It is perhaps fortuitous that Ben Hervey’s BFI Film Classics: Night of the Living Dead monograph has been republished in 2020. Not only was this the year when we most needed stories about the failure of systems we have trusted implicitly, but it was also the year that The Living Dead, a novel by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus, was published by Tor Books.
Richard Matheson is not quite a household name, but guaranteed you’ve heard of his work. He has written some of the most memorable scripts for television and movies of the mid-twentieth century, particularly for the Roger Corman/AIP “Poe Cycle” of films starring Vincent Price and the Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” featuring William Shatner. You might also remember his novel I Am Legend, also turned into a film called The Last Man on Earth which served as the inspiration for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. While it is unlikely you can name five of his short stories off the top of your head, his legacy is everywhere, in The Walking Dead to Jordan Peele’s remake of The Twilight Zone. Without Matheson, we wouldn’t have some of the biggest subgenres of science fiction and horror.