Popular Culture, Publicly-owned

They’re coming to get you, Barbra.
This iconic line appears in the very first scene of George Romero’sNight of the Living Dead (1968), one of my very favorite horror films. It’s a terrific example of dramatic irony- Barbra is right to be frightened walking through a graveyard, but not for the reason for which her brother Johnny is taunting her. The film is grisly, subversive, and genuinely scare-inducing to watch even today, and I make a point to revisit it and other George Romero classics around Halloween each year. One thing I didn’t know about Night of the Living Dead, until reading this article, was that it is in the public domain, and has been since its release.

I first saw the film as a kid, airing on the local Cleveland late-night horror program Big Chuck and Lil’ John. Low-budget shows like Big Chuck and Lil’ John aired some really terrible movies because they didn’t have to pay for the rights to them. But the quality mattered much less to me as a kid watching my free local television station when I was bored late at night. Most of the movies I saw this way were silly and/or poorly made, but I was fond of them anyway. When my older brother introduced me to Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show that overlays comedic commentary on cheesy, low production-value movies (often from the public domain), I was hooked. Years later, my friends and I still love these awful B-movies so much that we host movie nights to watch them together. They’ve got a lot of charm in their cheesiness. But because many of them are so old, of low quality, or otherwise just bad, I know that I wouldn’t bother to watch them if they weren’t easily accessible. Thankfully, a lack of copyright means that they are easily available online and through streaming services, in addition to airing on local television stations.

You can find many of the films on sites like the Internet Archive. Here’s the “horror” category of feature films available on the site- with 336 films to choose from!

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