Legendary filmmaker and creative force George A. Romero passed away this past summer, but his legacy is thankfully still alive. Romero’s premiere breakthrough — his masterpiece — “Night of the Living Dead” will be playing at the Film Forum in a beautiful new 4K restoration, or the enhancement of color and contrasting in a film. This October, while jumpscares and contemporary colorful frights like Pennywise and Jigsaw will dominate the market, make sure to pay respects to this famed classic, which was arguably the turning point for the horror genre. Without half the gore or even half the budget of contemporary horror films, Romero was, and still is, able to get under the skin of his audience.
The story follows a group of people stuck in a quiet, solitary farmhouse on the first night of the apocalypse. As the dead start rising from the graves, walking the earth and consuming live human beings, the world descends into chaos and hysteria. Young and helpless Barbara (Judith O’Dea) finds herself lost in the Pennsylvania countryside, being chased by one of these mindless cannibals. She is found and saved by Ben (Duane Jones), who is levelheaded and resourceful. Ben organizes a defense and escape plan, while his obstacles become increasingly more prevalent. As this particular group of people work together to survive, their own tensions, mania and thoughtlessness lead to their eventual demise. In its beautiful orchestration, the film evokes a prominent eeriness and keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end.
The overall uncanny themes, perceptions and tone make for a truly unsettling film experience.
The 4K restoration offers stunningly vivid picture and full sound; these wonderful aspects of theater truly deliver the film the way it was meant to be delivered. Romero’s youthful yet masterful direction, writing, cinematography and editing convey an unparalleled experience.
Romero was ahead of his time when it came to filmmaking and societal impact: the casting of Duane Jones (an unknown African American stage actor) as the lead in a horror film was unprecedented and controversial in 1968. Very shortly after the Civil Rights Movement, Romero made his film without any intention of challenging public convention — even just in media representation. Romero said his choice of Jones was simply because he gave the best audition.
This astounding and unique picture brought an unprecedented terror to the silver screen in 1968. In 2017, being fully absorbed by the film in crystal-clear 4K, it is challenging to take your eyes off the screen. The restoration allows the audience to pick up on otherwise overlooked details. There are obvious visionary techniques and ideas in practice: the dynamic angles, the inventive effects, the smart writing and the performances by the entire cast. The film is open to interpretation and theoretical exploration, but as far as the quality of production, it is difficult to give any more acclaim than what has been given in the past 50 years. “Night of the Living Dead” rightfully set Romero on the path to being cinema’s acclaimed “Father of the Zombie Film” and it is a cinematic treat in and of itself.
The 4K restoration of “Night of the Living Dead” opens at the Film Forum at 209 W. Houston St. on Friday, Oct. 13.
Email Tristen Calderon at [email protected].