Director – George A. Romero
Cast – Ken Foree, David Emge, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, Tom Savini
Release Year – 1978
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Here you have it. “Dawn of the Dead“, sequel to “Night of the Living Dead”, encompasses what every horror movie should consist of. Right from the beginning we are hooked onto the story, taking place approximately one week after the events of “Night of the Living Dead”. With the human-flesh eating zombie epidemic slowly spreading across the mainland, all hell has broken loose as people struggle with where to go, and whether or not where they end up is already overrun with the living dead. Social unrest has already set in, causing a war between those sworn to protect the innocent, and the innocent who believe it is up to them to save themselves. This film’s social statements are what make it more than a horror film. With scenes involving consumerism, materialism, and slight racism, this is an epic portrayal of American society already falling victim to something BEFORE the zombies began to take over. Awesome!
This film follows two SWAT members, a television executive, and a traffic reporter as they flee the undead city of Philadelphia in a helicopter, with nowhere to go except “up”. They eventually land on the top of a large two-story mall, and decide to make the mall their new living quarters. How sweet is that?!? We are shown scenes of them fully exploiting everything the mall has to offer. New clothes, beds, furniture, candy, stored foods, and even new guns! However, while enjoying their stay at the mall, they must fight off the hordes of zombies that instinctingly make their way into the mall, which brings forth an epic battle for survival that you will never forget.
As mentioned earlier, the social statements George A. Romero made with this film are amazing. The fact that the zombies “instinctingly” make their way to the mall shows that even in death, they are still yearning for material possessions. The undead make their way into the mall because that is the one memory they still retain, although they most likely have no idea why they are really there. This is a blatant statement to how we are as a society. Mall culture and shopping are a huge aspect of society, and it seems Romero referred to us as “zombies” when we shop and spent gratuitous amounts of money on items we do not need. The scenes involving our survivors living in the mall are priceless. We see them dining to gourmet foods(cooked on appliances found for sale in the mall), wearing nice clothes, and pampering themselves into all life’s material possessions we ourselves wish we could possess. When watching this film you are guaranteed to tell yourself “Man, I wish I was in that situation! Even with the zombies…that seems so awesome to live there!”. That is only reinforcing what Romero stated in this film, saying we are willing to go to far ends(and put ourselves in danger) in order to attain what we “want”.
I love how this film uses basically “no name” actors, which adds to the bonding we feel with them as we watch them enjoy life in the mall. The fact that he used “nobodies” gives us a feel that it could be “us” living there, which helps us identify with the characters. Wouldn’t all of us “nobodies” love to have an unlimited shopping spree in a mall even though material possessions are basically worthless when the world is coming to an end? I would! Haha! The fact that we are able to completely identify with the characters is a strong aspect of what makes this film so great.
Last but not least…the gore! This film displayed gore like none before it’s time. From the raid of the apartment building at the beginning of the film, to the countless headshots as our survivors fight off the zombies in the mall, to the epic climax that you will never forget…the gore and special effects done by the infamous Tom Savini are priceless! I will tell you right now that you will never forget what you see during the last 15 minutes of the film. Guaranteed!
Now of course, this film is not without it’s faults. I has some really questionable editing(typical in low budget horror films) and the acting could have been much better. But that is completely understandable. This film was made with a $3.5 million budget, mainly because Romero refused to make an R-Rated film(which would have gotten him a $7 million budget). He opted to take half the budget in order to have a “no limitations” UNRATED film. What an honorable man! Haha.
Overall, watch this! Now!
Although this film did have some questionable editing and acting, they do nothing to detriment what this film set out to do. This flick shocks it’s viewers, makes a very strong social statement about society(which is STILL true today), and makes us identify with each character so much…that we actually yearn to be in their shoes, which indeed proves Mr. George A. Romero’s point. This film is drop-dead GENIUS!