Well, let’s be honest, what really is there left to say about George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead? A film first released in 1968, this is a picture often cited as being the launching point for the zombie subgenre and for standing up as a bona fide all-time classic. So, what makes yet another release of this genre favourite worthwhile? Let us tell you.
As mentioned, Night of the Living Dead was first released way back in 1968, marking this as 50 years since Romero’s iconic effort first terrified audiences. In terms of plot and premise, this legendary movie centres on a small group of people who find themselves in the middle of a scenario where the dead are coming back to life. While the unrelenting ghouls – Romero largely steering clear of the classic Z word – are chomping at the bit for a taste of human flesh, the main attraction here is the bickering and social interaction carried out by a core cast made up by the likes of Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman and Keith Wayne. As social commentary drips through every pore, Night of the Living Dead would prove itself to be a pivotal, vital piece of cinema, and a thought-provoking picture that worked on a whole plethora of levels.
So, that’s the plot. You likely already knew that, but it’s best we cover our bases in case this is your first time discovering this hugely influential movie. As alluded to earlier, how can you be expected to fork out your hard-earned pennies for a new release of a film that has been released time and time again over the past several decades? Simply put, this new release takes Night of the Living Dead and pushes it to a whole new level.
Put together as part of Sony Pictures’ Criterion Collection, this latest edition of this famed classic brings the extras and brings them hard. That’s not all, though, for we get a 4K transfer of the movie which makes it snap, crackle, and drearily pop with stunning beauty as this remorseless, desolate and desperate film plays out. Night of the Living Dead has never looked better, and we’d go as far as to say the only 4K restoration of a famed horror that’s ever looked better is the Dean Cundey-handled refresh given to Halloween to mark that picture’s 35th anniversary. Frankly, this new restoration looks absolutely phenomenal, bringing a new vibrancy, a new sense of claustrophobia to a well-worn favourite of yesteryear.
Back to the actual special features and bonus material, though, and there’s an absolutely ridiculous amount of extra material included over the two Blu-ray package. What’s most likely to grab longtime fans’ attention, of course, is the famed “Night of Anubis” work-print version of the film that’s included. Sadly, despite rumours and rumblings, this doesn’t mean certain ‘missing scenes’ are included, more it’s a case of a few alternative shots. Where missing material does come in to play, however, is in the 16mm dailies included as part of this release. That footage alone will likely swing this purchase for many a horror hound!
All in all, Night of the Living Dead is obviously just as marvellous as it’s always been. Sure, many newcomers may not quite appreciate the charm, shock, and social commentary of Romero’s famed 1968 movie in comparison to what modern audiences are accustomed to. But that’s kind of the point, for it was more often than not Romero and Night of the Living Dead that set the foundations for so, so many films that we’ve seen over the ensuing decades and still to this day. Throw in a truly mind-blowing 4K restoration and some must-see extras, and here we have a release that should be right at the top of many a genre fan’s wishlist.
Special Features: Two audio commentaries / Night of Anubis work-print / Never-before-seen 16mm dailies / New interviews / Archive interviews / Four new featurettes / Trailer / Radio and TV spots / An essay by Stuart Klawans
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD / 15 / DIRECTOR: GEORGE A. ROMERO / SCREENPLAY: GEORGE A. ROMERO, JOHN A. RUSSO / STARRING: DUANE JONES, JUDITH O’DEA, KARL HARDMAN, KEITH WAYNE, RUSSELL STREINER / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 26TH