Image Ten’s first and only feature film was based on a short story written by George A. Romero, an allegory inspired by the novel “I Am Legend” written by Richard Matheson, where a lone protagonist struggles to survive in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles while battling hordes of living-dead vampires. The screenplay co-written by John A. Russo, transplants a similar story to rural western Pennsylvania where a group of everyday people becomes trapped in a farmhouse surrounded by the living dead. In George’s tale, however, the real horror is not derived from what lurks outside, but from the decay of civility and order within the barricaded house itself. A first-of-its-kind thriller, Night of the Living Dead provided the blueprint for what is now a prevalent subgenre of modern horror — the zombie movie.
This film wasn’t just going to break expectations. It was about to break the mold—an entire genre of horror was to follow. The Night of the Living Dead team was about to introduce the undead upon the cinema world, creating crowds of terrified movie-goers, as well as hordes of raging fanatics.
Image Ten began filming before finalizing the script. Casting local Evans City residents along with family members and advertising clients as extras and ghouls and allowing principal actors to improv lines. Given that everyone one the crew had the same level of experience, roles were barely defined. Crew members were expected to contribute wherever they could. In fact, most of them appear in the film.
The results of this low budget filmmaking style created a sense of hyper-realism, which made the movie even scarier. Audiences at the time were used to seeing actors and actresses they recognized, sets designed to look more like a stage than real life, and monsters that were larger than life. Image Ten’s gritty approach gave the film a unique look and feel—one that horrified moviegoers. Roger Ebert suggested children not be allowed to see “Night of the Living Dead” based on how terrifying the film was.
Word of how dark and scary the film was spread fast, which meant bigger audiences and increased demand for the film. Suddenly there was a demand for screenings in Europe. Soon after, the French magazine Cahiers du Cinéma cited “Night of the Living Dead” as “important American cinema”—and the rest is history. Night has been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." It has now been Restored through the efforts of the Museum of Modern Art, The Film Foundation, The George Lucas Family Foundation and The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center. The restoration allowed us to get a copyright on the new improved film and it quickly became part of the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Image Ten was named after the ten principal cast and crew members of the Night of the Living Dead. Believing Hollywood was unattainable the Image Ten crew decided to forego the traditional route of lunches, meetings, and disappointments. Each member of Image Ten chipped in 600 dollars each, and the company began.