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'Dawn of the Dead' (1978) - Zombie Movie Review

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

dawn-of-the-dead-1978-zombie-movie-review

Trying to imagine our world without the existence of Dawn of the Dead is an amusing exercise. The amount of gags, jokes, comics, movies and TV shows that have existed and will continue to generate into the foreseeable future because of this film is immeasurable.

In this 1978 zombie apocalypse, Dawn of the Dead focuses on four characters. There are police SWAT officers Roger DiMarco (Scott H. Reiniger) and Peter Washington (Ken Foree) along with Philadelphia TV channel employees Stephen Andrews (David Emge) and Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross). Together they take shelter in a giant shopping mall.

After securing defenses and assigning responsibilities, the four protagonists simply start living their lives, consuming products from the stores, creating routines and emulating their pre-apocalypse lives. It helps a lot that Francine is several months pregnant; humanity in this social nucleus is virtually inescapable.

dawn-of-the-dead-1978-zombie-movie-review

After several weeks, the four survivors achieve something incredible, considering their situation: they create a stable and secure routine to the point of getting bored with all of it. They end up wondering, in borderline depression, "What have we done with our lives?”

In an early scene, Peter and Stephen discussed the zombies' tenacity in trying to enter the mall.

“They’re after the place, they don’t know why. They just remember that they wanna be in here,” says Peter.

“What the hell are they?” says Stephen.

“They’re us, that’s all”.

Yes, Dawn of the Dead is a funny festival of bloody tempera, rubber prosthesis and animal guts, with dozens of zombies with awesome grayish, amateurish makeup and a respectable amount of fire shots. But this is not really a zombie movie. This is the first film that, by using the undead genre, is openly devoted to other topics.

dawn-of-the-dead-1978-zombie-movie-review

Dawn of the Dead is about the obsessive quest for the so-called "stability". Even with society basically ending, the routine finds its way to reassure human emotions. Here the zombie apocalypse is just an experiment in this narrative. It shows how obsessively we look for the mundane, even without social norms, viable goals or big ambitions.

Director George A. Romero was really focused on portraying us as creatures of habit swallowed by consumption patterns. It makes sense that the main location of Dawn of the Dead is a shopping mall where humans and zombies roam (sometimes in the same fashion) from shop to shop, to the rhythm of the fantastic, humorous soundtrack of Goblin and Dario Argento.

The professions of the protagonists are not trivial details either as the four characters represent the two aspects that work directly to shape social behavior: law enforcement and the media.

With Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero invented and fueled the zombie persona in popular culture, revolutionizing horror cinema by creating a new genre.

With Dawn of the Dead, Romero made a revolution within the revolution. He showed that black humor, social criticism, and gore spectacle can all be employed and enhanced and used within the format, creating multiple and diverse sub-genres.

And yes, he also gave us Hare Krishna Zombie. Few images have been so briefly hilarious, idiotic and full of powerful meaning.

Zombie Movie Details

Title: Dawn of the Dead

Release Year: 1978

Director(s): George A. Romero

Actors: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross a.o.

© 2019 Sam Shepards

Comments

Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on June 04, 2019:

Thiller is indeed a classic and I think Michael is scarier there than most zombies I've seen.

Dawn of the Dead is probably one of the five zombie movies that are really worth watching even if you aren't a fan of the genre. Most zombie movies you can skip, but this one essential viewing.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 04, 2019:

You know I don't do movie reviews and watch even less but I like you style of writing. I think this is an iconic movie and should be understood. Thank you

Oh and I just turned on Thriller.