Nearly 50 years ago, George A. Romero lobbed a cultural molotov in the national consciousness titled “Night of the Living Dead.” Similarly to 2017 for some, 1968 played out like a real-life horror film, which is why it’s only fitting the movie will be screened at Darkside Cinema on October 31.
When it first premiered, the evening news depicted images of civil rights and antiwar protesters being beaten and hosed down in the streets, as well as the brutal realities of the war in Vietnam. Without a doubt, the bloody violence in NOTLD triggered images of the war in the minds of its viewers, especially in those who had lost family members or friends.
Explicit violence wasn’t the only groundbreaking aspect of this film. At the time of its release, it was rare to see such an intelligent, resourceful, and capable African American hero as the film’s main character, Ben. The fact that Ben was surrounded by cowardly and inept white characters added an extra layer of shock to the film’s racial theme at the time.
Just under the surface of this unnerving film lies thematic elements like the perils of rampant nationalism, the insanity of conformity, and the destruction of the status quo. NOTLD touched on every major fear in the typical 1968 moviegoer’s mind. In considering these fears, we learned something about ourselves and became better for it. Looking at the state of our society today, it seems we could use a refresher.
Partway through the film, we hear a television newsman say, “The unburied dead are coming back to life and seeking human victims.” Although we aren’t literally fighting the undead, there are issues in this country that should have been buried long ago; issues that are still claiming the lives of innocent people.
At the end of the film, Ben is shot and killed by a police posse who mistakes him for a ghoul. Suddenly, 1968 doesn’t seem as far aways as it once did.
Night of the Living Dead will screen at Darkside Cinema on October 31 only. Visit http://www.darksidecinema.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/
By Jay Sharpe