Imagine a time when zombie films as we know them today didn’t exist. Moreover, imagine that the concept of uncontrollable, flesh eating corpses, and brutal gore shown on screen, was so far outside the scope of the horror genre as to be completely unthinkable.
That’s the world film critic Roger Ebert lived in when he attended an afternoon matinee of Night of the Living Dead in the summer of 1969. People were so in the dark about the shocking nature of this groundbreaking film that the theater was packed with little children looking forward to taking a break from Chicago’s summer heat, and watching something along the lines of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Needless to say, that’s not what they got.
Here is a snippet of Ebert’s review in Reader’s Digest (Junes, 1969):
“There was almost complete silence. The movie had long ago stopped being delightfully scary, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. A little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, was sitting very still in her seat and crying.
I don’t think the younger kids really knew what hit them. They’d seen horror movies before, but this was something else. This was ghouls eating people – you could actually see what they were eating. This was little girls killing their mothers. This was being set on fire. Worst of all, nobody got out alive – even the hero got killed.”
The poor parents. Their simple plan to get some peace and quiet by shipping their children off to the movies for the afternoon turned into a lifetime of nightmares and therapy sessions.
What is your first memory of really being scared by a zombie film?