Night of the Living Dead (1968) - Rotten Tomatoes

Night of the Living Dead1968

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Critic Consensus: George A. Romero's debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.

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One can only imagine the impact that Night on the Living Dead had on unprepared audiences of 1968. Here was a film that began with a semi-comic scene in a graveyard in broad daylight -- which was suddenly interrupted by the homicidal appearance of a seeming lunatic. Gradually the audience comes to the horrible realization that the attacking looney is a zombie, one of several "living dead" recently arisen from their graves -- and that they roam the earth in order to chow down on human flesh. Seven people with whom the audience identifies barricade themselves against the zombie invasion. The only way to destroy the attackers is to set them afire; the trick is to get the zombies before the zombies get them. Filmed in Pittsburgh on a $150,000 budget by former industrial filmmaker George Romero, Night of the Living Dead was denied a release by Columbia on the grounds that it was shot in black-and-white, and was turned down by American-International because of the film's bleak, unhappy ending. Romero turned to Walter Reade Associates, which unceremoniously dumped the film onto the kiddie matinee circuit. After attending a screening with an audience of scared-witless youngsters, a mortified Readers Digest journalist printed a scathing condemnation of Night of the Living Dead -- an article that had the immediate effect of arousing the interest of moviegoers who might otherwise have ignored the film. One of the first of the "midnight movies," Night of the Living Dead still packs a wallop today, even in the light of the more-convincing special effects indigenous to the Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street flicks of the 1980s. That the threadbare, amateurish production values of the original Night of the Living Dead added to its authenticity was proven by Romero's 1990 remake, which despite its bigger budget, color photography, explicit violence and superb makeup work, was nowhere near as frightening as the 1968 version.

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Cast

Judith O'Dea
as Barbara
Marilyn Eastman
as Helen Cooper
Bill Heinzman
as Cemetery Ghoul
Charles Craig
as Newscaster/Ghoul
David Lee Hartman
as Ghoul/Reporter
Frank Doak
as Scientist
George Kosana
as Sheriff McClelland
S. William Hinzman
as Cemetery Zombie
Bill Cardille
as Reporter
Mark Ricci
as Washington Scientist
George A. Romero
as Washington Reporter (uncredited)
John A. Russo
as Washington Reporter/Ghoul (uncredited)
Al Croft
as Ghoul
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Critic Reviews for Night of the Living Dead

All Critics (75) | Top Critics (16)

Night of the Living Dead is taut and uncompromising, ending on a note of bitter irony. Performances are adequate and often better, especially in the case of Jones, who clearly has what it takes to go on to bigger things.

September 8, 2021 | Full Review…

Romero was offered a budget for colour; he preferred shooting in black and white; the result is a flat murky ambience which is perfect for the ramshackle American Gothic landscape where the events occur.

September 8, 2021 | Full Review…

The title immediately cues a tale of horror; but does not prepare one for the shocking treatment of the dead... The theme could not be in poorer taste.

September 8, 2021 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Romero conjures moments of eeriness and dread throughout, keeping the lighting low and the special effects to a minimum, though there will be blood, fire, cannibalism and a great deal of death.

October 24, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The immediate, quasi-documentary feel, a result of budgetary constraints, actually served the film's horror, jolting audiences because it all seemed just a little too real.

October 12, 2017 | Full Review…

If [Romero's] original vision of the undead looks dulled by today's standards, his embedded political commentary on racism feels just as sharp.

October 7, 2013 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Night of the Living Dead

A landmark in so many ways, still capable of inducing horror - and to do so after countless years, after countless viewings. One of the greatest horror films ever. The cheapie production values only add to the sense of inescapable doom.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Romero's first film - and his first zombie movie - is creepy, gory and realistic, with an extremely disturbing atmosphere, an incredibly sharp sociopolitical commentary and a terrifying ending, even though the acting is not that good and the plot feels a bit repetitive.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A family, a man, and a woman hold up in a farmhouse as they try to survive an attack of zombies. I should forgive this 1968 classic for its poor special effects, its misogyny, its predictable character types, it plot holes, its overwrought performances, and its lack of any ethical raison d'etre. But I don't. The female characters are all useless fools, and why doesn't the old lady in the attic ever wake up and attack the group of survivors? If the dead are walking and she's dead, why isn't she walking? Was her brain damaged? If so, that wasn't clear. Overall, while it's a horror classic, there have been improvements on this genre that have made it archaic.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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