Basically, I am a horror nut. I watch the movies, I look at the magazines, I check out the websites, and I write the stories. Most people limit their horror intake and conservatively save it simply for Halloween time. Not me, I try to employ these fright feelings all year long. This is what I did one time.
It was October 1991 and I went to a film location that was the place where a previously unprecedented horror movie had been filmed. A place that was deeply important to me and quite dear to my heart. Of course, it being the one single film that absolutely terrified me would probably have a lot to do with it too… For, it was the only movie to date, that had scared me so much that it gave my eight-year-old mind nightmares and forced me to sleep in my parent’s bedroom for a few subsequent nights. However, that initial scare has since worn off. But, I still, to this day, make it a habit of watching this film quite regularly and keep that initial fright I had once felt…tightly nestled inside.
In 1968, America was terrified by a movie. This wasn’t a Hollywood blockbuster, nor was it even a Hollywood product. Not one single Hollywood distributor would even touch it and considered it to be too disturbing of a film. It wasn’t directed by an Academy Award winning director, nor was there any established actors or actresses in it. Little did they know that this film was destined to become a cult classic and they certainly didn’t expect that it would be the beginning of a whole new previously largely unexplored genre?
This film opened in Pittsburgh at the Fulton Theater on October 1st, 1968 as an afternoon matinee. The lack, at the time, of a movie rating system ensured that many children would see a scary and gruesome movie that they weren’t accustomed or even prepared mentally to see. One that would remain etched in their memories for life.
This film which cost $114,000 to make, is now in 25 languages, and has grossed 12 million domestically, and 30 million internationally. In 1969, it was known as Europe’s highest grossing film and in 1999, the Library of Congress National Film Registry listed it as “Historically, culturally, or aesthetically important.”
This film was a low budget black and white, which used chocolate syrup and mortician’s wax for special effects, while the wardrobe consisted of second hand clothes.
This film used locations around a town 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by the name of Evans City. This is where, on Franklin Road, the Evans City Cemetery is located. This is where the beginning of the film’s scenes was shot. This is where, I was fortunate enough to stand in the exact locations that the filmmaker had. I felt the eeriness all over again…the eeriness that I still savor and hold sacred in my memory.
I casually walked around and explored the various locations that were in the film and still visible including; the gravel driveway that leads up to the cemetery; the bullet holes in the road sign that Johnny and Barbara passed on the way in; and the tree that Barbara crashed the car into while being chased by those ungodly characters. I even took a little piece of the bark from that tree just for my own personal posterity. All the while I was thinking the film’s scenes through over and over in my head and feeling just a little bit of that horror that I had felt as a kid while initially viewing the film. It was a wonderful, as well as somewhat eerie feeling. Afterward, I was compelled to rush home to watch it yet, once again.
This film is a classic suspenseful horror and is often shown on or around Halloween. It is a film that is now in the public domain and free to download at various websites. It has gone through many revisions from colorization to remakes and was the beginning of George A. Romero’s horror movie career.
The film… was “Night of the Living Dead.”