I had never heard of the film Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero. I was able to watch the film via Amazon Prime, and had to take a different approach. I had to remember that I wasn’t watching this for pure enjoyment, but to analyze it deeper and in a somewhat historical context. The film came out in 1968, shortly after the Civil Rights Movement and amidst the Women’s Rights Movement. It had been little over two decades since the end of World War II. I knew of these historical events when I initially sat down to watch.
I found that the film relied heavily upon music to create dramatic effect, especially when character Barbara Blair has a major acting part. Overall I thought the film played a lot on controversy. There was one African American character, Ben. Ben was alone with Barbara Blair, a white woman. I was surprised because I had believed that to be very bold to have a black man “alone” in a house with a white woman. Additionally, Ben is the only one who seems to commit inhumane acts of violence. Annoyed and frustrated with Barbara Blair, he slaps her across the face. He also shoots Mr. Cooper, who was still healthy and alive, out of anger and retaliation. The irony surrounding Ben, is that he is trying to survive and help those around him. He does this by burning the dead. This resembled a reverse lynching, especially when one of the burnings occurred under a tree. At the end of the film, we find that Ben is the only survivor, but is killed as a result of possibly misunderstanding. Yet, after death we see the white officials continuing their brutality against Ben with how they drag out his body.
The women in the film, all white, are portrayed as incompetent. Judy, another character, is depicted as being the cause for both her and her boyfriend, Tom’s, death. Lastly, radiation. The reason why the dead were coming to life and attacking the living was a result of radiation. I thought that perhaps this stemmed from the realization of how deadly radiation is and spreads and the guilt from World War II.
After doing some research, I learned that critics believe the film to critique American society in the 1960s, politics from international Cold War, and domestic racism. With my observation I can believe this, especially the racism and Cold Was aspects. I learned that George A. Romero was an influential pioneer in the horror film genre and is considered to be both an icon in and the father of zombie films. From an early age, Romero was into films. His father was a commercial artist and he attended Carnegie Mellon University. This information helped put somethings into perspective, but overall, I found the subliminal history and meaning relevant to how all films have subtle hints to historical events and time.