With the taste of human flesh in their mouths, the zombies head for the house and start breaking in. Mom retreats to the cellar, where she is promptly killed by her daughter with a trowel, in a brutal scene that was quite shocking for me and the other kids to witness. The fact that she was snacking on her dead dad before she kills her mom was also another taboo broken. Barbra, in yet another taboo-breaking scene, is pulled through the door to her doom by her now undead brother. The one person she apparently relied on for her protection and security.
And Ben, who did not want to retreat to the basement, now has no other option. He locks himself in, and has to shoot mom and dad as they become hungry undead themselves. Society and it's precepts fall apart as the zombies fill the house, looking for their next living victim.
When morning comes, Ben is still alive, but in an ironic twist of faith, his rescuers, the all-white militia patrolling the woods to kill zombies, kills him with a bullet to the head in the mistaken belief that he is a zombie. So no one survives; not even the upwardly mobile and educated Ben. That was a real downer.
I left the theatre that evening shaken, and no longer secure in the commonplace. George Romero had brought ghastly horror home, both figuratively and literally, and the course of future horror films would follow the same path, to the dismay of parents and censors in the decades since then, and probably for the decades to come.
Night of the Living Dead stands as a classic horror film because it deals with social and cultural themes as they existed in 1968, and more importantly, as they still exist today.
Quick, pretend we're undead. Perhaps the zombies and would-be rescuers will not notice us and go bother somebody else. One can only hope.