Manual Terror and Everyday Life: Singular Moments in the History of the Horror Film

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Responsibility Jonathan Lake Crane. Imprint Thousand Oaks, Calif. Physical description p. While in the cemetery, Barbra is attacked by a strange man. Johnny tries to rescue his sister, but the assailant strikes Johnny's head against a gravestone, killing him. After wrecking their car in a panic, Barbra escapes on foot, with the stranger in pursuit.

She arrives at a farmhouse, where she discovers a woman's mangled corpse. Fleeing from the house, she is confronted by strange, menacing ghouls , including the man in the graveyard. A man named Ben arrives and takes her back to the house, driving the monsters away and barricading the doors and windows.

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While doing this, Ben finds a radio and a lever-action rifle. Throughout the night, Barbra slowly descends into a stupor of shock and insanity. Ben discovers that the farmhouse has a cellar. The cellar houses an angry married couple, Harry and Helen Cooper, along with their daughter Karen. The Coopers sought refuge after a group of the same monsters overturned their car.

Tom and Judy, a teenage couple, arrived after hearing an emergency broadcast about a series of brutal killings. Karen has fallen seriously ill after being bitten by one of the monsters. They venture upstairs when Ben turns the radio on, while Barbra awakens from her stupor.

Terror and Everyday Life: Singular Moments in the History of the Horror Film

Harry demands that everyone hide in the cellar, but Ben deems it a "deathtrap" and continues to barricade the house upstairs with Tom's help. Radio reports explain that a wave of mass murder is sweeping across the East Coast of the United States. Ben finds a television, and he and other occupants of the house watch an emergency broadcaster report that the recently-deceased have become reanimated and are consuming the flesh of the living.

Experts, scientists, and the military have failed to determine the cause of the reanimations, though one scientist suspects that they are due to radioactive contamination from a space probe that was blown up in Earth's atmosphere while returning from Venus. Ben plans to obtain medical care for Karen when the reports list local rescue centers offering refuge and safety. Ben and Tom attempt to refuel Ben's truck at the nearby gas pump while Harry hurls Molotov cocktails from an upper window at the ghouls.

Judy follows him, fearing for Tom's safety. Tom accidentally spills gasoline on the truck, which is set ablaze by Ben's torch.

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Tom and Judy try to drive the truck away from the pump, but Judy is unable to free herself from its door. The truck explodes, killing them both, and the ghouls promptly eat the charred remains. Ben returns to the house but is locked out by Harry. Eventually forcing his way back in, Ben beats Harry, angered by his cowardice. A news report reveals that a gunshot or heavy blow to the head, as well as setting them on fire, can stop the ghouls. It also reports that posses of armed men are patrolling the countryside to restore order.

The power goes out, and the ghouls break through the barricades. Harry grabs Ben's rifle and threatens to shoot him. In the chaos, the two fight. Ben wrestles the gun from Harry and shoots him. Harry stumbles into the cellar and, mortally wounded, collapses next to Karen, who has died from her illness.

The ghouls try to pull Helen and Barbra through the windows, but Helen frees herself while Barbra holds them at bay. Helen returns to the cellar to see Karen reanimated and eating Harry's corpse. Karen then stabs the terrified Helen to death with a masonry trowel. Barbra, seeing Johnny among the ghouls, is carried away by the horde and devoured. As the ghouls overrun the house, Ben fights off Karen, seals himself inside the cellar — the very course of action he had refused to do earlier — and shoots Harry and Helen's corpses as they begin to reanimate.

The next morning, Ben is awakened by the posse's gunfire outside. Upon venturing upstairs, he is immediately mistaken for one of the ghouls and killed with a shot to the forehead. His body is thrown onto a pile of corpses, which is then set ablaze. Romero embarked upon his career in the film industry while attending Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The trio grew bored making commercials and wanted to film a horror movie during this period. They wanted to capitalize on the film industry's "thirst for the bizarre", according to Romero. They pitched their idea for a then-untitled horror film. Co-written as a horror comedy by John Russo and George A. Romero under the title Monster Flick , [21] an early screenplay draft concerned the exploits of adolescent aliens who visit Earth and befriend human teenagers.

A second version of the script featured a young man who runs away from home and discovers rotting human corpses that aliens use for food scattered across a meadow. Russo came up with the concept that they would be the recently dead only, because they could not afford to bring long-dead people out of their graves. He also came up with the idea that they would be "flesh-eaters". The final draft, written mainly by Russo during three days in , focused on reanimated human corpses — Romero refers to them as ghouls — that consume the flesh of the living.

Part one became Night of the Living Dead. Sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead were adapted from the two remaining parts. Romero drew inspiration from Richard Matheson 's I Am Legend , a horror novel about a plague that ravages a futuristic Los Angeles. The infected in I Am Legend become vampire -like creatures and prey on the uninfected. I thought I Am Legend was about revolution. I said if you're going to do something about revolution, you should start at the beginning. I mean, Richard starts his book with one man left; everybody in the world has become a vampire. I said we got to start at the beginning and tweak it up a little bit.

I couldn't use vampires because he did, so I wanted something that would be an earth-shaking change. Something that was forever, something that was really at the heart of it. I said, so what if the dead stop staying dead? And the stories are about how people respond or fail to respond to this. That's really all [the zombies] ever represented to me. There's this global change and there's one guy holding out saying, wait a minute, I'm still a human. He's wrong. Go ahead. Join them. You'll live forever! In a certain sense he's wrong but on the other hand, you've got to respect him for taking that position.

Matheson was not impressed by Romero's interpretation, feeling that "It was I don't harbor any animosity toward him. Russo and Romero revised the screenplay while filming. Karl Hardman attributed the edits to lead actor Duane Jones:. The script had been written with the character Ben as a rather simple truck driver. Duane Jones was a very well educated man [and he] simply refused to do the role as it was written.

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As I recall, I believe that Duane himself upgraded his own dialogue to reflect how he felt the character should present himself. Eastman modified cellar scenes featuring dialogue between Helen and Harry Cooper. She told an interviewer, "I don't know if there was an actual working script! We would go over what basically had to be done, then just did it the way we each felt it should be done". The sequence where Ben is breaking up the table to block the entrance and I'm on the couch and start telling him the story of what happened [to Johnny] it's all ad-libbed.

This is what we want to get across That was it We filmed it once. There was a concern we didn't get the sound right, but fortunately they were able to use it. Although the film is regarded as one of the launching pads for the modern zombie movie, the screenplay itself never uses the word. The lead role was originally written for someone of Caucasian descent, but upon casting African-American actor Duane Jones, Romero intentionally did not alter the script to reflect this. The small budget dictated much of the production process.

According to Hardman, "We knew that we could not raise enough money to shoot a film on a par with the classic horror films with which we had all grown up. The best that we could do was to place our cast in a remote spot and then bring the horror to be visited on them in that spot". The outdoor, indoor downstairs and basement scenes were filmed at a location northeast of Evans City, near a park. The basement door external view shown in the film was cut into a wall by the production team and led nowhere.

As this house was scheduled for demolition, damage during filming was permitted. The site is now a turf farm. Props and special effects were fairly simple and limited by the budget. The blood, for example, was Bosco Chocolate Syrup drizzled over cast members' bodies.

Costumes consisted of second-hand clothing from cast members and Goodwill. Zombie makeup varied during the film. Initially, makeup was limited to white skin with blackened eyes; but as filming progressed, mortician's wax was used to simulate wounds and decaying flesh. As filming was not linear, the piebald faces appear sporadically.

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Eastman supervised the special effects, wardrobe and makeup. The completed film ultimately benefited from the decision, as film historian Joseph Maddrey describes the black-and-white filming as " guerrilla-style ", resembling "the unflinching authority of a wartime newsreel ". Maddrey adds, it "seem[s] as much like a documentary on the loss of social stability as an exploitation film ".

Night of the Living Dead was the first feature-length film directed by George A. Stephen Paul Miller, for instance, witnessed "a revival of fifties schlock shock Miller admits that " Night of the Living Dead takes greater relish in mocking these military operations through the general's pompous demeanor" and the government's inability to source the zombie epidemic or protect the citizenry.

While some critics dismissed Romero's film because of the graphic scenes, writer R. Dillard claimed that the "open-eyed detailing" of taboo heightened the film's success. He asks, "What girl has not, at one time or another, wished to kill her mother? And Karen, in the film, offers a particularly vivid opportunity to commit the forbidden deed vicariously. Although zombie cannibals were inspired by Matheson's I Am Legend , film historian Robin Wood sees the flesh-eating scenes of Night of the Living Dead as a lates critique of American capitalism. Wood asserts that the zombies represent capitalists, and "cannibalism represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism".

He argues that the zombies' victims symbolized the repression of " the Other " in bourgeois American society, namely activists in the civil rights movement , feminists , homosexuals, and counterculturalists in general. Members of Image Ten were involved in filming and post-production , participating in loading camera magazines , gaffing , constructing props, recording sounds and editing.

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As I recall, I shot over 1, pictures during the production". Columbia and American International Pictures declined after requests to soften it and re-shoot the final scene were rejected by producers. We couldn't imagine a happy ending. Everyone want[ed] a Hollywood ending, but we stuck to our guns". Most of the music in the film had previously been used on the soundtrack for the science-fiction B-movie Teenagers from Outer Space , as well as a number of pieces used in the classic Steve McQueen western series Wanted Dead or Alive The eerie musical piece during the tense scene in the film where Ben finds the rifle in the closet inside the farmhouse as the radio reports of mayhem play in the background, can be heard in longer and more complete form during the opening credits and the beginning of The Devil's Messenger starring Lon Chaney, Jr.

Another piece, accompanying Barbra's flight from the cemetery zombie, was taken from the score for The Hideous Sun Demon According to WRS, "We chose a selection of music for each of the various scenes and then George made the final selections. We then took those selections and augmented them electronically". Sound tech R. Lococo's choices worked well, as film historian Sumiko Higashi believes that the music "signifies the nature of events that await".

In , recording group Lonely Things released the album Tonight of the Living Dead , "an instrumental album composed entirely of ambient music and sound effects sampled from Romero's horror classic". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times chided theater owners and parents who allowed children access to the film with such potent content for a horror film they were entirely unprepared for: "I don't think the younger kids really knew what hit them," he said. The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence.

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The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying It's hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven.

But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that's not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It's just over, that's all. Response from Variety after the initial release reflects the outrage generated by Romero's film: "Until the Supreme Court establishes clear-cut guidelines for the pornography of violence, Night of the Living Dead will serve nicely as an outer-limit definition by example.

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  • In [a] mere 90 minutes this horror film pun intended casts serious aspersions on the integrity and social responsibility of its Pittsburgh-based makers, distributor Walter Reade, the film industry as a whole and [exhibitors] who book [the picture], as well as raising doubts about the future of the regional cinema movement and about the moral health of film goers who cheerfully opt for this unrelieved orgy of sadism One commentator asserts that the film garnered little attention from critics, "except to provoke argument about censoring its grisly scenes".

    Despite the controversy, five years after the premiere Paul McCullough of Take One observed that Night of the Living Dead was the "most profitable horror film ever It was translated into more than 25 languages and released across Europe, Canada and Australia. Fifty years after its release, the film enjoys a reputation as a classic and still receives positive reviews, being regarded by many as one of the best films of The site's critical consensus reads, "George A. Romero's debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.

    Night of the Living Dead was awarded two distinguished honors decades after its debut. The Library of Congress added the film to the National Film Registry in with other films deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". Some reviewers disliked the film's gory special effects. Variety labeled Night of the Living Dead an "unrelieved orgy of sadism" and questioned the "integrity and social responsibility of its Pittsburgh-based makers". Some reviewers cited the film as groundbreaking. Pauline Kael called the film "one of the most gruesomely terrifying movies ever made — and when you leave the theatre you may wish you could forget the whole horrible experience.

    The film's grainy, banal seriousness works for it — gives it a crude realism". It is unthinkable for anyone seriously interested in horror movies not to see it. Many critics of this movie find this movie very groundbreaking for its time due to it having a black protagonist. Ben is calm for the most part, calculating and very capable of handling himself and protecting Barbra and the others. Most films up until this point portrayed Blacks as lazy and incompetent to Whites. Ben's speech pattern is normal and not exaggerated like many other Black characters at this time.

    There is also a bit of racial tension between Harry and Ben since they constantly argue because Harry views Ben as a threat since he is Black. The arguing between Ben and Harry also can be contributed to the "hyper-masculinity" of this film. Another aspect of "hyper-masculinity" in this film is that Barbra, the main female lead, is portrayed as being weak and scared and not capable of defending herself. Night of the Living Dead entered the public domain in the United States because the original theatrical distributor, the Walter Reade Organization, neglected to place a copyright indication on the prints.

    The distributor erroneously removed the statement when it changed the title. This release was also not authorized or licensed by Image Ten. The first revisions of Night of the Living Dead involved colorization by home video distributors. Hal Roach Studios released a colorized version in that featured ghouls with pale green skin. Technology critic Gary W. Tooze wrote that "The colorization is damn impressive", but noticed the print used was not as sharp as other releases of the film. In , co-writer John A. In an interview with Fangoria magazine, Russo explained that he wanted to "give the movie a more modern pace".

    The additions are neither clearly identified nor even listed. Entertainment Weekly reported "no bad blood" between Russo and Romero. Knowles promised to permanently ban anyone from his publication who offered positive criticism of the film. A collaborative animated project known as Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated was screened at several film festivals [] [] [] [] and was released onto DVD on July 27, , by Wild Eye Releasing. Night of the Living Dead is the first of six Each film traces the evolution of the living dead epidemic in the United States and humanity's desperate attempts to cope with it.

    As in Night of the Living Dead , Romero peppered the other films in the series with critiques specific to the periods in which they were released. Russo's film spawned four sequels. Return of the Living Dead sparked a legal battle with Romero, who believed Russo marketed his film in direct competition with Day of the Dead as a sequel to the original film.

    In the case Dawn Associates v. Links , Romero accused Russo of "appropriat[ing] part of the title of the prior work", plagiarizing Dawn of the Dead' s advertising slogan "When there is no more room in hell Romero was ultimately granted a restraining order that forced Russo to cease his advertising campaign. Russo, however, was allowed to retain his title. George Cameron Romero, the son of director George A. Romero, has developed Rise of the Living Dead , a prelude to his father's classic pitched with the working title Origins.

    George Cameron Romero's script is intended to be an homage to his father's work, a terrifying glimpse into the political hot bed that was the mid-to-late s and a bookend piece to his father's original story. Despite raising funds for the film on Indiegogo in , the film has yet to go into production as of May The first remake , debuting in , was directed by special effects artist Tom Savini. It was based on the original screenplay, but included more gore and a revised plot that portrayed Barbra Patricia Tallman as a capable and active heroine.

    Tony Todd played the role of Ben. Film historian Barry Grant saw the new Barbra as a corrective on the part of Romero. He suggests that the character was made stronger to rectify the depiction of female characters in the original film. Unlike Savini's film, Broadstreet's project was not affiliated with Romero. Director Doug Schulze's film Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead relates the story of a group of horror film fans who become involved in a "real-life" version of the film. Due to the film's public domain status, several independent film companies have also done remakes of the film.

    Romero revolutionized the horror film genre with Night of the Living Dead ; according to Almar Haflidason of the BBC , the film represented "a new dawn in horror film-making". While the word "zombie" itself is never used—the word used in the film is ghoul —Romero's film introduced the theme of zombies as reanimated, flesh-eating cannibals. To me, zombies were still those boys in the Caribbean doing the wetwork for [Bela] Lugosi. As one film historian points out, horror prior to Romero's film had mostly involved rubber masks and costumes, cardboard sets, or mysterious figures lurking in the shadows.

    They were set in locations far removed from rural and suburban America.