It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon, 18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London, 14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust, 10, The Wicker Man, 9, Halloween, 8, The Blair Witch Project, 7, Hellraiser, 6, The Evil Dead series, 5, The Exorcist and 4, Suspiria.
At #3 I take the opportunity to cram three gore packed zombie classics in, so lets dive in to the entrails of the first of George Romero’s zombies films,not to mention one of the most important and influential films ever, Night of the Living Dead.
The plot is simple/ A zombie outbreak threatens America and a group of strangers hide in a remote house in the country trying to survive and escape the zombies that surround the house.
I grew up with this as a film I only read about in books about horror films which wasn’t because it was banned in the UK, rather it was a film I somehow missed until late into my teens. I’d always read about how important it was in relation to horror film history, not to mention what a great film it was and it is, but you need to see it for yourself to understand how an important a film this is. This is the film that launched modern horror which eventually replaced the more Gothic form of horror that’d dominated til then. This is the film that changed the zombie in film from a mindless slave, to a flesh-eating ghoul straight out of EC Comics. It also influenced generations of people to make horror films. Of course it did help spawn endless amounts of really bad zombie films, but that’s not the fault of George Romero.
Romero’s stroke of genius was to throw a load of social commentary in the film to beef up the EC Comics gore and horror, so Night of the Living Dead was especially subversive for featuring a black man in the lead role, something not common at all in 1968.It’s also a good script with some decent acting considering most people weren’t professional actors at the time.
Like all successful exploitation films it spawned a sequel, but unlike most sequels the sequel Dawn of the Dead, improved and I think is actually better than the first film.
I managed to see this for the first time as part of a double bill with The Brood, a splendid David Cronenberg horror film,
This would have been around late 1982 or so, but this wasn’t my first X certificate film, that’s still to come in my list. However this was an experience as Dawn of the Dead, (or Zombies:Dawn of the Dead as it was here in the UK) lived up every bit to my expectations. Dawn of the Dead is everything a good horror film should be; it’s well written, well acted, it’s shot well and it’s got something important to say about consumerism, capitalism and society as a whole. Of course it’s also amazingly gory, thanks to some amazing work from Tom Savini.
It’s a great film, and although the film has dated in places it’s basically the template for virtually every zombie film made in the last few decades-survivors defend themselves against zombies and gangs of human survivors. What most zombie films nowadays forget to do is actually be as clever as Romero was, so it’s just gore which is essentially quite boring if it’s the same scenes over and over again.
Dawn of the Dead is a classic of film. There’s few horror films which can touch it. This includes the third film in Romero’s zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead isn’t a bad film, far from it but coming after two of the best films ever made it had a lot to live up to and it doesn’t quite get to where it needs to be but when it works it works brilliantly, especially during the various scenes of carnage but it’s the revelations that the zombies aren’t quite as brainless as we thought that Romero uses to great effect with the character of Bub.
There’s also the fact that the humans aren’t really the victims in this film, rather they’re just on the whole, mainly evil fucking bastards but they all get their exceptionally gory comeuppance.
All three films are classics of the genre, but the first two are more than just horror or exploitation films as they’ve got much, much more to offer. Their delights should be savoured as much as possible.Watch them this Halloween again and you’ll see what I mean..
We’re nearly at the end as we take a wee trip to Texas…