As I thought of a classic horror movie to review for Halloween, one came to mind as a great movie, as a breaker of rules, and as something airing quite frequently today: Night of the Living Dead. This is hardly the first zombie movie, but it set the stage for all following zombie flicks.

The setup of Night of the Living Dead is effectively simple: Barbara (Judith O'Dea) is traveling with her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) to put flowers on their father's grave. Johnny scares his sister by telling her, "They're coming to get you Barbara!" That tease proves prophetic: A man in a suit staggers to them, kills Johnny, and pursues Barbara to a house.

The house is a refuge that's under siege, as humans hole up there while more of the undead stagger to it. Ben (Duane Jones) is an action-oriented man focused on escaping to meet up with other survivors, while Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman) wants them to stay in the cellar with his wife Helen (Marilyn Eastman) and sick little daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) until the zombies leave. They're later joined by young couple Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley).

Night of the Living Dead both broke many rules about horror while creating so many of its own. It's hard to think of another movie in the 1960s where a black man was the strong, resourceful hero and a white man was cowardly and selfish. Barbara, far from being a plucky heroine, spends most of the movie almost catatonic and helpless. Some of the protagonists' plans work, while others fail horribly. And the ending remains as chilling after numerous viewings as after the first one. Director George A. Romero creates true terror both as the humans try and survive and the zombies shuffle forth with mindless malevolence. A low budget doesn't keep the creatures from being terrifying, and there's social commentary that doesn't detract from the horrors.

If you're just looking for a scary movie or searching for one of the best horror movies ever, the destination is the same: Night of the Living Dead.

Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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