Saturday, 17 March 2012

Movies That I Haven’t Seen But Should Have - Part 1: Zombies

There are a lot of movies I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen. But rather than pretend I’ve seen them or change the subject when they’re mentioned, I’ve decided to share them with you. These films that are cult classics or masterpieces that I have missed or avoided, I am sitting down to review. So let’s start with the father of all zombie movies: Night Of The Living Dead.

Barbara (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) travel across the country in order to put a wreath on their father’s grave. The graveyard gives Barbara the creeps and Johnny pokes fun at her for this. ‘They’re gonna get ya!’ He laughs gesturing to a man stumbling towards them. Barbara goes to apologise to the man but he tries to attack her. Johnny jumps in to protect her sister and she runs. She is chased by the mysterious man until she finds a house. She hides away in the house and her sanity slowly leaves her. Another person, Ben (Duane Jones), finds the house and begins to board up every window and door to make himself and Barbara safe. The house slowly becomes surrounded by people who, as the television will tell Ben and Barbara, are the animated corpses of the unburied dead. Ben takes charge of the house, much to the disapproval Mr Cooper (Karl Hardman), who was hiding in the cellar with his four others.

Duane Jones was actually related to Indiana Jones.

Well, this is the one that really started it all. The father of all zombie movies. The part of Ben, the protagonist, was given to Duane Jones simply because he was the best actor, his race was completely ignored. And rightly so. Duane Jones is brilliant. In a movie of extremely low budget special effects that look as cheap as they are, Duane Jones stands out above everyone else. He's the strongest character but his subtle vulnerability is wonderfully shown through angry outbursts and moments of quiet. Karl Hardman was also brilliant and an ideal confrontational partner for Duane Jones' Ben. Their scenes together played out better than most of the scenes in the movie.  Judith O'Dea also manages to pull off catatonic rather well. (Disturbingly well, perhaps?) She shivers and shakes with just the right amount of understanding of the situation.

'Say hello to my little friend.'

What really makes this film stand out for me is all behind the scenes. The work that went into it. George A. Romero and his team started with an idea and no money. Their investors were given roles in the movie. Karl Hardman (One of the $300 investors) was not only given a role, but also helped with make up, sound effects and took the still photos for the credits. The team won the sound mixing equipment in a game of chess with one of the investors. When they finished the movie, they threw it in the trunk of a car and drove to New York to try and get it played. Made for only $114,000 it has made over $30million worldwide. It went into the public domain after there was an issue with the copyright and now anyone can distribute it. This really is proof that an idea, combined with determination, can become something incredible.

I really enjoyed this movie. Yes, it is very cheap and there are some really cheesy moments. But one has to remember that the movie was shot in the 60s for a micro-budget. And yet, despite all this, the second it finished, all I wanted to do was watch it again. There's something very captivating about it. A good watch.

Best Bit? There will never be any moment better in a zombie movie than when the zombies start outnumbering the people fighting them. The fear, the panic, the strength, the teamwork (or lack of it) I find it all fascinating. 

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