Night of the Living Dead’s Marilyn Eastman dies at 87

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 Night of the Living Dead’s Marilyn Eastman dies at 87

That sounds hyperbolic, but it really isn’t. Not only did the film introduce the concept of the zombie as we know it (up until this movie, zombies were portrayed as undead slaves under a Voodoo curse), it also opened the door for “horror as art.”

Night of the Living Dead came out the same year as Rosemary’s Baby, so yes, of course, serious-minded horror did exist and would have existed, but what Romero and his crew did was show everybody that a B-picture could just as successfully and thoughtfully deliver an important social message as a big-budget, star-studded studio tentpole.

When you follow Night up with Dawn of the Dead and its gleeful deconstruction of American capitalism, you cement these films as a massive turning point in how filmmakers approached genre and what fans would come to expect from it.

So, yes. Helen Cooper is a horror icon who was done dirty by her undead little girl wielding a gardening instrument, but her impact on genre goes well beyond her appearances in the film. Yes, appearances. Plural. She also appeared as a zombie. This was a low-budget outing! If they needed a role to be filled, whoever was around had to carry that water, even if it’s the dang financier.

So, thank you, Marilyn, for the absolutely massive mark you left on the film industry, the horror genre, and movie fans all over the world.

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