Film Reviews: “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)

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Directed and Written by George A. Romero.

“Dawn of the Dead” is my favorite horror film.

The story picks up some time after the conclusion of “Night of the Living Dead.” The zombie outbreak is still new and people are frantic and confused. The film begins at a television station in Pittsburgh. The entire staff are arguing and rushing to figure out which shelters still exist to be advertised to the public. The on-air commentator speaks clearly: “Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills. The people it kills, get up and kill!” It’s a chilling scene and very realistic.

Amongst the chaos, two people from the station, Fran, and her boyfriend Stephen, break away in the company helicopter to meet up with their SWAT friend Roger and his new partner Peter. The four of them flee the city in the chopper, eventually landing on a large shopping mall. The mall is loaded with the undead, but they’re low on fuel with nowhere else to go. The mall is also loaded with supplies, food, ammo and anything they would ever need. Can they make it work? Can they somehow stay hidden and survive, not only from the ghouls, but from the savage outside world?

This is a fantastic film that takes its time with its story and is scary on multiple levels.
The group isolate themselves from the outside world, and once the radio broadcasts stop and the television programs cease to run, all you have is static. It makes you wonder what the world has turned into, and it it’s still even worth surviving.

Along side the dread, this film is exciting too. Who wouldn’t want to have an entire shopping mall to themselves? The effects in “Dawn” are outstanding. There’s so many zombies! Special effects artist Tom Savini practically ran a makeup camp to get all of the undead ready for filming after the real life Monroeville Mall closed every night. It this kind of hard work, patience, and creativity that makes a film like “Dawn” so genuine, and such a far cry from our modern horror films.

The 2004 remake is admirable in its own right. However, the story feels rushed as they are only in the mall a couple of days. It’s missing the isolation factor, and the eerie mood the original “Dawn” conveys. It’s like an immature version of the story. The zombies in the remake are fast and full of energy. That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s much more plausible that the recently dead would be mindless, slow shuffling corpses without much of an agenda or direction. It’s creepier that way. Perhaps the remake was trying to copy the wonderful “28 Days Later” from 2002. In that film, the rage filled, fast moving zombies made sense.

As you can see, I can go on and on about this topic. Lol. Bottom line is that “Dawn of the Dead” is my favorite horror film and has been since I first saw it when I was 12 years old. I hope that someday another ambitious filmmaker comes along and makes a zombie flick with as much patience, scares, and emotion as this film has.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.

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Film Reviews: “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

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Directed by George A. Romero.

Is “Night of the Living Dead” the greatest horror film ever made? One could make that argument and I wouldn’t challenge it. If it’s not THE greatest, then it’s certainly a contender.

Johnny & Barbra drive out to the county to put a wreath on their father’s grave. It’s a gloomy evening and they have a 3 hour drive back. Just as they are about to leave, a man approaches and pounces on Barbra! Johnny tries to fend him off and is thrown head first into a tombstone. Barbra flees to an abandoned country house. She locks herself inside. More ghouls approach and surround the house. They slowly bang on walls and doors. Barbra is starting to lose her mind!

And that’s how the film begins… If you haven’t seen it, make it a priority! The story is so suspenseful and eerie, that I wouldn’t dare give the rest away. From start to finish you really feel alongside the ghastly events as they unfold. It’s that feeling that makes my stomach a pit of nerves while watching this.

“Night of the Living Dead” is a true classic. It also spawned an entire franchise of horror. We are of course talking about the modern day zombie, but they don’t refer to “them” as zombies in this. The are simply “ghouls” or “the recently dead.”

This is a mood film that I watch several times a year, especially on dark & cloudy afternoons. While the film’s sequel “Dawn of the Dead” tops “NOTLD” in many ways, it cannot match the film’s gloominess. The black & white print is gorgeous to look at. It’s a perfect film, even in its flaws. I love it for what it is, an honest and ambitious low budget effort that can never be duplicated.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.