Meaning • Text: the meaning created by either written word, images or moving images • Does the Canon matter? • “What was the film about?” • “What does the film say?” • Does the author ultimately matter? The original intent?
Latent Image • After graduating Carnegie Mellon University George Romero formed a film company (Latent Image) • In 1967 after having a successful business Romero along with his partners came up with the idea for Night of the Living Dead
IMAGE 10 • Romero’s company contacted Pittsburgh-based industrial film firm called Hardman Associates, Inc., and pitched their idea for a then-untitled horror film • Romero’s Company joined with them and formed Image 10 • They raised 114,000 for Night of the Living Dead
Low Budget Film • Black and White Film Stock • A “Cheap Monster Movie” • Shot north of Pittsburgh in rural Butler County • Concept with minimal special effects • Blood is chocolate syrup and the entrails/flesh came from an actor who owned a chain of butcher shops • $114,000 • After a decade of re-releases it made 30 million internationally
Historical Context • Vietnam era United States • Race Relations (Casting Duane Jones as the hero was in 1968, potentially controversial) • In 1964, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role in Lilies of the Field.[Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 1967—top box office star • Assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X • Counterculture
Premiered on October 1, 1968 at the Fulton Theater in Pittsburgh as a Saturday afternoon matinee—preteens and adolescents were there. The rating system wasn’t present until November of 1968, so children were present. "They were used to going to movies, sure, and they'd seen some horror movies before, sure, but this was something else." According to Roger Ebert(who was present), the film affected the audience immediately.
Themes • Like Franz Kafka's (1992) classic story of 1914, "Metamorphosis” it dramatizes the bewildering and uncanny transformation of human beings into non-human forms. --Bright Lights Film Journal
Genre Elements • Science Fiction: Macrocosmic • Horror: Microcosmic
Plausibility • Zombie Outbreak (fantastical) • Documentary like feel • Still photographs • Audience is asked to believe that the horrific events depicted could be happening (now.) • Asks us to believe that there are rational explanations for the zombie's existence
Taboo Taboo: is a strong social prohibition (or ban) relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and forbidden Cannibalism Matricide
Structure • beginning (the graveyard scene), • a middle (the defense of the farmhouse) • end (conclusion) • there are no forward jumps or flashbacks • (seemingly real time) • the film's uncomplicated narrative structure produces a concentrated, taut drama, uncompromised by digressions or subplots.
Order/Disorder • Does the possibility not exist of narrative moving toward the establishment of a different order, or, quite simply, toward irreparable and irreversible breakdown (which would leave the reader/viewer the options of despair or the task of imagining alternatives)? (Wood, 2003: 220) • Raymond Williams' argument, in his Modern Tragedy (1966), that tragedy consists not simply in the deaths of great leaders, but in the heroic and pointless destruction of "ordinary" people in their struggles for democracy.
Obsession with Apocalypse • America is about radical social change and indicates, he argues, just how concerned America is to preserve the status quo. • Romero's film emerged at a time of strong public disapproval of the American military involvement in Vietnam, during which criticisms of patriotism — while deeply offensive to the American establishment — were becoming commonplace. • nuclear holocaust • (Christian) resurrected on Judgment Day: indeed, like their biblical counterparts, they are mute. • Freudian terms, the "return of the repressed"
Communication, Alienation, and Isolation • interpersonal communication through dialogue • focusing on the ways in which our preconceptions of others make us suspicious and even hostile towards them, and the lies we tell to ourselves and to others. • The media is omnipresent. Early in the film, there is a lengthy scene in which Ben and Barbra don't speak, but listen to the radio • who is the enemy? At first it seems obvious that it is the zombies; later, however, as the paranoid human beings fight among themselves, the distinction between human beings and zombies becomes blurred.
Human failure of cooperation • Cooper locking himself up in basement • restoration of family values is seen as the answer to social problemsin many other films—(denied in this film) • Night of the Living Dead is set at a time of racial upheaval and protest in America. • At the time, to many people, it seemed as though there might be a race war in America. Conservative, reactionary discussions of this possibility often focused — as they sometimes do today — on the possibility that "we" might soon be outnumbered by "them.”
Hegemony • Domination of a diverse culture by a ruling class • Beliefs, explanations, perceptions and values • Perpetuates universally dominant ideology that justifies the social, political and economic status quo as natural, inevitable perpetual and beneficial for everyone • The absence of the identity of the ruling class (they are invisible while all others have an identity) • “I don’t see race”
Gender • Women are represented as weak, hysterical and infantilized
What emotions are you feeling at the end of this film? • How does your experience of this film differ from other horror films that you have seen? • If the social upheaval of the late 60’s made the zombie apocalypse resonate then, what makes it resonate today?
Where do we see dominance play out? • Race • Gender • Religion • What else?