The zombie genre has exploded throughout the years, but the genre owes itself to one director and one film, which is now streaming on HBO Max.
The world would certainly be a lot different if not for the zombie genre of horror films. Think about The Walking Dead. That series would not have been the cultural phenomenon it is, if not for its predecessors. There have been plenty of zombie films and television shows that have come before The Walking Dead, but none are more influential than the George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead. The film is currently streaming on HBO Max, and fans can now see where the zombie genre was forever changed.
Night of the Living Dead was directed, photographed, and edited by George Romero. The film was released in 1968, and all but started everyone on the fascination with the dead being reborn and essentially trying to eat everyone. The film was independently made for a budget that ranged from $114,000 to $125,000. The film would go on to make a staggering $30 million in box office numbers. The film still holds a 96% “certified fresh” critic rating and 87% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Those are some huge numbers for a film that was released nearly 60 years ago. This spawned a successful franchise that was all put together by Romero. All five films have been successful, including the remake of Night of the Living Dead, which was produced by Romero and directed by famed FX artist, Tom Savini. The remake was released in 1990.
Night of the Living Dead follows Barbara and Johnny as they head to a cemetery in rural Pennsylvania to visit their father’s grave. While there, they are attacked by a strange man, and the man kills Johnny. Barbara flees to a farm where she finds the corpse of a half-eaten person. A group of ghouls is being led by the strange man, as Barbara heads inside the farmhouse with a man named Ben, who boards up the windows and doors. They then find a group of people running from these same creatures, as they have all taken shelter in this home. Harry Cooper and Tom talk of their run-ins with these flesh-eating ghouls, and Harry and his wife Helen speak about their car being overturned. Their daughter, Kelly, has been bitten by one of these creatures and is massively ill. The group of strangers is now forced to band together to stop the ghouls from entering the home and eating them all. Although the movie is now decades old, we still don’t want to ruin it for those who have not seen it, so check out the movie on HBO Max.
George Romero became a huge figure in the genre of horror, mostly because of Night of the Living Dead. This skyrocketed the man into massive popularity, being that it was one of the first instances of the zombie genre breaking through into the mainstream. Romero died in 2017 from lung cancer, though he was putting together one final film. In the same way that the apes from Planet of the Apes learned to evolve and fight for their freedom, initially enslaving humanity. The same thing sort of happened with zombies in the “Dead” franchise. Romero was not happy with the endings of Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead, so he put together a film treatment for Twilight of the Dead. This new film is meant to explain what happened to the zombie protagonists in Land of the Dead. Romero’s ex-wife, Suzanne, is putting together the film as intended.
Night of the Living Dead influence countless movies, especially those in the horror genre that see a group of strangers running from the threat of a monster or monsters. Romero was a genius when it came to showcasing how a zombie could evolve in the same way that a human or animal could. His franchise has continued for decades, and Twilight of the Dead will seemingly be the final movie in the long-standing Romero-built universe.
For now, fans can watch how the zombie genre was started, as Night of the Living Dead is streaming free right now. Without this film, we wouldn’t have 28 Days Later, Army of the Dead, or any number of basic rip-offs that were started by Romero’s genius. If you have never seen it, go check out the greatest zombie film ever made on HBO Max right now.