George A. Romero’s 1968 seismic Night of the Living Dead has long since lumbered its way into the hearts of zombie fans and social critics who thrilled to its America-on-fire subtext. Can there be even more to dig up under the desiccated surface? Rob Kuhns’s jam-packed analysis—several grades better than a DVD extra—has the appetite to find it. Here, says director Larry Fessenden, is horror’s first in-joke (“They’re coming to get you, Barbara…”), a wink with a payoff more brutal than any Scream gag. And how refreshing it is to note that not only was lead actor Duane Jones black, but a wholly different kind of hero than well-behaved Sidney Poitier; Night begot Shaft and Super Fly.
Kuhns makes time for political insights, provocative montages of race riots cut with the movie’s hick militia, and the comments of owlish Romero himself, who recounts the shoot like the enthusiastic 27-year-old he was. Wildest is a classroom of Bronx kids learning literacy (and proper stomping) via the film’s power.
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