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Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Unrated  |   |  Horror  |  24 May 1979 (USA)
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Reviews: 666 user | 209 critic

Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Emge ...
Gaylen Ross ...
David Crawford ...
Dr. Foster
David Early ...
Mr. Berman
Richard France ...
Howard Smith ...
TV Commentator
Daniel Dietrich ...
Fred Baker ...
James A. Baffico ...
Wooley (as Jim Baffico)
Rod Stouffer ...
Young Officer on Roof
Jese Del Gre ...
Old Priest
Clayton McKinnon ...
Officer in Project Apt.
John Rice ...
Officer in Project Apt.


Following the events of Night of the Living Dead (1968), we follow the exploits of four survivors of the expanding zombie apocalypse as they take refuge in an abandoned shopping mall following a horrific SWAT evacuation of an apartment complex. Taking stock of their surroundings, they arm themselves, lock down the mall, and destroy the zombies inside so they can eke out a living--at least for a while. Tensions begin to build as months go on, and they come to realize that they've fallen prey to consumerism. Soon afterward, they have even heavier problems to worry about, as a large gang of bikers discovers the mall and invades it, ruining the survivors' best-laid plans and forcing them to fight off both lethal bandits and flesh-eating zombies. Written by Curly Q. Link

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth. See more »




Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

24 May 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead  »

Box Office


$650,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Ultimate Final Cut) | (Dario Argento's European Version) | (DVD) | (Extended Version)

Sound Mix:

(German prints)|



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When Stephen idly uses the typewriter roughly 2/3 of the way through the movie, he types 'NOW IS THE TIME...'. These are the first few words of an exercise widely used in touch-typing classes when typewriters were first introduced into the workforce. The entire sentence reads, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." See more »


As the Trivia Section notes, shooting of the movie was done during the Christmas Season and was suspended during the holidays to avoid the cost of re-hanging decorations. As a result, JC Penney (the store of which they keep going in and out), has a sign in the window saying "After-Christmas Sale" later in the movie. See more »


[Fran and Stephen are observing from the roof of the mall]
Francine Parker: What are they doing? Why do they come here?
Stephen: Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"... Music by Dario Argento and THE GOBLINS" See more »


Referenced in Scream 4 (2011) See more »


L'Alba Dei Morti Viventi
Composed by Dario Argento, Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli,
Antonio Marangolo, and Agostino Marangolo
Performed by Goblin
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A brilliant, scary, social commentary ****/****
26 September 2001 | by (A Shopping Mall) – See all my reviews

Dawn of the Dead- ****/****

George A. Romero's masterful classic is least of anything a film about zombies. "Dawn of the Dead" is thinly disguised as a zombie gore flick, but it is really three things. 1. A cultural statement portraying racism, angst, counter-culture and degradation. 2. An account of human bonding and human reaction to different environments, harsh and eclectic. 3. Least of this trio, it is a black comedy. Rather, it contains dark comedic elements.

Somewhere early along in the film, I looked past the initial plot of four strangers hiding in a mall from hordes of zombies swarming the world, as the government attempts to find a solution to the chaotic massacres. Peter Washington (Ken Foree) is the strong, black, courageous SWAT team member who rises above the other three protagonists to become their leader. Steven Andrews (David Emge) is the somewhat timid and hesitant traffic reporter, lover of the pregnant Francine (Gaylen Ross). Ostensibly hapless and useless, Francine is actually a valuable aide to the quartet. Last, is the resourceful and daring Roger (Scott H. Reiniger).

From where I left off, I overlooked the premise of the quartet defending themselves from hordes of flesh-eating monsters and instead saw thoroughly fleshed out character personalities, bonds, and interactions. Throughout the movie's length, we learn to genuinely love these guys; Roger is so smooth and fun, easily likeable, Peter is quiet, warm-spirited, and reliable, Steven and Francine are charming. We knows them like our friends and heroes, so when they are attacked by the ferocious zombies, the suspense is so nerve-wracking and our hearts beat so rapidly because we really care about the four protagonists and could not bear to watch them die. They started off as strangers and parted as companions. Also, it is very interesting to watch how they monopolized the mall, how, in the beginning, they slept on cold hallway floors, constantly keeping watch. Later, they eliminated the threat, dined in the mall's fancy restaurant, ice skated on the mall's link, visited the gun shop for weapons, slept in rooms with beds, dressers, televisions, and other luxuries. This is an accurate representation of how it is human nature to manipulate and survive through alien atmospheres. I found that vision ingenious.

Another brilliant message the film brings attention to regards the 1970-decade. I found that like "Pulp Fiction," "Dawn of the Dead" captures the spirit of its era. The racism, tumult, riots, counter-culture, degradation are all well represented here. The film shows SWAT teams, complete with racist officers, who kill for fun, raiding an unruly group of Hispanics and Blacks, hillbillies heading out in troops to battle zombies for sport, mercenaries and vigilantes running wild, all events indistinguishable from incidents in the 70's. Perhaps the most disturbing and ironic "70's incident" in the movie involves raiding gangs of bikers who explode into the mall, mirthfully slaughtering zombies (not that that is an offense) and vandalizing stores, stealing jewelry, guns, clothes, and everything they can find; whereas our heroes took only their necessities. What happens next is very scathingly satirical and ironic. In between the battle for the survival of the human species, the bikers find it necessary to start their own little civil war amongst the not-so-numerous survivors. They hunt down both zombies and our good guys; a perfectly timed paradoxical and cynical scene. Just like the battles between non-conformists and conventionalists during the 1970's and 1960's, when America was on the brink of disaster, this cinematic revolution is hard-hitting, gut wrenching, and very real. One fascinating facet of the movie is how the audience learns to disregard the now "minor" threat of the slow-moving zombies (a bullet or incision to the head will do the job). At this point, one would not even notice that this film had the slightest relevance to the horror genre. Instead, we fear the vicious bikers, a bigger threat, villains with swords and guns. This time, the suspense and uneasiness detonates, for there is a much greater chance of death for the heroes. I found the scariest part of the movie was the deterioration of the planet during the zombie apocalypse; how the human species' decline is morbidly presented effectively and expertly by George A. Romano.

However, a refreshing sense of black humor is tossed in towards the middle of the film. Zombies attempt to walk up escalators, ice skate, and explore their surroundings, with chuckles as the result of their clumsiness. One biting laugh comes when Steven explains to Francine why all these creatures have returned to the mall. "Instinct, memory. This was an important place in their lives," he points out.

And of course, there are many, many thrills and chills. This film isn't very "jump-out-from-the dark-with-a-chainsaw" scary, but more disturbing and extremely tense, because we actually care about our characters and don't want them to die. The movie is unpredictable in this aspect, unlike slashers where you are guessing who the one survivor is and how the others die. As the zombies close in, we plead, "Don't die, don't die!"

I have two minor complaints with this film. My biggest one is that the movie seems to carry on forever, the way "Goodfellas" did. Despite the brilliance I felt enraptured with, I kept asking myself, "When will this movie end?!?" However, I realize that Romano could not have trimmed any more scenes without damaging the potency of his work. Also, the gore was at times just too much. For instance, the exploding head scene was revolting, and most of all, the intestinal feeding scene when a biker is torn apart was repulsive; I couldn't watch as his guts were graphically shown ripping apart.

Aside from those two unfortunate aspects, I strongly encourage you, rather you HAVE to, watch "Dawn of the Dead." Thrilling and suspenseful thanks to extremely distinct characters, whose fate you hope a happy one, and grippingly socially relevant, this is a unique horror, or really of all genres, treasure.

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