Yep! That was the definition of zombie; an undead slave bound by voodoo magic. Until 1968. Then a guy named George Romero taught us all a different definition of the word zombie.
You see old George and some of his friends made a movie near Pittsburgh that was released in 1968, and that movie changed audience's image of zombies forever. That movie is Night of the Living Dead.
Seven people try to survive in a barricaded farm house while outside strange homicidal people try to break into the house.
The "strange homicidal people" are zombies. Mr. Romero's particular style of zombies; people who have risen from the dead to feast on the flesh of the living! Yeah baby!
Oh where do I begin! Night of the Living Dead is another example of a great film made for next to nothing by relative amateurs. Mr. Romero had a friend that was a butcher who brought cuts of meat and bones and organs for the zombies to munch. And who were the zombies? Ordinary townsfolk who answered an ad asking for extras for a movie that was filming just outside of town!
So, our trapped players are:
Barbara - she and her brother Johnny were visiting their father's grave when they were attacked. Babs got away. But what happened to Johnny?
Tom and Judy - young couple who were going "to the lake" when they heard something on the radio about roaming gangs of murderers and took shelter in the farmhouse.
Harry and Helen Cooper - had their car overturned by a bunch of weirdoes and barely escaped along with their daughter Karen.
Ben - young black man, he was at a diner when some very strange things happened. He learned that "those things" don't like fire and that smashing them in the head with a tire iron will stop them.
Once all of our cast are assembled the movie kicks into high gear. Mr. Cooper is an asshole. He is convinced that the best place to be is in the cellar. Ben thinks that is dumb and that it is better to stay upstairs where they have food, water, a radio and TV and can fight or run away if needed. Mr. Cooper thinks Ben is insane. Why? Because Ben is not intimidated by him and he is after all, black. We can't trust a black guy to lead now can we? Actually, this is never stated, but it seems obvious that part of Mr. Cooper's problem with Ben is simply that he is a smart no nonsense black guy. I am amazed the dreaded "N-word" is never used. At one point Ben says to Mr. Cooper, "Now get the Hell down in the cellar. You can be boss down there. I'm boss up here." And once the Cooper's realize that it is probably better to be upstairs with the others, Ben says, "If you stay up here, you take orders from me!" Okay this is strong stuff for a young black guy to be saying in a movie to a bunch of white people in 1968. I can only imagine how audiences reacted!
Power struggle aside, the folks in the farmhouse learn just how deeply they are submerged in poopy. Using the radio and TV they eventually learn that the dead are coming back to life and killing and eating the living. This is apparently due to some sort of radiation from a Venus probe. Well, I guess George felt he had to give a reason for all this zombie stuff. We even see a general on TV trying to cover-up the link between the zombies and the Venus probe. Government conspiracy anyone? Oh, by the way, the movie never refers to them as zombies, however the TV reporters do start to call them "ghouls".
Well, the news is that the National Guard and civil defense agencies have started to establish emergency shelters with food, water, medical staff and soldiers to protect folks from the zom... sorry ghouls. They advise people to make for these shelters if they can get there. Meanwhile local law enforcement has been authorized to form bands of men to hunt down and burn the bodies of the ghouls. Additionally, reports confirm that massive head trauma will destroy the ghouls.
The group - well Ben - forms a plan to get to a shelter. But first they need to go get the truck Ben found and refuel it at the pump out by the barn. Tom volunteers to help because he knows trucks and fuel pumps. Judy is not to happy about this plan. Mr. Cooper will frighten the ghouls away from Ben and Tom by lobbing Molotov cocktails out a second floor window. Right after Ben and Tom go outside to get the truck, Judy runs out to help. Chicks! Well, I bet you can guess that the plan does not turn out well. In fact it turns out so ... uh ... unwell that Ben ends up shooting Mr. Cooper. Hee hee hee!
The ghouls get a free munch on and then the lights go out in the house! This provokes an all out ghoul attack and ... well ... Ya know I would love to tell you the rest, but you really owe it to yourself to see this flick! And since it has a great ending I think I will stop right here. I don't want to spoil it for you.
When I was a kid Night of the Living Dead was legendary among boys my age because it was rumored to be so shocking and gross. I guess this was true in 1968, but now it is still frightening and disturbing, but does not compare with modern films for shock and gore potential. But it is one of the films that set those trends in motion.
I recently read that George Romero actually drove the film around to theaters in the trunk of his car at first! Then he took it to the 42 Street grindhouses in New York and that is when it took off. Think anybody with a shot-on-digital video film could get away with that today?
Night of the Living Dead is a great movie. If you have not seen it yet - you need to do so soon! Only ten days to Halloween - why not see it now?
And you can! For free! On your computer! Here:
Halloween treat for grown-ups: Dead Guy Ale
Watching Night of the Living Dead? Why not watch with a dead guy or two? Dead Guy Ale made by Rogue Ales Brewery in Newport, Oregon just may be able to bring a stiff back to life!
Dead guy Ale is a Maibock. A what? Okay - Bock is a style of beer that is high in alcohol content, traditionally made in Germany and sold during the autumn and winter. Bock often uses lots of barley malt during brewing and can be sweet, but the high alcohol then delivers a kick. Maibock (May Bock) is a slightly lighter style of bock that is sold in spring.
ABV = 6.50% and IBU = 40
The color is a nice almost ruby amber (Rouge calls it "deep honey") and the brew is slightly cloudy. The aroma is all malt and hops. Crisp and strong. Dead Guy Ale forms a semi-persistent head.
The taste is complex. it starts off sweet - from the barley malt - changes to spicy and finishes very bitter due to the hops and alcohol content. There is a strong long lasting aftertaste that might offend those who don't like such a hoppy taste lingering in their mouths.
A good beer - but not for the timid. Be bold. Grab yourself a dead guy and suck on it!
Okay! Halloween movie number one is in the can! Keep those suggestions coming! So far I have received one.