Night of The Living Dead Live Rifftrax Special

A million Taglines!
"They keep coming back in a bloodthirsty lust for HUMAN FLESH!..."

Good morning to everyone, it's the week of Halloween so I thought I would report back about my trip to the live Rifftrax show I went to see on Thursday, where the MST3K gang (That is, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) were picking apart George Romero's original ‘zombie’ film, Night of the Living Dead. This was the cult hit that spawned what we now consider to be the modern zombie film. Featuring an ensemble cast of unlikeable jagoffs who stupidly board themselves into a rickety old house, Night of the Living Dead is as much as social commentary as it is a horror movie. Really the movie has a lot to say about the era in which it was made (at which time it was a seriously controversial film, I’ll talk a bit more about that later). It’s always interesting to watch a movie from so long ago, and read people’s reactions to it, then weighed against my own reactions, watching it long after its creation. Consider for a minute that when this movie came out, it was considered gruesomely gory and violent. It was considered to be so graphic that it was described by many censors as being 'the pornography of violence'. To a modern audience this is hilarious, the movie is black and white for starters, and the low budget (around 111,000 dollars) meant that even in black and white the effects seem silly to someone in 2013. At the time however, the depictions of people being murdered and of ghoulish, reanimated corpses devouring the remains of their victims was terrifying. Also without a standard rating system, even small children got into the theater to see this movie, and you can imagine about how well that probably went over.

That one guy just looks confused in a suit.
Aside from that, we live in a time where the popular media has been marinating in zombie culture for decades, reaching a fever pitch in the 2000s era. Comparing this to the slow, lumbering zombies of Night of the Living Dead (never actually referred to as zombies in the film) and you're simply not left feeling very afraid. Most of the danger in the film is created by arbitrary circumstance, or by the stupidity of the characters in the movie (especially the near catatonic state of Barbra for most of the film). The characters board themselves up in a run down looking farmhouse, when it seems clear that they could briskly walk away from the zombies. The protagonist Ben can shoot the lock off a gas pump under pressure, but he can't seem to hit a zombie in the head with a shot from his rifle to save his life, literally (and this is after the news broadcast tells everyone that destroying the brain destroys the ghoul). Several characters also manage to set their only car on fire with a gaspump, but don't think to use the gas to set all the zombies on fire (zombies in this movie are scared of fire) There are a lot of moments where you feel like characters would be instinctively defending themselves, instead of just bumbling along and dying, especially when they had previously demonstrated themselves to be competent (more or less).

They're coming for your dumb hair Baarbraaa.
Pacing also often leaves something to be desired. I enjoy long scenes of vacant ladies wandering around ugly houses as much as the next gent, but I think 3 in a row is probably a good stopping point. Also scenes where a guy talks to a clearly crazy lady who is unresponsive, don't need too many of those to get the picture either. Obviously though the best part of the movie is ALL OF THE HAMMERING BOARDS ONTO THINGS. We'll ignore for a second that the house seems stocked like a fucking Home Depot in terms of discarded boards lying around, but we really need to spend a quarter of the movie watching a guy nail up the windows? That is just not as interesting as Romero might've thought it was at the time. I don't know if it's supposed to tell me something? The women in the film are also all displayed to be either passive, resentful but submissive (and generally incapable of defending themselves) or batshit loony tunes because of trauma endured. While that might not be surprising for a movie made in 1968 (or I guess any movie ever it sometimes seems like)  it was still sort of irritating to watch a movie where the ladies are just sort of simpering and helpless. Bad luck for them that the men are more assertive but no less useless.

Nice gloves you mook.
Watching the movie with a comedy riff over it was definitely an awesome experience, and seeing all that in the movie theater was really neat. As much as there is to point at in confusion and amusement within Night of the Living Dead, it was a movie that did a lot of things no one else had, and on a tiny budget it spawned a vast and troubled sea of zombie-related media. That can't be denied, and so really it's the sort of film that you really should see if the opportunity presents itself (thanks to a filing error, Night of the Living Dead exists now in the public domain, so it is quite easy to acquire). Also if you get the chance to see a Rifftrax show in the theater, you should definitely do that too! In December they will be doing a live show of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which I'm really excited about because it was a really excellent episode of MST3K.

That's all for today! Join me again on Thursday when I will be talking about The Conjuring, a recent horror film that I recently saw, and that I feel will be just perfect for my Halloween review!

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