#TBT… April 20th 1979… Dawn of the Dead has its premier in New York… here’s our re-view of George A. Romero’s zombie classic…
In 1968, George A. Romero revolutionalised horror film-making with Night of the Living Dead, a film introduced the zombie to an unsuspecting cinematic world. A decade later he returned to his roots with a a bigger scope to look at what happened when the dead start roaming the Earth. While the first film focused on a group of strangers cowering in a farmhouse while the living dead tried to get in, the sequel shows that society has basically collapsed under the spectre of the deceased returning to life. Stephen (David Emge) and Francine (Gaylen Ross), a couple of radio station employees, take the traffic helicopter to try and escape to the countryside, where their are pockets of resistance, while the cities have been mostly overrun.
They are joined by Roger (Scott H. Reiniger) and and Peter (Ken Foree), 2 SWAT police members, and the four of them fly away from Philadelphia. They find a shopping mall and decide it would be a great place to hole up in. They manage to land on the roof, secure the perimeter, and start to enjoy their lives in the shoppers paradise. The mall really does have it all!
But when the emergency broadcasts stop, what will our survivors do next? Are they the only survivors out there? And what happens as Francine’s pregnancy moves along?
Dawn of the Dead is like a gateway to more modern, action filled horror films, while still maintaining the quietness and stillness of the earlier one. The roots of the video nasty can be found in the blood and guts of its finale – which also works in a good bit of slapstick, and although it wasn’t the first horror film to use its “monsters” as a metaphor, it is one of the most overt. The zombies are slaves to their routines and “memories”, and Romero takes aim at the commericalisation of America, if that’s not a contradiction in terms! Dawn of the Dead steps up the action from the earlier film, and the Tom Savini-led biker gang throws the whole film into chaos in a fitting way.
Night of the Living Dead is one of my all time favourite films, mostly because of its small scope and claustrophobic nature. Broadening the scope with this film does lose some of this, but it does open up the world, and allowed more sequels in Romero’s world. The excellent Day of the Dead followed a few years later, Land of the Dead in 2005, before some small budget entries since then, and for all of that we have to thank Dawn of the Dead.
Also… what would Shaun of the Dead be called if Romero hadn’t made this film?
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.