Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever

Joe Kane, 2010, Citadel Press

To begin this review on a major tangent (but stick with me - there's a point to be made)...

It may surprise many to know that I am not, in fact, a particular fan of the iconic zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead. That's not to say I don't appreciate the movie - NotLD did, after all, set the template for the bulk of zombie media to follow. I certainly regard the movie as culturally, historically and socially important, in much the same way as I regard The Buzzcocks as being important to the development of punk music, or Renoir as important to the acceptance of Impressionism (that is, from a purely academic point of view). And I'm a huge fan of all of Romero's other 'Dead' films, But I've never really enjoyed NotLD.

I ascribe this major personal shortcoming to two things: firstly, that by the time I watched this movie for the first time (as a teenager, on VHS, in 1988 or thereabouts), I'd already seen so many cruddy rip-offs of NotLD on late-night TV that everything about this movie seemed old and tired. Secondly, to a teenager living in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1980s, any '60s/U.S.-centric social or political commentary underpinning the movie simply didn't register. It's only as an adult that I've come to truly appreciate and understand all that Night of the Living Dead represents - but sadly, again, any genuine enjoyment of the movie purely as a piece of dark entertainment seems beyond my grasp.

So, what has any of this to do with my review of Joe Kane's behind-the-scenes look at Night of the Living Dead?

Just this: given that a non-fan of NotLD like myself was virtually unable to put down this fascinating tome - I devoured it in a single sitting, in fact - I have no hesitation in recommending Kane's book not only to zombie fans in general, but to anyone who simply enjoys a truly engrossing non-fiction read.

The book certainly seems to have been exhaustively researched, and Kane effortlessly infects the reader with his own obvious passion for NotLD without intruding overly upon the narrative. The author also strikes a near-perfect balance - often difficult to achieve in such guides - between detailing the production details of NotLD (as well as those of co-creators Romero's and Russo's subsequent movies), and delving into the personal development and lives of those responsible for the finished product, as well as clarifying some of the issues surrounding the movie that had previously drifted somewhat into the realm of urban legend (such as the matter of the 'lost copyright' of NotLD, and the nature of the wrangle between Romero and Russo over ownership of the 'living dead' moniker).

In short, Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever is an important, engrossing work, and one which informs and -  I'm happy to say - entertains on many levels. A must-read publication, available internationally through


sare said...

I couldn't make the Halloween fest!!!!! U better be keeping me copies of all the new zombie fiction that's coming in chuck, I expect there to be at least 15 new books with my name on them when I walk in there after the 15th on pay day!!!!!!!! Also, I am doing a new Photoshop zombie artwork series ( maybe looking at a gallery space if I can get enough volunteers, should you like to become zombified send a pic to my email :) sare

chuck said...

Hey Sarah!

Drop me a line via the site email - I won't actually be at work around the 15th, but I've got some real goodies coming in for you!