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October 22, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #6 - Night of the Living Dead

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night  Number 28 - Carnival of Souls  Number 27 - Nosferatu  Number 26 - Candyman  Number 25 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre  Number 24 - Horror of Dracula  Number 23 - The Wicker Man  Number 22 - Suspiria  Number 21 - The Omen  Number 20 - Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told  Number 19 - Rosemary's Baby  Number 18 - The Devil Rides Out  Number 17 - The Blob  Number 16 - Gremlins  Number 15 - Targets  Number 14 - Fright Night   Number 13 - Frankenstein  Number 12 - Alien  Number 11 - The Shining  Number 10 - An American Werewolf in London  Number 9 - The Thing  Number 8 - Dawn of the Dead  Number 7 - The Evil Dead
Night of the Living Dead
(1968, Dir. by George A. Romero.)
 Why It's Here:
George Romero, for all intents and purposes, invented zombies in 1968.  Yeah, I know zombies were already a thing, but the common perception of zombies can be tied directly to the release of this film.  Some may say that it's dated at this point - I'd agree in regard to its perception of trauma, but not in regard to its plot and pacing - but it still strikes me as one of the most visceral and harrowing horror films out there.  George A. Romero didn't have his characters completely down yet - that would improve in Dawn of the Dead, which already made this here list - but the chaos that he unleashes fits perfectly with the simple characters here.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
"They're coming to get you, Barbara."

Like, seriously. Can you get a better moment in horror than "They're coming to get you, Barbara"?  This is exactly what horror is.  You introduce a threat, you build the threat, and then you bring in the threat.  But Romero and company pull the introduction and the build off in like 5 minutes with a simple exchange between a brother and sister and the random introduction of a zombie.  And that's it. Romero looked at the film and said "Alright - here's five minutes to make people think something might happen - and now it happened.  Just run with it."  Freaking brilliant.

 It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
I've used up almost all of the zombie movies I like on this list.  Dawn of the Dead, Zombie, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Last Man on Earth (technically vampires, but you could argue they fit Romero's mold) - all mentioned already.  There's a decent enough remake that came out in 1990 that you could pair with this one, or you could just do the cool kids thing and pair it with Shaun of the Dead.  Whatever you do, the zombies you see will fit with this one's.  Because they're all the children of Night of the Living Dead.

What It Means To Me:
I'm actually going to talk a little more about my personal experiences with Night of the Living Dead later this week, so I'm gonna go with a simple/vague answer here.  Night of the Living Dead represents the unpredictable nature of horror.  Sure, people look at it now and know exactly what's going on because of Shaun and remakes and The Walking Dead and the fact that zombies are suddenly hip.  But I think they're all wrong if they dismiss the relevance and power that the original Night of the Living Dead has, because I truly think this is one of the most game-changing films ever made.

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