Celebrating 54 years of terror, George A. Romero’s iconic Night of the Living Dead rises from the grave to nosh on a new three-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection. The film that influenced generations of independent horror filmmakers looks better than ever. Even without HDR, the 4K transfer picks up some clear improvements in details while the same audio track and bonus features return from the grave to haunt your collection. MUST OWN - Especially if you haven't picked it up already, THIS is the release to add to the shelf.
The bodies of the recently deceased have returned to life… and they are very hungry! For a group of survivors in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse, the nightmare is just beginning. As they struggle to understand what is happening mere feet from their barricaded door, egos and disagreements may doom them all as they try to figure out how to reach safety.
I’ve already reviewed this film a couple of times now so I’ll refer you to those shortly, but suffice to say, Night of the Living Dead may well be my absolute favorite horror film. Growing up in rural Michigan surrounded by farmhouses on back roads no one ever heard of, it was a real fear I had that if anything went wrong, who would come for us? If there was a fire, it’d take response vehicles ages to get to our home. If there was a break-in, the thief would be long gone before police arrived. If there was a zombie attack, there were too many windows and glass doors to board up. I was a teenager the first time I saw this movie and it terrified me then and it still scares me today. Whenever I move to a new apartment or house, I always look over the windows and doors to figure out my exits or how to board the place up just in case the Zombie Apocalypse does happen.
Whether he intended to or not, George Romero ignited a terrifying spark within horror cinema. The “Zombie” was a very different sort of mindless figure than the roving band of flesh-eaters he created. Thanks to George, co-writer John Russo, and his great cast including Duane Jones, Judith O’dea, Karl Hardman, and Russ Streiner (who also co-produced NOLD), we have a story that taps into the deep dark corners of our delicious brains triggering that latent fight or flight response. Night of the Living Dead creeps into your spine, grabbing your nervous system and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you look about your own surroundings assessing all possible points of danger.
Multiple sequels and remakes later, Night of the Living Dead still terrifies over fifty years after its premiere. While Romero expanded his universe and examined various facets of terror through the lens of his walking dead, nothing has quite topped this bleak original film. Within the context of 1960s America, it manifests to underscore a variety of themes from counter-culture, the dangers of conformity, and ongoing racial tensions. In a short amount of time, the film covers a number of themes and ideas without overplaying its hand. The best horror movies are the ones that grab you, scare you in the moment, and make you think afterward haunting those last few waking moments before you drift off into your own dark dreams and nightmares. This movie does that perfectly.
Here are our previous Blu-ray Reviews for George Romero's Night of the Living Dead - Enjoy!
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra Blu-ray
Four years after their fantastic Blu-ray release, The Criterion Collection digs up a new three-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Night of the Living DEad. The 4K disc is pressed on a BD-100 disc with the 1080p version scoring its own BD-50 while an additional BD-50 disc is reserved for bonus features. All three discs are now housed in a three-disc clear Scanavo case instead of the digipack of the previous Blu-ray disc. Also included is the same poster/essay insert. Spine number is 909.
Night of the Living Dead digs itself up for a new 2160p 1.37:1 presentation. Essentially this is the same gorgeous 4K restoration Criterion used for their Blu-ray, just in full SDR 2160p - and it is beautiful. Depending on how you’re set-up, you may not see a massive apples to oranges difference from the Blu-ray to the 4K disc, but there are some subtleties worth noting. Early on, it’s not easy to spot the differences between the well-lit daytime scenes but when the action moves to the shadowy night sequences the improvements in shading and detail start to come to life. Again, maybe not a huge difference maker, but certainly a discernible one at that. I felt like fine lines and textures were certainly tighter and clearer and the already nice-looking film grain looks even more natural and cinematic. Grayscale is beautiful throughout allowing for some terrific shading nuances. If you’re happy with Criterion’s 2018 disc, this may not be the biggest improvement to make you run to the store on the release date to upgrade. The best way to put it is this is a superior presentation of an already immaculate release.
Now, ArtHaus out of Germany will be releasing their own 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Night of the Living Dead in November. Now when this release was first announced, the specs indicated HDR - that has since been changed to SDR. I’ve reached out for clarification on that issue but so far haven’t heard back. I also don’t know if the same Criterion/Janus Films restoration was used for this transfer or not so that’s another big X-factor. There have been MANY releases of this film on Blu-ray all over the world so it may be a different restoration entirely. With that, I’ve preordered it and will review it as soon as it arrives.
As with the previous Blu-ray from Criterion, this disc comes with an excellent LPCM audio track. I’ve owned this movie on a variety of formats (and with numerous copies of each format) over the years and this is hands down the best I’ve ever heard for this film. It’s clean clear and easy to hear. Past discs had muddy dialog or the score would worble or sound effects were muted or altered or there could be so much hiss and pop that it’d be completely inaudible. That’s not the case here at all. There’s still some lingering hiss and around some of the odd jump cuts those pops are still present but they’re nowhere near as terrible as they have sounded in past releases.
The same set of extensive and highly entertaining and informative bonus features is carried over for this release. If you’ve never given these extras your attention, it’s time you dig in and have a feast! You have multiple commentary tracks, the pre-release version of the film, with tons of archival and brand new interviews and featurettes to devour.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Blu-ray Disc One
Blu-ray Disc Two
I am a hardened Night of the Living Dead fan. Have been ever since the first time I watched it on a dark stormy night. I’ve been a dutiful fan of Romero’s work and the cinematic zombie apocalypse he unleashed. I’ve watched this movie countless times over the years pinning it as a true favorite "can’t live on a deserted island without it film." The Criterion Collection already issued a masterful Blu-ray release in 2018 and today they sweeten the deal with a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. While the overall benefits from the 1080p to 2160p without HDR may be subjective, this disc does absolutely offer the superior presentation. Whether or not it’s worth the immediate upgrade value will depend largely on your setup and even then how huge a fan you are of the film. That 2018 Blu-ray is a tough one to top. If you were to point blank ask me if it's worth the upgrade; I’m biased there so I can’t answer for you because it’d just be an emphatic “yes!” However, if you don't have it already, then it's an easier answer. Must Own - especially if you haven’t already added the excellent 2018 Criterion release to your shelf.