The first time I saw George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was back when I was in high school, and even though I thought the first 15 minutes of the movie were pretty exciting, the living dead hadn't really done anything by that point to make me fear them. In the first real confrontation between the living and the dead, Duane Jones’ Ben finishes off three walking corpses without too much effort, and the six or seven that were left surrounding the farmhouse didn’t seem like much of a threat. Honestly, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.
Then, a few minutes later, about a dozen or so dead were hanging around…then two dozen…then about fifty…then a hundred. Before I knew it, “no real threat” had become an impenetrable wall of death. This, for me, is the real magic of Night of the Living Dead, and the reason why its success has never been duplicated: the film is incredibly patient. It works on you, slowly breaking down your sense of security before snatching it away without a moment’s notice.
So much for not being scared; after 25 years and about two dozen viewings, I still can’t watch Night of the Living Dead with the lights off.