I’ll say this for 20 Horror Movies for $5 — they had the restraint to not include Night of the Living Dead in yet another collection.
The more entertaining film would be the explanation of how this fell into the public domain and how many people George Romero killed after he got that phone call. That would be fascinating — not enough to actually do 30 seconds of research — but fascinating all the same.
OK, I put in the 30 seconds and found an excellent article that explains it very well. Apparently no one was killed, and an argument can be made that it all turned out for the best. Still, all the people who took advantage of a now-defunct legal technicality to hijack the movie are like Homer Simpson mocking the Suggested Donation sign at the museum.
Johnny and Barbra’s car appears as a speck on the horizon of a bleak landscape just like Peter O’Toole in the famous shot in Lawrence of Arabia; except the bleak landscape they are in is Pennsylvania.
They are making the annual trip to place flowers on their father’s grave. There are a few lines that could have launched Tarantinoesque dialogue about Daylight Savings Time, and about what happens to the flowers that are left every day by mourners. But that passes pretty quickly.
As Johnny is making fun of his sister for being afraid in the cemetery, she is grabbed by an old man who has shambled up from a tiny blip in the background just like their Pontiac (a company which has a future about the same as the old man’s, BTW).
Johnny is actually kind of a dick — driving gloves, really? — but I will say he immediately jumps in when the man grabs his sister. Unfortunately, he falls and is knocked out, leaving the man to pursue Barbra. She runs to the car, losing her shoes in the process — another Tarantino trademark. Johnny has the keys, but she cleverly puts it in neutral and lets it roll down the hill as the man continues after her. Not so cleverly, Danica Patrick here manages to run into a tree while racing along at 10 MPH. Luckily there is a farmhouse nearby that she is able to break into.
Soon she is joined by Ben at the farmhouse. If this is anything like the farm on The Walking Dead, this movie will be a year long and feel like five (but there will be hot farmer’s daughters). Ben goes outside and dispatches several zombies with a tire iron (although the word zombie is never used). As others intrude into the house, he takes care of them too. Unfortunately, Barbra is so scared she is in a near-zombie state herself.
After Ben has done all the hard work of zombie-proofing the house, Harry Cooper and Tom emerge from the basement. There is immediately an argument about whether to stay upstairs or retreat to the basement. Ben is set up to be the rational character, but it is Harry that actually has the more sensible strategy — stay in the basement. But he’s white, bald and wearing a tie so his opinion is worthless. Finally Tom brings his girlfriend Judy upstairs and Cooper goes back to the basement with his wife and sick daughter.
Later, in an effort to gas a truck up to flea to a safe-zone in Willard (although that area might be overrun by rats), Tom and Judy are killed in an explosion. Ben is able to make it back to the house, but Cooper is more interested in getting back to the basement than in opening the door for Ben. Once Ben is able to kick his way in, he understandably gets medieval on Cooper’s ass.
These zombies are smarter than The Walking Dead zombies — at least they have a rudimentary understanding of tools. They begin using stones and pieces of wood to break into the house. As Ben tries to hold the window, Cooper tries to steal his shotgun. Ben shoots him which really was unnecessary. He does, at least, manage to fall down the stairs to his beloved basement — where he dies, his zombie daughter begins eating him, and their daughter kills Mom with a garden trowel.
Barbra finally become coherent again just in time for the next wave of zombie attacks. She is pulled out by her glove-wearing brother. As all the doors and windows begin to give way to the zombie hordes, Ben heads to the basement for safety . . . hey maybe everyone would still alive if he . . . nawwwww.
With no fresh meat, the zombies just wander around upstairs mindlessly moaning and bumping into things like a cocktail party as Ben waits it out in . . . the safety of the basement.
The next morning, Ben hears the clean-up crew carrying guns, killing the remaining zombies and figures it is safe to come upstairs. The whole movie could have been an advertisement for the 2nd Amendment and NRA. Well, except for some yahoo blowing Ben’s head off at the end.
- I cheated and watched a cleaner version on Amazon Prime. They have a couple to choose from — the 40th Anniversary Edition seemed to have the best transfer.