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Where in the Horror are they Now? Night of the Living Dead's Judith O'Dea!

08.08.2016by: JimmyO

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JUDITH "BARBRA" O'DEA

THEN: I’d be willing to bet nearly every one of you think of one thing when you hear the name “Barbra.” It was at a very early age that I witnessed the 1968 George A. Romero classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and it helped cement my horror movie passion. This black and white nightmare felt all too real, so much so that I consistently had zombie nightmares for the next few weeks. And while the film isn’t known for great performances necessarily, somehow the characters all worked. They all seemed to exist thanks to the documentary style scare fest. And that includes Barbara herself, Judith O’Dea. Hell, hearing “They’re coming to get you Barbra!” still sends a chill up my spine.

The Pennsylvanian born actress only done a short before she became a genre icon. Ironically enough, in the short film Habit Pattern, the actress also played a character named Barbara. Yet, once NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD freaked the f*ck out of audiences upon its release, that name became legendary. The frightened woman who saw her brother Johnny attacked and killed at a cemetery could barely keep it together. In fact, she is silent due to shock for most of the film. Barbra is sympathetic, but also incredibly frustrating. She won’t speak and has very little force or energy to fight back against the flesh eating monsters. However, that slick and eerie opening sequence makes you very freaking understanding of her plight.

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What’s intriguing about Ms. O’Dea is that aside from TV-movie in 1978 called The Pirate, the actress was MIA from movies and television for a very long time. Instead of searching to star in another horror hit, the actress spent the next several decades devoting her time to her family. It’s not terribly surprising that a horror movie actress finds fame with one flick, then disappears from the public eye. However, what is surprising - or perhaps refreshing - is that we hadn’t seen the last of Judith O’Dea. It just might be when it comes to horror, you can’t get it out of your system, because when the year 2000 came Judith returned to try for a scare or two.

In 2003, Judith O’Dea returned to low budget with a little movie called CLAUSTROPHOBIA. Also starring Melanie Lynskey, this story of a crossbow killer terrorizing a neighborhood from the rooftops was a bit of a mess, but an intriguing one at that. Either way, it was good to see Judith working again. The actress once again took on a role in the gay themed thrillers OCTOBER MOON in 2005 and OCTOBER MOON 2: NOVEMBER SON in 2008. In the Jason Paul Collum directed features, O’Dea took on the role of Emily Hamilton, mother to a character named Elliot (Jerod Howard). To be fair, I haven’t seen either of the OCTOBER MOON flicks but it was exciting to see the actress return to moviemaking.

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Over the next few years she continued to take on smaller films, usually playing the older, wiser character. Her IMDb resume includes appearances in TIMO ROSE’S BEAST in 2009, WOMEN’S STUDIES in 2010 and SHY OF NORMAL: TALES OF NEW LIFE EXPERIENCES in 2011. Then, in 2012, Judith O’Dea took on the familiar role of Barbra in a comedy horror flick called LIVING DEAD directed by Robert Aldrich with a story by James Howarth. It certainly seems that the cult actress was enjoying once again returning to the genre where she started - with the occasional drama thrown in. And guess what? She hasn’t stopped making movies yet, and that is a wonderful thing.

barbra claustrophobia genesis george romero Judith O'Dea Night of the Living Dead november son october moon october moon 2

NOW: Judith O’Dea helped make Barbra a recognizable genre name, thanks to that famous line from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and her manic and convincing performance. Starting in 2014, she really seems to have found her genre niche. That very year she appeared in SAFE INSIDE, HOLE IN THE WALL and THEY CAME FROM THE ETHER. Aside from that she also has a role in the bizarro sounding ED GEIN: D.D.S. - presumably the feature film version of the Ed Gein short listed on IMDb from HOLE IN THE WALL. Other listings include NIGHTMARE CITY (this is only rumored it seems), BLOOD OF THE DRAGON and ABANDONED DEAD.

And finally, talk about embracing a role, Judith is returning to play the character of Barbra Hamilton in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: GENESIS directed by Matt Cloude. Not sure how Barbra would have survived that first film, but I’m more than a little intrigued to see this flick. Currently in post-production, we all will hopefully see what kind of horrors the undead have for us once again. Either way, it’s exciting to see Judith O’Dea not only return to horror, but she sure as hell seems to have a lot of love for that particular character. And frankly, so do I. If you’d like to see what this lovely actress has been up to, you can follow her on Twitter or check her out on Facebook. You can also check out her official website here. Barbra is back, and I couldn’t be happier!

Extra Tidbit: Which of Romero's zombie flicks is your favorite?
Source: AITH

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