Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Review

Dawn of the Dead poster
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: David Emge, Ken Foree
Genre: Horror

With George A. Romero directing, Dario Argento producing, Tom Savini doing the effects, and Goblin composing, Dawn of the Dead is a horror fan's dream come true.

Right from the start of the film we are thrown into a state of chaos, not a chaos of survival or zombie fighting, but a chaos of normal people arguing and yelling at each other and even fighting each other. Right away we see that the people are most likely to kill each other before the zombies even get a chance.

The plot follows four survivors who steal a helicopter and make their way towards a shopping mall, where they stock up and shelter themselves. They are constantly challenged and threatened by zombies, raiders, and even themselves. Can these four survive the zombie apocalypse? Well, watch the fucking movie and find out.

It's hard to make a sequel to Night of the Living Dead and have it live up to expectations, luckily Dawn of the Dead managed to do just that and then some. Night was a movie with a message, a statement, and a very powerful one at that. Dawn also has something to say. The first obvious statement is the fact that the entire film has zombies wandering around a shopping mall (of which were pretty new at the time), so there's the obvious satire of consumer culture and capitalism.

Eventually the four survivors barricade the zombies off and are pretty much entirely safe. They gather all the supplies they need and they even decorate their safe-house to make it appear as if it was a normal suburban home, with a kitchen and bedroom and whatnot, it actually looked pretty cozy. The girl was even pregnant. It was very clever the way Romero set this up. These people had access to the entire mall, virtually any material need was at their fingertips. But what happens? Once they're safe and have everything they could ever want, they become more miserable than they were before. "What have we done to ourselves?" the woman asks.

It's a very clever film, and it may seem that its message is very frank and blatant, but it is actually very well delivered and powerful nonetheless. 

Zombies roaming the mall in Dawn of the Dead

I can't really say time has done this film much justice, the zombies do sometimes look pretty funny, but Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, Creepshow, Day of the Dead) did a remarkable job with the makeup and effects, as he always does. There's plenty of gore and all of it looks very good. Savini also plays a small role as a biker, which is pretty fun to watch.

The film is actually fairly visually pleasing. Whereas Night had a very grainy, newsreel, paranoia/claustrophobic, realistic feel to it, Dawn has a very bright and colorful look, with very wide shots showing the vastness of their environment. It has a bit of that '70s feel to it, but it's just really colorful and its garishness really compliments well.

Machete through the head in Dawn of the Dead

Goblin did the wonderful soundtrack, who are most well-known for also doing the soundtracks to Dario Argento's Deep Red and Suspiria. As far as soundtracks go, this is as good as it gets. It's enjoyable to listen to, it adds tension and suspense in all the right places, it almost always reflects what is happening on screen. Just an overall superb soundtrack. 

This isn't really a scary film, some creepy parts, but there's not even any jump scares or anything, as was also the case with Night of the Living Dead. I like this. Because Romero's Living Dead films aren't about some external monster, they're about ourselves and the psychology of everyday people, and how they deal with the situation.

Many people list the acting as one of this film's flaws, which I don't completely agree with. It's nothing spectacular but I though all did a pretty good job with some pretty great acting in a few scenes.

Creepy bald zombie with glasses from Dawn of the Dead

It's always been hard for me to pick between Night and Dawn. They're both just so awesome and each have their own unique charm. It's definitely a tough choice, but both are highly enjoyable and probably the two best zombie films of all time.

A great look at apocalyptic effects on society and on individuals. A film that, like all Romero's original Living Dead films, not only did a great deal in progressing the genre, but also serves as inspiration for nearly every zombie film after it. Highly recommended. 

Recommended for: Zombie fans, horror fans, fans of any cast or crew

4.5/5 stars

Predecessor: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Sequel: Day of the Dead (1985)
Remake: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Purchase Dawn of the Dead on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD 
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