1968: The Year That Changed Horror
A member of the Online Film Critics Society, Peter writes for Twitch, the Financial Times, and Rue Morgue. A contributing editor at Metro magazine, and a columnist on blockbuster movies for Screen Education, he also blogs on pop culture at School Library Journal: http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/. Get too-frequent updates about comics, books, movies, and TV via Twitter: @Peter_GutierrezView all articles by Peter Gutiérrez
"Most children are taught to repress their fear of the elderly even as they are being read stories nightly about crones that want to eat them. To me, Rosemary’s Baby showed the oldsters as I secretly suspected they were: cult-like and poisoning everyone with their bad-tasting food that was supposed to be good for you. Doctors are shown to not only be full of hot air, but also with their patients' worst interests at heart… [and then there’s] the little zombie girl in NOTLD. If you go with the popular idea that the film struck a nerve [related to] the horrors of Vietnam, she seems to represent the next generation that these atrocities were committed in order to protect. Her presence and her eventual "turning" seem to reflect a fear that not only were the next generation not going to toe the line and continue with the status quo, but also that they were more likely to resent their inheritance and shove a gardening tool into their parents' backs as a “Thank you.” That's why you still see her image on T-shirts posters and postcards—she's actually a symbol of rebellion. Mom and Dad may have done everything to save her, but now she’s as out of control as their perceived threat."
"Rosemary's Baby drove home a new kind of terror that was brewing already in the hippie cults: the family as a source of fear. Moving into a New York apartment requires a sense of giving up privacy: you have neighbors. In Rosemary's social swirl the helpful elderly couple next door are whom we first fear, and her warranted paranoia grows when she visits her doctor: everyone is in on it.
Polanski lost his mother in the Holocaust and his quest for family, however demonic, is found in Rosemary's struggle, and in the struggle for '60s parents to understand and contain their own children, many lost to drugs and cults and the Vietnam War. Soon Manson's self-created family would rise up and destroy the true family that Polanski made for himself before it could even be born. The '50s painted a perfect family and the '60s annihilated it.Rosemary's Baby was a mirror for that fracture to repair itself. Familial love can be restored, even in a one-parent family, and even if the father is Satan himself. All you need is love..."
—Shade Rupe, author and producer, contributor to Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments
"Night of the Living Dead rocked my world—it was so brutal, so real, such an incessant non-stop assault. This was a case where the horror film truly benefited from being ultra low-budget—the handheld black-and-white camerawork and stark, simple lighting made it look and feel like a documentary. Rather than detract from the film, that cost-effective shooting style made the story more believable."
—Richard Gale, award-winning director of Criticized
"Night of the Living Dead is among the best horror films of the 1960’s—of all time, in fact—because of its relentlessness, its nightmarish world gone mad, and a whole new portrayal of the zombie, a character previously known only as an object of Haitian folklore. The Romero zombie was a genuinely frightening creation. In one groundbreaking movie, Romero combined the monster, the dead coming back to life, and cannibalism. Night of the Living Dead ushered in a whole slew of zombie movies, none coming close to the terror of the original."—Dennis Seuling, genre historian and critic, The Villadom Times (e-mail him for his weekly reviews)
“The horror film from 1968 that sticks with me as an author is Night of the Living Dead. I was too young to see it when it first came out, so I caught it years later. Even so, the film packed a visceral impact. Night of the Living Dead leaves you with a sense that nobody is safe, life isn’t fair, mistakes are made, and that the real horrors aren’t always the ones you can assume or anticipate. All these years later, in writing my own horror fiction, I strive to remember those lessons and use them to deliver terror and suspense to my readers: Don’t get comfortable here. Expect the unexpected. Nobody is safe.”
—John Passarella, Stoker-winning author of Wither and Kindred Spirit