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 i... Read allFollowing 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.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.
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.
- Nov 4, 2001