Night of the Living Dead

Movie Information

In Brief: This isn't just a screening of Night of the Living Dead (1968). This is the film (in a beautiful print, by the way) reconfigured (so far as the music is concerned) by local artists Silver Machine. Does the new musical track work? A good deal of the time, yes, it does. Does it improve on the film? Well, that's a subjective call and there's really only one way to find out.
Genre: Horror
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne
Rated: NR

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) redefined the zombie movie for all time. This tale of the recently dead coming back to life and graphically (especially for its time) making picnic basket lunches out of the living was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. It was also something we’d see again — a lot. The Romero zombie became the prevailing notion of what a zombie should be, and it remains so to this day. (Oddly enough, Romero himself isn’t all that keen on horror movies — something that hasn’t stopped him from making a cottage industry out of zombies.) The film was made for very little money, which may well have been in its favor — at least in all areas except the film’s music. Very little money meant that the film’s musical selections were limited to the cheapest public domain recordings that could be found. While this cheesy canned music carries a certain charm, the results of its application to the film often feel like random needle-drop selections. Well, here’s a new approach to the film’s musical track by local musicians Silver Machine. They’ve replaced Romero’s music with music of their own, imbuing the film with a less melodramatic sound by replacing it with something that generates something more like ever-increasing dread. It may not entirely work (and I freely admit that the musical style isn’t exactly my dish of tea), but it mostly does. It undeniably gives the film a different feel and is worth giving a try — especially, if you’re a fan of the movie.

Night of the Living Dead with the new music track by Silver Machine plays for one show on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 9:30 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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37 thoughts on “Night of the Living Dead

  1. Dionysis

    I agree that when it came out, this film was certainly something to behold. It still retains a lot of power, but zombiedom cannot remain static, so we are now seeing such realistic depictions of them in film and (most impressively to me) television, with AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ (reportedly the most popular TV series on the planet now) that makes NOTLD seems almost quaint in comparison.

    I saw the previews of the forthcoming ‘World War Z’ recently, and it was one of the few (maybe the only) previews I’ve seen that was itself scary. It looked really impressive.

  2. Ken Hanke

    What’s funny is that in the horror circles I frequent the most common comment seems to be, “I am so over zombies.” And I understand that. I saw the WWZ trailer and while I was impressed with the idea of zombies in such masses (well, CGI masses) that they’re like aunts boiling out of the ground, it was a total, “So?” for me.

    • Dionysis

      To each their own. I am far less jaded on zombies than I am vampires, but that’s just me. And the preview I saw conveyed the impression of hopelessness. The movie may not deliver, but it aroused my interest.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Oh, I am not against your interest in it — just giving my own response to it. But really, how many vampire pictures — Twilight doesn’t count — have we had in the 21st century? Not counting Dark Shadows I’m only coming up with two.

    • Dionysis

      It’s not that we’ve been inundated recently with vampire movies (I can only think of two as well); it’s that I’ve seen so many more vampire films over the years than zombie movies. Sure, there were movies like I Walked with a Zombie early on, but I consider Night of the Living Dead as the first ‘zombie as a distinct monster’ film. Plus, I find (generally speaking) zombie movies scarier than vampire movies. And I want to get my money’s worth.

  4. Xanadon't

    Well in order of preference the 21st century gave us this to offer, as concerns vampires, all of which I enjoyed:

    Let the Right One In (along with a pretty solid American remake)
    Thirst (Chan-Wook Park, 2009)
    Shadow of the Vampire
    Night Watch (Timur Bakmambetov, 2004 -and the lackluster sequel Day Watch to follow)
    Stake Land (Jim Mickle?, 2010)
    30 Days of Night (which I liked a good deal better than Ken it would seem. This spawned a sequel too, though I haven’t bothered)

    But yeah, beyond that you’re pretty much left with a bunch of Underworld Movies, maybe a Blade sequel or two, and probably a handful of straight-to-DVD affairs. Oh, and I never saw Queen of the Damned or Van Helsing.

    Personally, I’ll take a decent or better vampire movie over a zombie film of comparable quality, generally speaking. But I’d probably take a bad zombie movie over a bad vampire flick.

  5. Xanadon't

    Oops, sorry Ken, I forgot Dark Shadows. Probably just as well considering the scolding I would get for where it would’ve fallen on the list.

  6. Ken Hanke

    If it’s below 30 Days of Night, yes, you would. And I don’t think the American remake of Let the Right One In is solid.

    But really, neither Dark Shadows, nor Shadow of the Vampire strike me as “just” vampire films. They go beyond that.

  7. Xanadon't

    Well… I’ll put it this way: I’d sooner revisit Dark Shadows than Daybreakers. But I would need to revisit both 30 Days of Night and Dark Shadows before I could hope to honestly rank the latter over the former.

    But really, neither Dark Shadows, nor Shadow of the Vampire strike me as “just” vampire films. They go beyond that.

    I certainly agree with that. I almost didn’t include Shadow of the Vampire on the list, and now I see that you had already consciously excluded Dark Shadows as well.

  8. Xanadon't

    As for Let Me In, I think I responded to it fairly well because I did my best to pretend the superior Swedish version never happened and unfortunately in many peoples’ minds that’s the case. I felt that if all someone saw was the American retelling of the story, well that audience still gets a good story out of the deal and a serviceable enough (and sometimes pretty good) film as well (in terms of visuals, performances, et al.).

    Yeah, it doesn’t bring much of anything in terms of its own vision and, no, it could’ve just never happened at all and I’d be dandy with that. But in and of itself I’d call it a good horror film and as I watched it (at the Brew & View for the one and only time) I was entertained. In fact, on a whole I’d definitely say it was a better time at the movies than the U.S. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Ha, okay maybe that’s not saying much. And maybe the hour or so shorter run-time has a considerable amount to do with it.)

  9. Ken Hanke

    I’d have to see a lot of this again (though I have no intention of seeing 30 Days of Night again) and I’ve never even heard of Stake Land. Another one overlooked is Dracula 2000.

    In a way, though, you’ve hit upon why as a sub-genre the vampire picture strikes me as more intersting than the zombie picture. Regardless of the varying degrees of quality, there’s a diversity in those movies that’s lacking in the zombie sub-genre. There seems — to me — to be only a few wrinkles to the zombie movie from White Zombie (1932) onward.

  10. Dionysis

    I mentioned Stakeland a few months ago as one of the better zombie-themed movies (actually, it blends both zombies and vampires together in a novel way).

  11. Ken Hanke

    Unfortunately, unless it’s virtually thrust on me or is part of an awards season package, I rarely seem to catch movies that don’t play here theatrically. Stakeland is one of those. (And, no, it’s not that far-fetched for such a film to end up in the smaller distributors’ awards packages. I mean, I just got this year’s Magnolia package. Now I have two copies of Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie that I don’t want.)

  12. Orbit DVD

    Now I have two copies of Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie that I don’t want.)

    Me too! Let’s make them this decade’s fruitcake.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Oh, that so appeals to me. Unfortunately, mine are marked screeners. I’m surprised they want their name on the damned things.

  14. Ken Hanke

    On the other hand, I watched The Innkeepers tonight and thought it was damn spiffy. One of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a while.

  15. Xanadon't

    A lot of people beat up on that movie for its ending, but I liked it start to finish. Does this mean you plan on checking out Ti West’s previous film, House of the Devil? I think I’ve already recommended it around here before.

  16. Orbit DVD

    On the other hand, I watched The Innkeepers tonight and thought it was damn spiffy. One of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a while.

    I enjoyed it quite a bit as well. It’s hard to label West’s films as purely horror… the last two have had quirkiness that has turned some people off. He’s a rare emerging talent.

  17. Ken Hanke

    A lot of people beat up on that movie for its ending

    Whatever for? I could’ve probably done without the final camera prowl through the hotel, but I didn’t see anything to carp about.

    Does this mean you plan on checking out Ti West’s previous film, House of the Devil?


  18. Ken Hanke

    It’s hard to label West’s films as purely horror… the last two have had quirkiness that has turned some people off.

    I can’t say I saw anything quirky — unless these days it’s quirky to have an actual literate screenplay, real actors, a solid musical score, and — sweet Clapton save us — a tripod. What, by the way, constitute his last two movies? Are you including his segment in the generally awful VHS?

  19. brebro

    There’s also the Fright Night remake.

    We watch NOTLD each year because it’s still a classic and important contribution to the zombiegeist. However, our favorite is still Return of the Living Dead for combining scares and laughs so perfectly, as well as introducing the whole “braaaaaiiinnns” mantra to the fodder canon.

  20. Ken Hanke

    And I liked the Fright Night remake alright. But when it came down to it I’d forgotten about it.

    I think we may show King of the Zombies next month. Now, there’s a zombie picture — and with Mantan Moreland, too.

  21. Xanadon't

    Ah, and there’s Trouble Every Day, a 2001 French film. Like many things starring Vincent Gallo it’s a bit of a rough ride, a sorta yucky artsy movie that I had mixed feelings about.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Is it a zombie or a vampire thing? I haven’t been able to tell from the IMDb, but then I got sidetracked by reading some maroons fighting about the authenticity of the results of Gallo’s wanking scene. Was it real or was it Jergen’s? I love it when people tackle the big questions.

  23. Xanadon't

    It’s a vampire thing, and “vampire thing” is about as apt a description as any. Though I don’t mean to suggest that the film is without certain merits.

    I’d actually forgotten about the ejaculation bit so I don’t feel qualified to weigh in on such a pressing matter. The difficult rape scene must’ve pushed it right out of my mind. Anyway, it’s obviously a real pick-me-up.

  24. Ken Hanke

    I don’t think I’ll do anything rash — like actually seeking it out or spending money to see it.

  25. Xanadon't

    Since I don’t suspect that you’re working on a book cataloging the recent entries into so-called “French Extremism” I’d say that’s a reasonable call.

    A while back I went through something of a phase where viewing decisions were settled primarily on two criteria: Foreign and Fucked Up. The usefulness of said phase is highly debatable. Especially since I hit burn-out before uncovering a few of the riches the 70s had to offer, namely Salo and Sweet Movie.

  26. Xanadon't

    I suspect so, but couldn’t say. You mean to say that I need not ever bother with it?

  27. Ken Hanke

    I’m hesitant to say that. Now, in my case, I had an almost viscerally negative reaction to it — somewhere between genuine revulsion and “what a load of rubbish.” But others have disagreed. I haven’t seen it since the early ’90s — at which time I knew someone who was always sending me copies of what we may not call F & F movies. I don’t think it was the worst thing I saw, but it was close. Salo, however, should probably be seen — once.

  28. Orbit DVD

    You mean to say that you found things that were…worse than Sweet Movie?

    Oh yes. Oh yes.

  29. Xanadon't

    of what we may not call F & F movies.

    Oops, my apologies. Now I know.

    I’m sure I’ll get around to watching both films at some point. I’ve been on the fence about Salo for quite some time. And just when I think “okay, I’m ready” there’s never a copy at hand. By the time I come across it again, I’m back off of the idea.

    Actually, several weeks ago I tried to purchase both film from Marc just so I would be sure to have them on hand next time I felt inspired, but it was to no avail. Salo was missing the booklet and in the case of Sweet Movie it appeared that whatever jerk that rented it last failed to return it. Maybe I ought to just concede that the universe is against me watching these, but I haven’t abandoned the idea just yet.

  30. Ken Hanke

    And my apologies, because that was meant to read “what we may now call F & F movies,” not “not.” Both of these titles definitely qualify, though I concede that Salo at least has some point — beyond being shocking. Sweet Movue…well, that’s another matter. I have a copy of Salo — the old non-anamorphic Criterion (I guess there’s a newer anamorphic one). You’re more than welcome to borrow it for as long as it takes you to get in the mood.

  31. Xanadon't

    Thanks, that would be swell, though due to the film’s reputation I’m afraid this will feel like some sort of grimy drug deal.

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