By GRACE DETWILER
Directed and Produced by Ryan Mains
Hollywood Suite Original
A strong argument could be made that there is no classic horror movie more relevant to our current era than George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. What the new documentary from Hollywood Suite, RAISING THE DEAD: RE-EXAMINING NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, captures so brilliantly is the ways in which the film’s handling of themes such as mass contagion and racial conflict hold the same weight today as they did in 1968. Released in both a full color and black and white version, to mirror Night of the Living Dead’s original print, Ryan Main’s documentary tells the unlikely story of how a practically budget-less film full of amateur actors would go on to inspire every zombie film, and perhaps every horror film, that came after.
In a series of interviews from cast members and horror film writers, experts, and enthusiasts, intermingled with clips from the original film, RAISING THE DEAD explores how Romero’s work wrote the rules for the modern zombie handbook and impacted the lives of many future filmmakers and horror fans alike. Rue Morgue readers will also be happy to see the magazine’s own Andrea Subissati appearing as one of the film’s key narrative voices. Additionally discussed in RAISING THE DEAD is the deep positive impact knowing Romero personally had on his colleagues and friends, as well as his kindness and generosity to the fans of his films.
Particularly striking is the account of how Duane Jones, one of the few trained actors on set, came to be a part of the film. While he was reportedly chosen simply because he was the best man for the job, the legacy of his role as one of horror’s only black leading men, and the clear hero of the film, is still incredibly strong today. His character’s fate shines a bright light on the ways in which human prejudice can be the true monster both on the screen and in real life. I can only imagine how eye-opening his performance must have been to an audience in 1968, when seeing a black man in such a powerful leading role can still be groundbreaking today, as in Jordan Peele’s masterpiece Get Out.
At a snappy 35-minute runtime, RAISING THE DEAD is certainly worth both your time and attention. As you spend time at home during this pandemic, consider revisiting Night of the Living Dead re-contextualized by Ryan Main’s illuminating documentary, even if a zombie outbreak might feel a little too close for comfort. RAISING THE DEAD, on demand now on Hollywood Suite’s streaming platform, will have its live premiere May 29th at 9:00 pm ET on the Hollywood Suite 70s Movies channel, followed by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, as an homage to Romero’s everlasting impact on the zombie-flick genre as we know it today.