(Aside 1: Concerning “Under the Skin”: Since my review’s long overdue anyway, I thought it would be nice to also read the book, and do a double review of the movie and the novel. Since I gotta read it first, though [Duh.], it’s very likely that it won’t go online until after this years /slash Filmfestival).
(Aside 2: While I told you a while back not do expect too many updates on this blog this year [the two big film festivals notwithstanding], shortly afterwards the Austrian Filmmuseum announced a huge horror retrospective; thus, I decided to jump at the opportunity to watch some classic horror movies on the big screen. Some of them I’ve seen before, most of them I haven’t, and all of them will be discussed on this blog. Also, there are 2-3 movies that I plan on watching before the /slash Filmfestival in order to prepare myself for sequels. Expect reviews for them too before the /slash 2014 starts on Sept. 19th.)
(Aside 3: To prepare myself for the upcoming /slash Filmfestival, I’m trying out a new review layout. What do you think?)
(Aside 4: Sorry about all those asides…)
“Night of the Living Dead” started off this years “Land of the Dead”-horror-retrospective at the Filmmuseum. It’s one of the movies that I have actually seen before once, more than 10 years ago, and I remember quite liking it back then. Now… I know. It’s a classic, revolutionary, the one that started it all, zombie-movie-wise, and so on. But I’m sorry, I think that it’s not all that it’s made out to be.
Now I know what you’re going to say:
But it’s OLD!
True that. Well, kind of. I mean, it’s not like it’s from the 50s, or something. It LOOKS like it’s from the 50s, but it’s not. It’s actually from the same year as Stanley Kubricks fucking “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a movie that still looks better than 80% of the movies that are coming out today. I have seen my fair share of older movies, and there are quite a few that hold up really well. “Night of the Living Dead” isn’t one of them.
But it’s LOW-BUDGET!
True that. Well, kind of. I mean, yes, $114.000 (if the estimated budget figure at the IMDB can be trusted) is not a whole lot of dough, not even back then. But for a movie like this, it’s also not unreasonably low, either. If you take inflation into account, that’s roundabout $780.000 by todays standard. I have seen movies that were shot for less that looked better.
Look, it’s not like I don’t take all those things into account. I do. I just don’t think that because it’s a) old and b) cheap you should give it a pass right away. Otherwise “Plan 9 from Outer Space” would be a masterpiece too, right? And many of the things that bugged me are not directly related to age or budget anyway. So please hear me out while I discuss the things that I didn’t really like about it.
She’s such a useless and pointless character. As great as “Night of the Living Dead” is race-wise, as shameful it is when it comes to gender. Once her
husband brother* get’s killed, she’s in a constant state of shock, switching between catatonic and hysterical.
2.) The Acting
The acting is all over the place. While Duane Jones is great in the lead, Keith Wayne is absolutely terrible. He’s simply reading off his lines without any sense of timing, emotion or drama. I’ve seen better and more natural acting in porn.
3.) Night and Day of the Living Dead
Now I get it, this is a point were budget definitely comes into play, but come on. If you have a movie called “Night of the Living Dead” where people watch live news reports, and their on-site coverage was obviously shot in broad daylight, it gets silly. That really took me out of the movie.
4.) SCAS (Stupid characters acting stupidly).
Granted, that’s a very common problem with horror movies, but just because somethings common doesn’t mean that you can’t/shouldn’t point it out. Wether it’s the whole fuel desaster where they actually set the car on fire, or the mum that let’s herself get stabbed to death without any resistance whatsoever, NOTLD unfortunately is one of those movies with people where you’re actually glad when they die, so they cannot spread their stupidity throughout the gene pool.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. Despite those flaws, I’m still not oblivious to the great influence this movie had, and apart from those problems I quite enjoyed it (again). I love the setting, with this very different group of people, stuck together in this tight space, with an unrelenting and seemingly unstoppable force on the outside. The tension that builds, and the conflicts between those that are stuck in this less-than-ideal situation. Ben is a gread lead(er), and I love the fact that they cast an african-american actor as the hero of the movie, especially considering the times this was shot. Despite my complaint about the constant night-and-day-shifts, I think that the news reports do a great job to make the movie seem plausible. And I love love love the ending, which always leaves me uncertain [SPOILER] if the guy really thought that he shot a zombie, of if he did kill Ben on purpose, for racial reasons [/SPOILER]. I just don’t think it’s quite the unimpeachable masterpiece it’s made out to be. Please don’t shoot me in the head or anything…
* PS: Thanks to Wayne Malin for pointing out that mistake! 🙂