Written by John Edward Betancourt
Some films you can instantly spot the era they were filmed in because of how poorly time has treated them. Be it the fashion or be it the music, they show off their age and sometimes pull you away from the experience or the story because of it. But there is one horror film that seems to fit in any day and age whenever I pop it in, the original Night of the Living Dead.
This is a film that I have reviewed before on the site, but I thought it would be fun to go back and look at this film one more time, focusing squarely on the themes and concepts that George Romero put together in this motion picture and how these elements hold up in the 21st Century. After all, Night came to theaters in 1968, and while it seems that a lot has changed, I was surprised to see how relevant the film is today.
One big theme that the film brought forth was our inability to work together and agree on a solution to a big problem. The nation was divided at the time courtesy of Vietnam. You had people who supported the war and plenty more who did not. Violence and civil unrest was commonplace over this, and well, not a whole lot got done over this since the war raged on. The characters, much like man at the time, were unable to find a common solution and that aspect of our world still exists today. War continues to rage on and there are many issues facing our society and nation, too many to even discuss here but the political arena is the best example of how little we are willing to work together. Lines are often drawn in Washington, much like they were in the farmhouse in the film and no one in the film or reality is willing to budge and work with others to solve those problems.
The film is also well known as an allegory to the Civil Rights movement that was going on at the time. The roving bands of rednecks taking down walking corpses were reminiscent of the police ready to turn the hoses on African Americans peacefully protesting and of course, having an African American in the lead role in a movie was unheard of at the time, yet the film featured one with Duane Jones as Ben. Those elements of an angry America looking for justice, I'm sad to say are still incredibly relevant since we all bared witness to the riots in Ferguson and the debate now of what force our police officers should take.
Night of the Living Dead was an angry film for an angry time in American History and its black and white style allows it to fit into any era, including our own since it's an angry time in the United States once again and it's fascinating to see how well this film speaks to those darker parts of mankind that we simply cannot seem to shake.