and most frightening comes when little Karen Cooper, brilliantly played by Kyra Schon, turns zombie and attacks her mother. Karen has just snacked on her father’s corpse, but has the opportunity to dine on fresh flesh — her mother! The bewildered Mrs. Cooper is so in shock from her little girl turning flesh eater that she is incapable of fighting her daughter off. Karen picks up a cement trowel and repeatedly (19 blows) impales her mother in the chest with it in a gristly and unforgettable scene.
If you have a chance to see the restored version of Night of the Living Dead (1968) at a theater, I highly recommend you do. If you prefer watching at home you’ll have to wait awhile. Rumor has it that Criterion will be release it on blu-ray sometime next year.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Restored
Director: George A. Romero
Writers:John A. Russo & George A. Romero
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon, Charles Craig, S. William Hinzman, George Kosana
Run Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: October 13, 2017