RiffTrax celebrates Halloween with Night of the Living Dead

by Mark Burger

It seems only appropriate that the popular RiffTrax team would have something special planned for the Halloween season, and indeed they do….

On Thursday, Oct. 24, NCM Fathom Events joins forces once again with RiffTax and IGN to present RiffTrax Live:

Night of the Living

Dead, which will be screened at more than 600 theaters nationwide and locally in Greensboro at the Brassfield Cinema 10 and Greensboro Grande Stadium 16, and in Winston-Salem at the Grand 18 Winston- Salem IMAX. The show begins at 7 pm.

Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett have reunited to provide outrageous, ongoing commentary on George A. Romero’s legendary 1968 cult classic, the cinematic template by which all other — too many — zombie movies have aspired to equal… with limited success.

Undoubtedly one of the films for which the city of Pittsburgh is best known, Night of the Living Dead tells the dark and grim tale of a land populated by the living dead. Was it caused by a satellite that crashlanded to Earth nearby? It hardly matters for a small group of survivors trying desperately to fend off the onslaught of a rapidly-increasing zombie army.

The cast includes Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Bill Hinzman, Russell Streiner, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley and Kyra Schon.

The film became a bona-fide cult classic and one of the premier midnight movies of all time, continuing to run until well into the 1980s. Romero followed up with Dawn of the Dead in 1979 and Day of the Dead in 1985, and with the recent onslaught of zombie movies (including remakes of all three Romero films), he returned to the fold with Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009).

“Halloween is a time to celebrate the simple things: neighbor kids begging at your door, cleaning splattered eggs off your car window and, of course, laughing along with the classic zombie movie that kick-started the genre,” observes RiffTrax creator/co-host Nelson in an official statement. “We’re thrilled to be riffing along with a great print of this much-loved film!” For 11 years, Nelson, Murphy and Corbett were part of the core team of the cult series “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” in which the crew of the Satellite of Love — stranded in outer space — was forced to watch transmissions of the worst movies ever made on Earth, which they commented upon with ribald wit and addlebrained insight. Not only did “MST3K” amass a sizable worldwide following, but it also drew attention to scores of movies best forgotten. During its lengthy run, the series earned two Emmy nominations (both times for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program), and in 1993 received the prestigious Peabody Award.

With the cancellation of “MST3K” in 1999, after 197 episodes and even a feature film released in 1995, the series lives on in syndication — as well as in the hearts and minds of its fervent fans.

But in 2006, Nelson reunited with Murphy and Corbett to continue the tradition with “RiffTrax,” a series of downloads presented in the same style as the earlier series, with running commentary. These were followed by a series of live events that proved so popular that the “RiffTrax” screenings were born. Previous Rifftrax offerings have included Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), the indescribable Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) and, more recently, Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 sci-fi blowout Starship Troopers, which proved so popular that encore screenings had to be scheduled.

Night of the Living Dead is not rated (having been made before the MPAA’s ratings system), but it’s definitely not for the squeamish.

Tickets at Greensboro Grande are $12.50.

Tickets at Brassfield are $11.50 (general admission), $10.50 (senior citizens) and $9.50 (children under 12). Tickets at the Grand 18 are $12.50. For advance tickets or more information, check out Fathom-