A trip to a countryside cemetery for Barbara and her brother turns into an almighty voyage into hell as the dead rise up from the earth. For the audience watching in 1968, this movie represented a new dawn in horror film-making.
It would be ludicrous to tar all American B-movies of that period with the same brush, but the genre had largely become stale and horribly predictable. Where "Night of the Living Dead" differed was the clinical and unrelentingly brutal nature of the film. There is a resounding lack of sentimentality that cuts through the death and chaos, as a desperate bunch of people fight to stay alive.
They are thrown together in a farmhouse that Barbara escapes to after a zombie has killed her brother. There she meets Ben, who has been forced off the road due to a lack of petrol. He desperately barricades them into the house, where the Cooper family and teenagers, Tom and Judy are hiding. With the dead gathering in numbers outside, they're plunged into a terrifying siege where a moment's hesitation could cost them their lives.
The ominous external threat of a building army of zombies, without mind or reason, contrasts cruelly with the internal bickering of the survivors trying to cling to humanity. It becomes increasingly clear that there will be no obvious reprieve for these characters, nor will a hero come to save them. Their fight spirals into a tense stand-off where the option of survival seems unappealing, yet instinct demands that they fight. This lack of a cosy conclusion and the unpredictable nature of this film shook up horror film-making, and allowed fresh talent to explore a whole new chilling level of terror.
Did you know there was a remake?