Author(s): Ben Hervey
George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead is a cult classic, a tremendously effective and influential horror film that has resonated with its audiences, and with independent film-makers, ever since its release in 1968. The movie redefined horror cinema, ripping away its Gothic cobwebs to confront harsh contemporary realities, and launched the modern zombie genre that continues with films like 28 Days Later ... and Shaun of the Dead. Shot by Romero and a determined team of Pittsburghers on a shoestring budget, the film was as raw and bleak as uncensored news footage: an uncompromising picture of a nation devouring itself. Young audiences responded: from the counterculture hangouts of Greenwich Village, Night became an international midnight movie cult. Fans returned to see it over and over again. Ben Hervey's illuminating study of the movie and its enduring appeal traces Night's influences, from Powell and Pressburger to fifties horror comics, and provides the first history of its reception. Hervey argues that the film broke cultural barriers, feted at New York's Museum of Modern Art while it was still packing out 42nd Street grindhouses. Scene-by-scene analysis meshes with detailed historical contexts, showing why Night spoke to its audiences about Vietnam, civil rights and the ever-bloodier seizures of a society in the grip of huge change. Hervey argues that Night was a new kind of horror film: the expression of a generation who didn't want their world to return to normal.