It kinda goes without saying that I better have a valid point to make whenever I start out an article written specifically for a horror site with a Family Feud reference, but I swear I do, just stay with me on this. I had the opportunity to visit a place that was grounds for the opening scene in a pretty popular zombie movie, but before I bragged about it, I knew I had to gather some facts, so, I did what any red-blooded American woman would do, and polled 100 of her closest friends.
The question? Name the first zombie movie that comes to your mind. And here’s where Family Feud comes into play: 100 people surveyed and the top 5 answers on the board. Night of the Living Dead is the number 1 answer with 21 votes, chart-topping Shaun of the Dead with 15, Zombieland with 12, Dawn of the Dead with 11, and 28 Days Later with 7. This was music to my ears, because the place that I visited? The Evans City Cemetery in Evans City, Pennsylvania; home to the iconic opening sequence for Night of the Living Dead.
Zombie movies are a relatively new thing to me. I didn’t really get into zombie movies until 2011; my thing was always slasher flicks, and to this day I prefer them to zombie movies, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the classics. Even before I had even seen Night of the Living Dead (which took a lot longer than I’m proud of), I knew the line, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” from media, and my mother, who is a proud horror movie buff. So when I finally did see it, I was impressed, because for a movie in 1968 it set the course for the zombie movies to follow (albeit at a slow, staggering pace – these zombie puns doin’ anything for ya?)
Nothing could compare to my joy when I found out that the cemetery used for the opening scene was a real place, and oh, suprise, it was a short car ride away from my brother’s house in Pennsylvania. Naturally when I went to visit this past week, I took full advantage of the chance to recreate some shots from the film.
It turns out the chapel that was featured in the movie was actually built for the intention of wedding use, but in the years it’s stood in the cemetery, very few weddings have happened inside (I would totally get married here, by the way). The chapel deteriorated, and some Night of the Living Dead fans got together, and put up some funds to help restore the chapel to its former glory, which you can see here.
Also impressive is the fact that this movie was released in 1968, so it was probably shot in ’67, and you can see the tree growth reflected where the pictures are placed side by side. I wanted to get the angles from the original shots and mine as close as possible, but as with everything, it’s hard especially with the difference in equipment they have versus what we have now. I think we did a pretty great job, considering.
The Evans City Cemetery is not impressive size-wise. Compared to some of the other cemeteries in the area (you can read my article on the Allegheny Cemetery here), it lacks creative tombstones and mausoleums. However, what it lacks in those, it makes up for in experience. Getting to walk the same grounds that the film was shot on, standing in front of the chapel that Judith O’Dea and Russell Streiner stood in front of, and hell, even uttering the line, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” was just as significant experience as there ever could be for any zombie fan.