A Night Of The Living Dead Analysis: Was Harry Cooper Right?

Night of the Living Dead was an astounding film for the many reasons of advancing certain new themes in cinema. This film revolutionized horror movies for years to come and also brought racial tensions to light. But one of the strangest aspects of the film is the character Harry Cooper, the cranky old white man hiding in the cellar with his wife and daughter. While the character is racist and an overall horrible person, I cannot help but think: were Harry Cooper’s actions (barring the racist attitude) regarding the zombies justified? And was he right all along with his plans? There are some pretty good arguments for the character of Harry Cooper and his behavior in the film, and We Got this Covered looks into the facts of the film.

1. His “hiding in the cellar” plan worked at the end of the film.

Harry Cooper spent a good deal of the film arguing with Ben about staying in the cellar because it’s the safest place in the house and in the end: Ben retreats to the cellar to live through the night. Now, had they all gotten in the cellar in the first place, all of the futile plans of escaping would have been averted. Now, Cooper’s daughter still would have become a zombie, but there would have been several extra people down there including Ben, Tom, Judy and Barbara and they could have handled one little girl. Instead, because of bickering: the house gets overrun and they all died.

2. He was protecting his wife and child.

As people watch the film, they’ll all criticize Cooper because of his actions and anger but the truth is that he was trying to protect his family. If most families were stuck in the same situation, or even a less science fiction based situation such as a riot, I’d bet that people all over the world would see themselves doing the same actions of Cooper long before they acted like Ben. It’s simply human nature to protect ones family, which leads me to my next point…

3. Ben and Barbara are dangerous strangers to Cooper and his family.

While Cooper is a horrible person and does a lot of horrible things (like trying to steal the gun from Ben) he is trying to save the lives of people he loves as opposed to two strangers. The lives of his wife and daughter definitely mean more to him than the lives of a teenage couple, random adult and a hysterical woman and that is absolutely OK to think at a time of crisis such as a zombie attack.

4. The News cast said to “stay indoors”…

At which time Ben and Tom decide to get gas for the truck and escape from their now fortified strong hold. Leaving the house then becomes a suicide mission (literally for some characters) and the plan fails. It seems to me, since hindsight is 20-20, that staying in the house and out of danger, which was Cooper’s plan A and B, was actually the only plan worth having. If the characters had just talked things over and agreed with Cooper about staying in the house: they all might have lived.

Now, I’m not justifying Cooper’s treachery or even his very conservative views, I’m simply stating that his core idea had merit. His plan of staying in the safe house and in the very well guarded cellar was a solid plan, but he was just very bad at executing these survival methods. However, Mr. Cooper will always be remembered for his ruthlessness instead of his crisis strategies. And for every Ben character, there has to be a Mr. Cooper in order to balance him out during a zombie emergency.