Dead of Night [1945]

George Romero's classic 1968 zombie-fest (shot in black and white) offers some disturbing images, even decades later. In a Pittsburgh suburb people are being stalked by zombies ravenous for human flesh. In a house whose occupant has already been slain, two separate groups of people unite and board themselves in, hoping to fend off the advancing ghouls. Through radio and TV reports they learn that radiation from outer space is thought to be responsible for the wave of zombie attacks all over the eastern United States. Once the humans are trapped, Romero shifts the focus to the internal feuding between them as they decide how to handle their dreadful situation. What unfolds is an examination of human nature, and of the fear and selfishness that keep many citizens from getting involved in the world's problems. Appropriately, both the zombies and the authorities who later hunt them are equally soulless. This film could also be read as a criticism of white males--it is not merely a coincidence that the film's two most rational, constructive characters are a woman and a black man. It is also no coincidence that the sequel takes place in a mall infested by the undead--a perfect analogy for consumer culture. --Bryan Reeseman

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