Night of the Living Dead is the first film that created the concept of the modern understanding of the Undead or “zombie”. Although the term wouldn’t be directly associated until much later. The word zombie comes from Haitian folklore, where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of the reanimation of the dead do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as carriers, radiation, mental diseases, vectors, pathogens, scientific accidents, and so on.
Filmed in 1968, directed, photographed, and edited by George A. Romero, and co-written by John Russo, The Night of The Living Dead is about a night of survival against the unstoppable force of the undead who’s army is endless. Starring Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea, the story follows seven survivors who are trapped in a small farmhouse in Pennsylvania.
The film would eventually end up in the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, as a film deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The film was seen to have political meaning and it’s graphic nature was ground breaking for the time in horror history. Most notably however, Duane Jones would be considered the first African American in a leading roll in cinema history, and a hero roll at that.
Night of the Living Dead led to numerous sequels, also directed by Romero, and two remakes. The film established the cinematic concept of the undead and inspired acclaimed films and TV shows such as the Prime-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winning show, among several others, The Walking Dead.