I was mostly out of it yesterday due to some meds I had to take, but I was up and kind of alert around 8pm and looked around for something to watch. I am a fan of Joe Bob Briggs, and I haven’t had time to watch any episodes from this season, so I fired up the first one for the year.
The special guest was Svengoolie, who is probably the most famous horror host after doing it for decades and having a show on MeTV. The movie was: Night of the Living Dead.
I don’t know if I am a horror film fan (I like them, but I’m not a Fangoria reading, tons of DVDs of horror film, going to horror convention guy), but the Romero movies are my favorites. I loved old movies and after I got over my period of being scared of EVERYTHING as a kid, I would stay up to watch Pywacket Presents after the late movie on Saturday Nights on Channel 8. Pywacket Presents was the horror movie, and while I don’t know when it ended (I am thinking around 1981 – 1982) it started sometime before 1975, because I would watch it after Saturday Night Live.
If I could stay away until the late movie on Channel 8 ended, at least.
Most nights it was a Corman monster movie. Once in a while, they would have a Universal Horror or a recent Godzilla movie, but it was most 50’s black and white monster movies. I saw a LOT of my low budget loves there like Robot Monster, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Crawling Terror, and the like.
By the time I was 12 or so, my parents would go out on Saturday nights, my sisters would be taken to a grandparent’s house, and I could stay home alone. We lived in the middle of nowhere, 3 – 4 miles outside a town of 350 people. I’d watch Saturday Night Live, read comics and watch the Monster movie.
However, one night, it was Night of the Living Dead. On Joe Bob, they said that they scene where the zombies eat the couple who were killed in the truck explosion was edited from the TV version, but it wasn’t edited out of this one. I watched this story of zombies surrounding people barricaded in a house in the middle of nowhere…in a house in the middle of nowhere. It affected me more than any movie I have seen before or since. Not the horror, not the gore. The nihilism. The starkness of it. The look at a civilization falling apart in a couple of days.
I was a kid who grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam war, the Cold War, the mounting fears of nuclear annihilation, the fading embers of the Civil Rights movement as the South and Right Wing realized how to use the levers of power to keep white supremacy in place by going subtle with it, and Watergate. This movie, and the books from the time helped me understand that things were not OK, and they never would be OK.
When Joe Bob Briggs showed it this year, he asked us to watch it like we had never seen it before. I have to admit, I have seen the movie more times than almost any movie in my life, and I even own the Criterion Blu Ray.
But this low budget horror movie, thrown together in bits and pieces, with improved dialogue, and now having the weight of so many interpretations from people layered on top of it, still packs a hell of a punch. I forgot all of the different essays and criticisms and studies and discussions and watched it with fresh eyes.
Tt is still one of the most powerful films ever made, and the characters can stand in for any group of people in conflict.
When Johnny says “They’re coming to get you, Barbara…” he’s not wrong.