I thought I’d go back and re-watch this beast of a film as my first flick of the year. I did this with a few films on this blog and its interesting to see how much more you get from another viewing of a film,
Background of Dawn of the Dead
From 1978 Dawn of the Dead is a landmark in zombie horror films. It is the second in George Romero’s ground breaking zombie series. In the 10 years following Night of the Living Dead Romero did manage to put out a couple of other flicks like “Martin” and “The Crazies” none of which seemed to have the impact (either culturally or box office wise) that Night of the Living Dead had. It would have been only logical to follow that one up at some point.
To be fair it seems to be a collaboration between Romero and Argento (I was unaware of this on the initial review). I’m not sure how much each had to do with it, whether it was more a Romero production or not, but either way I guess it paved the way for a whole bunch of zombi spin offs to come out of Europe after this. *Upon researching this it appears Argento helped finance and co-produce this film. Dawn of the Dead is the next evolution in zombie, in both time line and the species. Besides ushering in zombie horror films into the modern age its also a milestone in explicit gore. Directors George Romero and Dario Argento were both already well known by this point for their respective previous works so this was never to going to be a flop.
A New breed of Horror
The film being shot in colour put it way ahead of NOTLD in terms of watchability. Whilst Night is considered a classic in both mine and horror critics opinions, I can see how younger fans might find the black and white movie a little slow paced. The gore and horror effects in this are next level from what was around at the time. Bearing in mind this was 1978 I think it plunged new depths of gore. So much so that it earned an “X” rating. Dawn of the Dead was released unrated in the USA and banned in some countries like Australia. It went on to gross over 55 million, a big haul for a zombie flick. if you listen closely you can hear the music of Goblin as well (commonly used in Argento’s films) which add a nice touch!
The film itself is not really related to Night of the Living Dead. Plot wise it is set in the 70’s when the zombies have taken over the town (possibly country). The media are on full alert, but nobody knows exactly what’s going on. The state sends in the troopers to start eradicating the zombies. Unfortunately even these guys don’t know what’s going and innocent civilians are slaughtered in the hunt for the zombies. They eventually clear out an apartment block (with some heavy losses), and head to country with pair of reporters where they see even more of the undead roaming around the country side.
It dawns on our gang that they are now alone and have to fend for themselves. They decide to hole up together in a shopping mall, where they find supplies and food to keep existing. The mall itself is riddled with zombies so our gang has to be careful. Of course the zombies have other ideas and try to break into their area and feed on their few remaining survivors. Can our gang get out of the mall alive? Well, that my friends is where you’ll have to watch the film for yourselves to find out!
Back to what I said before about the evolution of the zombie. These are not just braindead automations like in the first film. They seem to have memories of their previous lives and and attempt to reclaim their own past lives in their actions. While the film is violent, by todays standards its not too bad. There is also no sex or nudity that many Italian horror flicks were soaked in. In my opinion I wouldn’t have a problem with my teenage kid seeing this. Id suggest it would probably only gain a 15+ rating by todays standards.
A side noteOne thing that really got to me is how much many of the central characters in this had a great time indulging in all the experiences the mall had to offer, when they weren’t constrained by the material costs. I can’t say I haven’t fantasised about the same thing. Imagine having the world to yourself and money being no object? Until of course it all runs out. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but I think Dawn of the Does provide an interesting side commentary on what would happen in a disaster like this, with civilisation collapsing and the general chaos, forming of new social orders, whether we’d be able to unite or just fall into the lawless chaos etc… that one would assume would happen in the aftermath of something like this. And of course who would have the natural rights to the resources left.
HISTORICAL IMPACT OF DAWN OF THE DEAD
Both Romero and Argento are legends of horror. I’d say the historical impact of dawn of the dead was that it was one of the first mainstream films to incorporate explicit gore. Sure there were some Italian flicks at the time that were more full on, but none made any impact on the general population. This one definitely paved the way for high level gore in films! The zombies do look a little cheap by todays standards, just grey face paint to signify the death and decay of the zombie. This aside the gore is top notch and would have left anything available at the time for dead so to speak.
There’s some good interplay between characters too. Something I feel had been lacking somewhat from the Italian gore flicks of the time. There’s also some comic releif (The pie scene is pretty funny) This isn’t just a gore-fest, its a pretty decent movie all round. The acting in this film doesn’t need to be top notch but its definitely at least as good as it needs to be, the dialogue is also pretty good. Another interesting note is that there’s no really well known actors in this film. In fact I can’t really name any of them off the top of my head.
Overall its great fun and I’d recommend this film to any horror fan.
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