"Night of the Living Dead - 40th Anniversary Edition" DVD Review
May 23, 2008 by James Harvey
There's always a problem that arises when reviewing a film as classic as this, one that can truly be called a masterpiece. The main problem is trying to remain neutral and impartial when looking back at a film such as this. I had the same problem when I reviewed Invasion of the Body Snatchers last year, and now I've come across this situation again. Thankfully, much like that film, Night of the Living Dead is a film where, after all these years, it still stands up as a solid film. True, the horror genre has changed in the past forty years, but there's no denying how brilliant this film is. Any why is it so great? Well, we'll get to that after the synopsis.
The dead begin to walk again when a satellite returning from a trip to Venus falls to Earth, spreading some kind of new radiation along the Earth, resulting in the once fallen to shamble their way to life again. A small group of people who have never met take shelter in an abandoned house, its owner devoured by the vicious Living Dead and board the windows and doors up. Once knowledge of how to kill the mindless creatures comes over the radio and television, the group attempts to make a run for it, but it all ends in disaster when the Living Dead number becomes too great for the humans to handle.
So where to begin on a film such as this? Is it worth repeating how influential this movie is? How is started a whole new horror genre? The groundbreaking social commentary, intentional or no? These are questions that any reviewer would find themselves asking when having to review a movie such as this. We all know what this film is about, how everything unrolls, and how it ends. But, incase there's a handful of people who haven't seen this movie, but are interested in picking up, I'll remain as spoiler-free as possible.
The set-up is classic. After a horrifying experience in a graveyard, a sole woman runs to safety in a nearby farmhouse and, as the day turns into night, she finds herself facing hordes of the living dead. She's not alone, however, as more people appear at the farmhouse, all of which leads to a horrific culmination as the dead start to outnumber the living by drastic numbers. To all of those familiar with the movie, we know where this goes and how it ends, wrapping up in a shocking and surprising manner. For those who have only seen the 1990s remake, well, things end quite differently. I'll avoid spoiling the ending because, to me, it remains on of the biggest "gut-punching" endings off all time, all proceeded by a tense night of survival.
I personally believe that this is a movie that still holds tot his day. Yes, the film is obviously dated and some of the scenes may come across a little bit goofy given the time period, but still, I think this movie is absolutely haunting and still h as a couple good frights in it. There's no question that this is a film that all suspense/horror enthusiasts should experience at least once. It's not only that important of a movie, but it's also that damn good of a movie.
If I say anything more, I risk spoiling the movie, and, for the few people who have yet to experience this flick, I can't do that. I know avoiding spoilers for a 40-year old movie is silly, but I really think a movie such as this works best when the viewer has no clue what to expect. And given how available this movie is, there's really no excuse not to see this movie. And you should see this movie. If you can get past the fact that this movie is 40 years old, and that there will be some dated references, etc., then I guarantee you will enjoy this movie. And, even if you can't, you can at least understand why it was so revolutionary for it's time. Night of the Living Dead is a true classic, one that comes Highly Recommended. The zombies are creepy, the movie is intense, and the ending is one of the best in cinema history. Without giving everything away, I can't recommend this movie enough!
Released through the Dimension Home Video banner, Night of the Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition comes packaged in a standard Amaray case with both a foil-cardboard slipcover and an insert. I have to say, that, out of all of the Night of the Living Dead releases, this is my favorite cover, right up there with the now-classic "tombstone"-themed cover art of the Night of the Living Dead (Millennium Edition). I just like the huge text, reminiscent of old-style advertising, and the ominous zombies, shrouded in silhouettes. Plus Romero's signature on the cover adds a nice, classy touch.
As for the DVD itself, there's a nice helping of extras. First up is the full restored and remastered version of the Night of the Living Dead, which I consider to be an extra given how great the movie looks. Yes, it's a bit soft and there's still the occasional video transfer defect here and there, but it's obvious a lot of work went into restoring it and it looks great. After that, we have audio commentaries from Romero and many of the Night of the Living Dead cast, but this commentary is also available on previous DVD releases of this movie.
Other extras include "Ben Speaks: The Last Interview with Duane Jones (audio only)," which is pretty self-explanatory, and "Speak of the Dead: A Conversation with George A. Romero Q&A." The extra that fans will undoubtedly want to see it the feature-length "One for the Fire: The Legacy of "Night of the Living Dead" documentary, which looks at just how big of an impact this movie left on its cast, crew, the audience, and movie fans. It's a pretty excellent and well-rounded documentary that looks back at how big of a landmark this movie was for the time, and the status it still holds today as a true masterpiece of the horror genre.
The disc is rounded off with the theatrical trailer and some DVD-ROM extras.
Now, this is a tricky DVD to recommend. First off, Night of the Living Dead comes Highly Recommend to the few movie enthusiasts and even casual viewers who have yet to watch Night of the Living Dead. It's a great film, full of tension, eerie moments, all of which leads to the now-infamous ending. However, fans of modern movies may not enjoy this movie, but, regardless, this piece of movie history deserves to be watched. Now, for those who already own previous editions of this movie, you may want to rent it before deciding whether or not to purchase it. Personally, I believe the newly remastered transfer and the feature-length documentary make this a worthy purchase, especially given the low price the DVD is available for. But, with that said, I'd still recommend to hang on to Night of the Living Dead (Millenium Edition) if you own it, as the extras on that release are pretty astounding, and actually compliment the documentary found here. Night of the Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition is definitely worth owning, especially with the newly remastered transfer and feature-length documentary.
Night of the Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition is now available on DVD.