Is the new Criterion Blu-ray edition of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead worth purchasing? I’m of two minds on this question. Part of the eerie charm of the original edition is its low budget–its grainy black-and-white film, cheap sets, tinny music, and actors nobody ever heard of.
The Criterion edition attempts to enhance the cheap black-and-white print with Blu-ray technology. But do we really want it enhanced? Doesn’t enhancement take away part of the sinister charm of the grungy original?
On the other hand, it’s good to see that the movie is getting the attention it deserves from its groundbreaking reenvisioning of the zombie as a flesh-eating creature that feeds on living humans. Before this movie, zombies lumbered around with their eyes bugging out of their heads, looking spooky, but they were harmless. They were the walking dead without a bloodthirsty appetite, as in Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie.
Then along came George Romero and the invention of the modern zombie in Night of the Living Dead. And the zombie was forever changed. It has now become identified as the monster that is the most terrifying threat to humanity, much more terrifying than vampires and werewolves.