George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential horror films of all time. Shot on a low budget on black and white film, Night depicts an America under siege from reanimated corpses. The action centres around a motley group of survivors holed up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, besieged by flesh-eating ghouls. Romero’s focus on tensions between members of this makeshift community resonates with contemporary racial and gender conflicts and, in addition to its shockingly visceral content, the film’s impact lay in its engagement with contemporary social upheaval – Vietnam and the peace movement, the civil rights struggle, assassinations and escalating urban tensions.
Benjamin Hervey’s study of the film is the first to provide a close analysis of the film and an in-depth account of its reception. Drawing on original archival research, Hervey traces how the film quickly gained cult status, while at the same time it was hailed as a piece of art cinema and as a deep political allegory. Hervey analyses the film scene-by-scene, detailing how the scoring, editing, photography and lighting came together to overall powerful effect. He provides a richly detailed historical context for his reading of the film, showing, for example, how scenes in Night directly relate to contemporary news coverage of Vietnam.