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Siblings Barbra and Johnny drive to a cemetery in rural Pennsylvania to visit their father's grave. As they are leaving, a strange man kills Johnny and viciously attacks Barbra. She flees and attempts to take shelter in a farmhouse, but finds the woman who lived there dead and half-eaten. She sees a multiplying number of strange ghouls, led by the man from the cemetery, approaching the house. A man named Ben arrives, secures the farmhouse by boarding the windows and doors, and drives away the ghouls with a lever-action rifle he finds in the closet and with fire, which he previously discovered the ghouls fear.
Barbra, in a catatonic state from shock, is surprised when a couple, Harry and Helen Cooper, emerge from the cellar. They had been taking shelter there with their young daughter Karen after a group of the same monsters overturned their car and bit Karen, leaving her seriously ill. Also sheltering there are Tom and Judy, a teenage couple who came to the house after hearing an emergency broadcast about a series of brutal killings. Tom aids Ben in securing the farmhouse while Harry angrily protests that it is unsafe before returning to the cellar, which he believes is safer. Ghouls continue to besiege the farmhouse in ever-increasing numbers.
The refugees listen to radio and television reports of a wave of mass murders being committed across the east coast of the United States by an army of cannibalistic, reanimating corpses, and posses of armed men patrolling the countryside to kill the ghouls. They confirm that the ghouls can be stopped with a bullet or heavy blow to the head, or by being burned, as Ben discovered, and that various rescue centers are offering refuge and safety. Scientists theorize that the reanimations are occurring due to radiation from a space probe that exploded in Earth's atmosphere on the way back from Venus.
Ben devises a plan to obtain medical supplies for Karen and transport the group to a rescue center by refueling his truck. Ben, Tom, and Judy drive to a nearby gas pump, holding the ghouls off with torches and Molotov cocktails. However, the gas from the pump spills and causes the truck to catch fire and explode, killing Tom and Judy.
Ben beats off the ghouls and runs back to the house, and has to break down the door when Harry does not let him back in. Ben beats Harry for his cowardice, and the remaining survivors attempt to find a way out. However, the ghouls break through the barricades. In the ensuing chaos, Harry is shot by Ben, Karen dies from her injuries, reanimates, and begins to eat her father, Helen dies in the cellar after Karen stabs her with a masonry trowel, and Barbra recovers from her catatonic state and tries to help Ben keep the ghouls out, but is dragged away when they break through the door.
Ben takes refuge in the cellar, where he has to shoot Harry and Helen's reanimated bodies as the ghouls break in upstairs. The next morning, Ben hears sirens and the approaching posse outside and emerges from the cellar, but is shot and killed when they mistake him for a ghoul. His body is thrown onto a bonfire and burned with the rest of the ghouls.
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NOTE: This movie has been researched and found to be in the public domain in the U.S. because the copyright has either expired and is no longer valid or the film was not copyrighted at all.
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