3. Night of the Living Dead

3. Night of the Living Dead (1968). Once upon a time, zombies were interesting. And they were made interesting because of a nobody filmmaker named George Romero working outside of Pittsburgh, who decided to revamp a minor horror movie trope (the zombie) into a vehicle for community and Cold War terror. Radiation (or something) causes the dead to start walking again, and, despite how slow and stupid they are, we just can’t seem to work together long enough to survive wave after wave of our re-animated neighbors coming to devour our flesh. Talk about an allegory for the American political system. Once Duane Jones (a black man) was cast as Ben, Romero didn’t re-write the dialogue or how the other characters responded to him—but Jones did modify the lines for his own performance. He elevated the speech of a “simple” (initially white) trucker to be clearer and without some of the more cartoonish affectations. Suddenly, an average Joe working man (who happens to be black) could be the responsible, strong, and intelligent lead in a 1960s film. What could be more politically subversive than that?

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