Dawn of the Dead-1978
Director-George A. Romero
Starring-David Emge, Ken Foree
Reviewed November 25, 2015
One of the better installments by famed horror-comedy director, George A. Romero, though inferior to my personal favorite film of his, Night of the Living Dead, Romero focuses slightly more on the comedy aspect with Dawn of the Dead, though for horror fans, there is plenty of gore to satisfy the more blood-thirsty viewer. This film is glossier and slicker than its predecessor was.
On a slightly larger budget than Night of the Living Dead, the events largely take place in suburban Pennsylvania, and more specifically, a local mall. An unknown phenomenon has made non-buried humans change form into flesh-eating zombies that prey on other human beings. A group of survivors hunker down in a suburban mall and begin a life of adequacy-utilizing the contents of the mall until events threaten their existence. They must form a militant operation in order to continue to survive. The four survivors are Stephen and Francine- two staff members of a local television station- and Roger and Peter- two SWAT team members whom they meet in the ensuing chaos. The quartet steal a helicopter and travel a short distance to the mall.
Having viewed Dawn of the Dead on multiple occasions, I am a fan of the film, but not an enormous fan, and it hovers below my Top 25 Horror Films list. The main flaw of the film is how it delves into the personal lives of Stephen and Francine midstream, a fact I find meaningless and in fact, stalls the plot. Francine has realized that she is pregnant and I just do not understand the point of slowing down the action for this purpose. I am a huge fan of character development (even in the horror genre!), but this development does not work.
Still, the lengthy portion of the film, and with a running time of over two hours (highly unusual for horror), I am enamored with. The scenes in the mall are fantastic and the action in the final act is thrilling. Reminiscent of my youth and spending hours as a child, along with my mother and siblings, being paraded around the local mall, the look of the mall in Dawn of the Dead brings back a flood of memories. From the fake green plants, to the mannequins, the pool of water filled with coins, and, of course, the redundant, but lovely Muzak in the background.
Romero, as he did with Night of the Living Dead, provides a social element to the film. In the case of Dawn of the Dead, it is the onset of materialism and consumerism that captured the United States in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s that he focuses on, and it took me a couple of viewings to catch onto this point- the zombies stupidly walking around the mall in numbing fashion mirroring how many people did during the day. One character mentions that the zombies are drawn to the mall because it is familiar- much like people frequented the malls in that time period frivolously spending away their time and their money.
Some of the deaths, including one main characters, are haunting. As the character suddenly “turns”, it is frightening to see them in this new light as compared to how they once were. And, in comic fashion, my favorite zombie character is the nurse. Clad in nurse-gear (white shoes, classic nurse cap, and white uniform) she is creepy yet mesmerizing in her body and facial expressions as she lumbers around the mall. It makes me smile each time I see her.
Dawn of the Dead is certainly one of the better, more interesting zombie movies around- I just wish the relationship drama, mainly in the center of the film, had been derailed or modified, as it slows down the pacing of the film. Still, a good, fun, late night flick.