Traumafession:: Director Chris Moore on Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I wasn’t usually allowed to watch horror films as a kid unless they were rated PG (or possibly PG-13 if my folks were feeling liberal) or if they were on TV where all the gore, sex, nudity, and language would be cut out. The general rule was that, if it was made before 1970 or so, it was probably okay for me to see. With this rule in place, I tried my hardest to find whatever appropriate horror films I could get my hands on. 

One night, while browsing the aisles of my favorite mom and pop video store, Video Library, I saw it. It was staring back at me, taunting me with its bright pink border surrounding a garish and gory piece of art in the middle. It reminded me of the outside of those cheap haunted house rides I’d see at the state fair every October. People were chewing on human flesh, a car was on fire, and a bloody woman was screaming at the bottom. I had to know what horrors were contained inside this tape!

I brought the tape to my father who inspected it, looked at the back of it, and nodded with approval. It was black and white and not rated. How bad could it be? He even said he’d watch it with me in case I got too scared. “Night of the Living Dead!”, he said. “I remember this one. You’ll be fine.”

We got back home, popped the tape in the VCR, and the film started with a static shot of an old country road like many of the ones we had on the outskirts of town. The music was foreboding, but I had my dad there. What could go wrong?

While the first scene did make me uncomfortable, I didn’t get the first true jolt until Barbara got to the farm house, went upstairs, and saw the decomposing head on the staircase. I shrieked when she did and covered my eyes. Maybe I wasn’t ready for this. 

I got my wits together and powered through the rest of the movie, still uncomfortable and terrified I’d have to see that terrifying head again. This movie wasn’t like the Vincent Price horror movies I’d seen. This was stark, brutal, and took no prisoners. No one was safe, including the audience. 

It wasn’t until young Karen came towards her mother in the basement that I started feeling like I couldn’t breathe and I might not be able to handle the rest of this movie. As she approached her hapless mother and grabbed a garden tool off the wall, I could feel my palms getting sweaty. Surely, they weren’t going to show this, were they? As Karen backed her mother into a corner and started stabbing her to death, I ran out of the room, screaming. 

I didn’t see the rest of the film for at least another decade and, if you want to know the truth, every time I see that scene, I still want to run out of the room. Thank you, George Romero, for giving me one of my first true horror film experiences. 

UNK SEZ: Our good pal Director Chris Moore (BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN, TRIGGERED, A STRANGER AMONG THE LIVING) has an awesome new movie out called CHILDREN OF SIN and as usual, it’s as thought provoking as it is fright inducing! Check out the trailer HERE!

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Chuckles72
Chuckles72
3 months ago

When I was a kid, mere descriptions of horror movies and scenes could scare the crap out of me.

My cousin Roger could not shut up about the skull-drilling orb in Phantasm – “And then mustard starts shooting out of the guy’s forehead!”

A kid I knew in elementary school, Robbie Farinelli, talked up a movie that he called “Goblin” but I don’t know if that was the actual name – “And they come into the room and the bed is soaked in blood, but it is just blood because the goblin ate the rest of them!” (RIP Rob, just spell-checked his name and got the sad news).

And then there was my namesake uncle’s detailed, gleeful blow-by-blow of Night of the Living Dead – “You should have seen it – they were eating guts like spaghetti!” “The little girl turns into a zombie and kills her mom!” “Everybody dies in the end – I guess the world gets taken over by zombies!”

Thinking back on it now, Uncle Charlie’s kind of inaccurate and terrifying description of NoTLD may have set the stage for some major zombo-phobia that experienced in later years….

Caffeinated Joe
3 months ago

It is a creepy film. My sister-in-law was so freaked out by it, all we had to say was “They’re coming to get you, Barbara…” and she would get creeped out all over again.