13. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

When I first saw Night of the Living Dead at the dear old Scala back in the 70s, I was really shocked by how misanthropic, bleak and depressing it is. Since then it’s become one of my favourite films – it’s proper horror with shocks and disgust, it’s got a great sense of humour and it unpicks fragile human civilisation in a particularly satisfying way. And then there’s the lead man. Duane Jones (as Ben) is not only gorgeous and heroic, but he’s also black – a device which packs quite a punch even today, let alone in 1968. His attempts to restore sanity to a crumbling world are what give Night of the Living Dead its heart – only for that heart to be ripped out of the chest and EATEN. It never descends into the obvious: this could so easily have been some twee piece of cod-liberalism – but there are scenes of the undead hordes stumbling across fields that are unpleasantly reminiscent of the racist thugs who used to picket civil rights rallies. large night of the living dead blu-rayx2Today they’re picketing gay childrens’ funerals, and I would cheerfully blast them with both barrels. My favourite stuff in NotLD is in and around the house: I love a bit of domestic horror, where the banal becomes fraught with terrifying possibilities. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s the best ever twist in a horror movie, and it’s what gives this film the edge over all its sequels.

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