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By turns horrific, hilarious, disgusting and absurd Dawn of the
Dead is the work of a director truly on top of his game. Given
almost total control (something which was to be denied Romero in
later years) George Romero gives us his unique and vivid view of a
world in absolute turmoil.
Not just a mockery of the hedonistic and empty America of the late 70's Dawn is also a parable or warning if you like of the brittle structure of society and how easily it can be disintegrated. Many have criticised the film for being too over the top and questioned the quality of the acting. This for me is one of the joys of the film, Romero uses gaudy sets and effects and combines this with comic book hero dialogue to lull us into a false sense of security. Then masterfully Romero pulls the rug out from under us and brings the reality of the situation crashing in on our heads.
Dawn stands alone well but really comes into its own as part of the trilogy to which it belongs. One theory of mine is that the Alien trilogy (forgetting the miserable fourth installment) takes a lot from the dead trilogy namely the pace and claustrophobia of the two which book-end the mass hysteria and over the top horror and violence of the middle film.
Undoubtedly one of the great Horror films of modern time. Or perhaps there is something about being the only people left alive and living in a shopping mall that appeals to the kid in all of us. 10/10
This review refers to the theatrical cut of the film.
When George A. Romero's no-budget horror movie Night of the Living Dead hit screens in 1968, the same year that had already given audiences the all time genre classic Rosemary's Baby, no one could have predicted the indelible effect it would have on the history of cinema. The film introduced audiences to a degree of graphic violence never before witnessed on American screens. However, it was the film's intense, omnipotent terror that forever scarred a generation of viewers.
Although the film enjoyed unprecedented mainstream success for an independent production, the filmmakers saw little of the movie's earnings. Romero's string of box office disappointments in the years to follow would diminish his clout in Hollywood, and as such he found it was an uphill battle to fund his ambitious sequel to the film. Then along came Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, hot off the heels of such international blockbusters as Deep Red and Suspiria. Argento helped secure funding for the film, in exchange for the rights to personally oversee the international cut of the film.
The collaboration would be a match made in horror movie heaven, for the end product would be Dawn of the Dead, one of the most acclaimed and enduringly popular horror movies of all time.
Dawn of the Dead's plot is so effectively simple, and now thoroughly familiar, that it almost goes without description. While the world approaches a still unexplained and ever growing zombie apocalypse, four individuals-two millitary men, a helicopter pilot, and his TV reporter girlfriend-barricade themselves in an abandoned suburban shopping mall. The mall provides fodder not only for the film's well known social commentary, but also for some truly thrilling-if not terrifying-setpieces.
With its graphic depictions of human evisceration, exploding heads, and gruesome flesh eating, Dawn of the Dead may well be the goriest American film of all time. The film is actually so violent and gruesome that it was released unrated in the United States for fear of being slapped with an X Rating. That didn't stop the film from being a huge hit at home and abroad. The film earned rave reviews from critics (most famously, from Roger Ebert, who called it `one of the best horror movies of all time'). It instantly became recognized not only as a genre classic, but also as one of the sharpest social satires of the decade, with its often hilarious commentary on an ever growing consumer culture embodied by the film's mall location.
Internationally, the film was even bigger. The movie was released in a special 117 minute cut overseas (the US theatrical version was 120 minutes) which was edited by Dario Argento and featured a more prominent presentation of the soundtrack by rock band Goblin as well as a much faster overall pace. Released in most countries as `Zombie: Dawn of the Dead' or `Zombies', it was so big in Italy that the following year Lucio Fulci, previously a director of `giallo' thrillers, helmed a gory semi-sequel. His `Zombie 2', released in the US as `Zombie', would become one of the most popular drive in hits of the 1970s, a massive international success that solidified the zombie/cannibal craze of the early 1980s and sparked Lucio Fulci's own reign as a horror movie icon.
Dawn of the Dead is a truly stunning example of the horror genre's ability to produce works that are as socially relevant as they are terrifying, films which break free of the constraints of conventional horror movie elements and in doing so establish themselves as being truly timeless. While I would still give Night of the Living Dead the slight edge between the two, Dawn of the Dead is still an extraordinary film in its own right as well as an almost superior sequel to another of the scariest movies ever made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dawn of the Dead is concrete proof that extreme gore and violence
doesn't always equal a dumb movie and that the two can make very nice
bedfellows indeed. This film is a rare thing in that it will please
both gorehounds and fans of art cinema, and there isn't a vast amount
of films that do that. Aside from doing what I've just mentioned, this
follow up to Night of the Living Dead established George Romero as a
household name in many a gore fan's home and his trilogy of zombie
films will ensure for ever more that the name 'Romero' and the zombie
film will always go hand in hand. The plot of this film follows four
survivors of the zombie apocalypse that has ensued after the events of
Night of the Living Dead as they hold up in a shopping mall to try and
hide from the events going on in the outside world. However, this poses
another problem, as once their home has been built up in the midst of
the atrocities; will our hero's be able to give up all that they have
The commentary on society and the trappings of consumerism that Romero appears to be keen to implement in his film come off as being somewhat muddled, due to the fact that it's lost under the reality that what we see our hero's doing makes absolute perfect sense. This, however, is where the genius behind the commentary comes into play; it's a depiction of what people within a consumerist society would do in this situation, which makes the commentary all the more potent. Despite it being a film about zombies, Romero implements a sense of realism into the proceedings, which works due to the fact that he never overindulges in anything. Sure, the gore towards the end is over the top; but even that is realistic as it is what you would expect a zombie massacre to be. Because of his sense of realism, we are able to care for the characters that Romero has presented us with, even though we really know little about them. The audience is able to put themselves into their situation and we are constantly given the feeling that we are actually involved in the events on screen. This makes the ending of the movie more potent by way of the sense of security that Romero has lulled you into throughout the movie, and at the end; we really feel for what is happening to our characters and even though we want to see the massacre happen (as that's why we're watching the film at the end of the day), we sort of don't want to see it at the same time. This kind of mind-game isn't carried off successfully very often, but Romero has it down to an art form here.
The movie benefits massively from a great score by Dario Argento's house band, Goblin. In fact, with the obvious exception of Suspiria; I would even go as far as to say that this is their best work ever. The score blends so well with the happenings on screen that it's impossible to have one without the other. Some films have a superfluous score, or one that doesn't add anything to the film; but it's undeniable that the score of Dawn of the Dead not only adds to what we're seeing, but 'makes' it. As many people will be tuning in to see gore, I am pleased to tell you that this film doesn't disappoint in that respect. It's one of the goriest films ever made, with many sequences reaching a level of disgustingness that is rarely seen in cinema (intestine dinner, anyone?). As you are probably aware, Tom Savini did the make-up effects for Dawn of the Dead and it is the film that made his career and established him as the gore guru that he is often seen as today. The film is also notable for a certain line that has been quoted more times than any other line uttered in any other horror movie. I am of course talking about the fabulous; "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth".
Dawn of the Dead is undoubtedly one of the most important films ever made. It inspired a barrage of rip-off's that are still being made today and it stands tall on many a horror fan's list of favourite horror films. Dawn of the Dead is one of the most recent films to inspire a remake and, unfortunately, it turned out to be terrible. Not that it matters, as the original is where it's at; and this film is an undeniable masterpiece.
George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead was groundbreaking, satirical, but
it was above all else just a fun kind of movie to watch when I was
younger. It's also on the films that I count as having re-watchability,
even with all of the gore and violence and chilling factors in the
film. It combines a kind of documentary feel sometimes (newsreels come
to mind when the zombie montages in the mall go on), but is also very
un-real at the same time. The gore, courtesy of make-up impresario Tom
Savini, is of the comic-book kind, where it's all very real and
horrifying until you realize the color is off on the blood and the
color on the faces of the un-dead is off.
I could go on and on about this film, but the key thing is to see it, even just once. You may find it out-dated trash, or time-less beauty. Either way, it's likely Romero's best film, or at least his most ambitious (though I've yet to see Knightriders to comment fully). Energy, humor, sadness, excitement, love, loss, it's everything a movie should be (plus the origin of Sex Machine)!
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.
'Dawn of the dead' may lack the pulverising immediacy of 'Night of the
Living Dead', but it gains in exhilirating, epic scope. It is one of the
best films of the 1970s, a reckless, hubristic, over-ambitious masterpiece
whose excess is reined in by its Langian formal precision. The
claustrophobia of the first film is replaced by a wider frame of reference,
including the media, the military and suburbia; although, typically, the
move is once again towards the indoors.
The film starts explosively, inside a panicking TV station trying to report on the inexplicable emergence from the earth of the undead. An assorted quartet - two media, two army; three white, one black; three men, one woman - escape in a helicopter used for rush-hour traffic reports. There is a sense of relief in this, a sense of breaking free from the circle of undead enclosing America's major cities.
But not for long - it seems that modern American man, unlike his pioneering ancestors, cannot stand open spaces, and holes up in a building, a shopping
mall, which is crawling with zombies, and recognised by the woman as a prison. Not content with this level of confinement, our heroes draw plans, erect barriers, shut down grids. Romero pinpoints this national insularity by framing his modern horror movie as a transposed Western, with the foursome as latterday frontiersmen wiping out the natives, and erecting a new civilisation.
Some might say that Romero's irony is a little heavy here - the mock-triumphal Western music on the soundtrack; the composition of the four at the height of the crisis standing in front of a sign with just the letters 'U' and 'S' visible; the glee in the gun culture, including an ersatz Western gun store in the mall the 'Red River' like beseiging of the mall by the 'Indian' Hells' Angels on their motorbike/horses complete with tomahawks. But such irony is never stable - Romero keeps pulling the ground from under the viewers' feet, both in terms of character identification, and the shifting meanings embodied by the zombies.
Romero's terrifying vision is of an America turned in on itself, eating itself through cannibalistic greed, the very system of capitalism based on a cycle of power and repression in which the repressed will never quite go away. 'Night' pulsated with a late 1960s urgency reflecting contemporary social and political upheaval, white capitalist America beseiged by the peoples it had oppressed for centuries. By 1978, that political anger is gone, and America has reverted to being a race of consumer zombies, congregating around massive shopping malls like they're the religious temples of the Incas, trapped there not by the freedom of choice of capitalist propaganda, but mindless instinct.
the zombies are supposed to be the enemy, the Other in conventional horror terms, but the first thing the so-called heroes do on landing at the mall is substitute urgent survival for gleeful consumerism (compare with the very similar silent fantasy, 'Paris Qui Dort'). There's no way to deal with any outside threat because we are numbed and bloated by products. Reality ceases to exist; there are some beautifully surreal scenes, as our heroes make homes in showrooms.
The mall sequence as a whole has a Bunuellian savagery about it, and the film builds up an aggression like the characters until all is chaos - tones, modes, genres all colliding, the 'reality' or 'integrity' or, even, 'seriousness' of the film as much in question as the modern world the protagonists live in, where even time seems to stand still, the weeks of the action compressed into the framework of a day, with the night of the living dead giving onto the dawn. It is probably allegorically significant which characters survive, but by the end we're not sure whether we're watching a horror, a comedy, a thriller, a Western, or a very bitter joke. Certainly scarier than 'The Stepford Wives'
Thoughtful if unsubtle epic follow-up to Night of the Living Dead was one
THE influential movies of the late 70's; pity, then, that the people it
influenced paid more attention to the amped-up gore than to the sense of
contained hysteria that makes what should be tough going (there are
basically three scenes in this movie: zombies attack people, people attack
zombies, people stand around talking) a uniquely involving and provocative
self-analysis of the zombie film.
The symbolism is, well, not delicate. Just in case we missed it the first time, the trope that the mall attracts the zombies "because it was an important place to them" is repeated for our rumination. But the overall sustained atmosphere, inside and outside of the banal environment of the shopping mall, is by far the film's salient contribution; even when there is no obvious action onscreen, there is the threat of an attack to come, and the clock is clearly ticking on the four protagonists during their idyll. Moreover, it takes the conspicuously familiar and catapults it into an apocalyptic situation, creating a powerful sense of displacement.
The violence, which is primarily what draws people to or repels them from this movie, comes on strong, but quickly becomes monotonous (as it is, the vast majority of the violence in the movie is inflicted against the zombies rather than by them, though is none the less repulsive for that); the scariest part of the movie is how plausible it makes the concept of total disintegration of what we perceive as civilization. The soundtrack, highlighting pulsing, insistent synthesizer chords, contributes much to the onscreen tension, which the action choreography is exemplary. An unlikely masterpiece.
If only every horror movie was made with such determination as this one. A zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead succeeds in every aspect. It has enough violence and gore to gratify any horror fan, and then some! The weird thing is that the gore in this movie isn't unnecessary, it suits the purpose. In this sequel to the classic Night of the Living Dead, the zombies have taken over the land and have spread to immense numbers. A group of people escape the carnage in a helicopter, and take refuge in a huge mall where they can live off the supplies inside for years. They have to fend off the zombies trying to get in, as well as a sadistic group of bikers who want to loot the place. Great film, lots of gory action and flesh-munching. Make sure to check out the newly remastered director's cut for terrific picture and sound, and extra footage.
After being introduced to "Halloween," I was introduced to other horror movies for which I heard my peers talked about in school and after watching this movie on the movie channel, I was introduced to something more gruesome than anything else. "Dawn of the Dead" is the sequel to the popular cult "Night of the Living Dead" in which two national guards, a reporter and a pilot have escaped Philadelphia on a chopper after finding out that the whole globe has been affected with zombies resurrecting from the dead and attacking the living. The four of them hide out in a deserted mall where they think everything is safe until they realize that the reporter is pregnant and that they're zombies invading the mall. After exterminating the zombies, the survivors make the mall their own home where they shop for food, steal the cash and turn a small room into a personal resting place. "Dawn of the Dead" is by far one of the best horror films and sequels I have ever seen. It's dark, mean and much more violent than the original black and white horror film.
There's not much use denying it George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" is one of the chosen few, absolute greatest horror films ever made and it's fairly unimaginable that a powerful movie like this will ever come out again. Even more than its 1968 predecessor, the landmark known as "Night of the Living Dead", this film contains literally everything to satisfy even the most demanding fan of horror cinema. Some films attempt to reach a maximum level of high tension throughout; some have eminent directors and/or a professional cast; some horrors will distinguish themselves from the rest by providing a lot of gore & gruesome make-up effects and others completely rely on uniquely atmospheric set pieces and filming locations. "Dawn of the Dead" consists of ALL these trademarks and yet a whole lot more! This film more or less begins where "Night" ended, with an alarming increase of zombies that feast their way through America. The opening sequences masterfully capture the growing sense of mass hysteria and disbelief in a TV-studio, where a 'scientist' warns the population not to regard these walking corpses as former family members or friends, but as mere monsters on the constant lookout for human flesh to feed on. These scenes introduce Peter and Francine, who plan to escape the big city in a helicopter. Cut to another very perplexing series of action sequences in which fellow policemen Stephen & Peter battle their way through a zombie-infested apartment building. Eventually these four characters flee together and entrench themselves in a large shopping mall complex. They can fairly easily handle the menace of the zombies here, but the biggest danger comes from typical human greed and selfishness. It's downright amazing how Romero manages to present such an implausible topic like zombie mayhem in such a realistic and incredibly disturbing way. He already did that in "Night of the Living Dead" but "Dawn" is entirely different film all together, since it contains a lot more humor and intelligently subtle society-mockery. The gore is sensational and plentiful (thank you, Tom Savini!) but the film never at one point drags in the tension or bad editing department. It's just, in one word, the perfect horror movie. There exist more than a dozen different versions of this film, which are all worth seeing at least once if only to spot the differences. Particularly recommended are Romero's original director's cut (duh!!) and Argento's European cut. This latter cuts a little on the dialogues and humor, but it features another brilliant soundtrack by Goblin! I could easily write another five page-essay about the genius of this movie, but it would just constantly re-confirm that it's absolute must-see! In case you haven't yet, make "Dawn of the Dead" a priority and also make sure you've got the horror-munchies!
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