Dawn of the Dead (1978)

United Film Distribution Company presents Dawn of the Dead

“This isn’t the Republicans versus the Democrats, where we’re in a hole economically or… or we’re in another war. This is more crucial than that. This is down to the line, folks, this is down to the line. There can be no more divisions among the living!”

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When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the Earth … and head straight to the mall?

Dawn of the Dead picks up where writer/director George A. Romero left off in the 1968 seminal classic, Night of the Living Dead.  Although ten years passed between the release of the two films, we jump right into the action where a band of four survivors, three men and a pregnant woman, hunker down and attempt to survive the zombie outbreak in a shopping mall.

United Film Distribution Company presents Dawn of the Dead

I, like many fans of the genre, have some serious love for Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Larger in scope, depicting the widespread effects of the zombie pandemic, Dawn of the Dead remains a terrifying example of how quickly and completely society would unravel given the right set of circumstances.

Given the film’s age, new audiences may snag visually on the thorough 70s vibe from the wardrobe and hair to the dialogue, but the storytelling remains true if not surprisingly controversial.  After 35 years, I actually took notice when Stephen (David Emge), Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reiniger) discuss aborting the baby carried by Fran (Gaylen Ross) without her being present, because, things have changed and Peter, well, he “knows how.”

It is perhaps this edginess and general fearlessness that lends to the film’s longevity as a fan favorite year after year, decade after decade.

United Film Distribution Company presents Dawn of the Dead

Special effects maestro Tom Savini (who has a cameo in the film) adds his special level of mayhem to the film replete with exploding heads, severed limbs, gorged out flesh, and (my personal favorite) machete-head.  Paired with the blue-gray make up worn by the zombie cast members, the blood really pops in Dawn of the Dead, even if, by today’s standards, the zombies are a bit much.

Featuring a soundtrack created by horror master Dario Argento and Goblin, Dawn of the Dead has inspired generations of zombie fanatics and filmmakers around the world.  In addition to references to the Dawn of the Dead, strains of various tracks, including “Figment“, are used in Shaun of the Dead. 

United Film Distribution Company presents Dawn of the Dead

Romero gives the world his vision of hell on Earth, but Dawn of the Dead is not without humor.  The zombies are slow and Romero lets you have a good long look at them, sometimes to comic effect.  Romero has even thrown in a Hare Krishna zombie, complete with a tambourine hanging from his waist.

Ultimately, what makes Romero’s Dawn of the Dead work as not only a horror film but a drama or even an action film is the lengths to which he goes to create flawed, sympathetic characters.  As what remains of the group finally leaves the shopping mall, heading off to some unknown horizon, you will find yourself wondering about their fate.

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Did Boston.com get it right?

1.) Yes, the film is scary enough to change your behavior.  Don’t let people bite you.  Never allow yourself to get backed into a corner.  Shopping malls may not be the best bet.

2.) No, no nightmares here.  Today’s baseline for horror sadly negates many of the intense moments in Romero’s film purposely orchestrated to induce fear and terror.

3.) Yes, there are plenty of moments where a character is being chased or grabbed where the anxiety is palpable.

there's more to explore

Wiki facts: Dawn of the Dead

Is Dawn of the Dead rotten or fresh?

Watch or buy Dawn of the Dead on Amazon

Related: Wayne Simmons on Dawn of the Dead

Related: Claudia Herrera talks Dawn of the Dead

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2 responses to “Dawn of the Dead (1978)

  1. Pingback: The List to End All Horror Film Lists « celluloid junkie·

  2. Pingback: Horror 101 | c.taylor·

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