Rifftrax Live! Night of the Living Dead Review: A Flesh-Feast of Hilarity

Sit down with three hilarious men making fun of a 1960s classic!
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George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead has entered the pantheon of pop culture as the first zombie film - at least in the incarnation we know today.  Anchored by a social commentary on race, the movie still holds its weight in that regard, although the rest has devolved into campiness.  Thankfully, the trio of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy are able to bring life into this black and white classic with their latest Rifftrax Live! event.  A flesh feast of a good time was had, jokes were made (some incredibly risqué compared to past events), and a community of film fans were able to appreciate this classic in a hilariously new light.

The 1968 horror classic follows a group of survivors (led by Duane Jones) who hole up in a farmhouse during the zombie apocalypse.  Chaos ensues, annoying white people yell, and the ending is still a harsh commentary against prejudice and racism.  When the movie came out in ‘68 it was considered a landmark for horror.  The trio of Corbett, Nelson, and Murphy obviously know their stuff as their commentary during the movie is a hilarious mix of jokes older people will get, jokes younger people will get (there were two Miley Cyrus jokes), and general comments on the flaws within the film.  

The latter category had me in stitches as the trio took note of uncovered windows, poor character decisions, and the sheer annoyance of Judith O’Dea as Barbra; a character so annoying, one of the men wanted Jones to “take her out back” and put her out of her misery.  The Rifftrax formula works, not simply because it feels you’re watching a movie with friends, but because they create running jokes which pay off; a running gag about characters talking off-camera is ingenious.  Our three riffers have been doing this for over a decade and they haven’t lost any steam.  Night of the Living Dead is a film about racism underneath the zombie exterior so there’s a few jokes made at the expense of the white characters - and a hysterical To Kill a Mockingbird joke to please all the classic film buffs.  The movie is good, but watching it with the Rifftrax gang felt like the ultimate film experience, and does a good deal towards modernizing this classic.

On top of the movie you have the traditional Rifftrax slide show featuring twisted bits of horror movie trivia and the amazingly detailed Rifftrax songs.  The songs are the best part for me, going all the way back to the group’s MST3K days.  I wasn’t able to catch all the titles, but the 1980s Scorpions-esque throwback, “Missile to My Heart” was amazingly well-written and toe-tappy.  The group also presented a short film from the infamous “Norman” series of films, entitled “Norman Makes a Speech” tells of the titular depressed hero attempting to make a speech without unleashing a swath of Rube Goldberg devices.  

All in all, Rifftrax Live! Night of the Living Dead was the best Halloween experience of the year.  Corbett, Nelson, and Murphy are on fire, as always, and the film is only enlarged in hilarity by their riffing.  On its own merits, Night of the Living Dead is a solid zombie movie with a stark social message which can get lost within the cheese and screaming.  If you missed out on this Rifftrax event, fingers crossed a DVD copy of the event will be released as has happened with past events.  The trio returns on December 5th with a live show devoted to Santa Claus vs. the Martians!

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