Dawn of the Dead

Release date: May 24, 1979

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, David Crawford, David Early, Richard France and Howard Smith

Following the events of Night of the Living Dead (1968), we follow the exploits of four survivors of the expanding zombie apocalypse as they take refuge in an abandoned shopping mall following a horrific SWAT evacuation of an apartment complex. Taking stock of their surroundings, they arm themselves, lock down the mall, and destroy the zombies inside so they can eke out a living--at least for a while. Tensions begin to build as months go on, however, when they come to realize that they've fallen prey to consumerism. Soon afterward, they have even heavier problems to worry about, as a large gang of bikers discovers the mall and invades it, ruining the survivors' best-laid plans and forcing them to fight off both lethal bandits and flesh-eating zombies.

If you can look past all the problems associated with low-budget moviemaking in the ’70s, then “Dawn of the Dead” is one of the best films ever made, the presence of zombies notwithstanding. Written and directed by Romero, Dawn of the Deaed features biting social commentary about the nature of humans, their love of consumerism, and the fact that, when all is said and done, it is humans that is the most dangerous species of them all, even next to the flesh eating zombies. For horror lovers, Dawn of the Dead is a great treat. Filled with lots of juicy gore, old fashion prosthetic makeup, and one exploding head after another, no one who watches the movie expecting nothing but the best will leave disappointed. Dawn of the Dead is filled with all the things that make genre films worth watching in the first place. For everyone else, the movie might seem a bit lacking. The ’70s vibe is definetely present and the direction is sometimes erratic, especially when guns are involved. Then again, this is a movie made in the ’70s on a tight budget, so some allowances must be made for the movie’s age.

Of course if you think that their is no humanity in Dawn of the Dead you would be wrong, Romero is acutely aware of what he’s trying to do and say and never does he lose his way not even for one moment. Man, despite being attacked by flesh-chomping zombies, has never looked more inhumane, deadly, or self-destructing. In an early clip in the film, Romero re-introduces the gun-toting country bumpkins that he closed “Night of the Living Dead” off with. Here, the armed rednecks are still just as oblivious to what’s taking place since they’re too occupied with the disgusting thrill of shooting moving targets.

Of the four actors that are in the Dawn of the Dead only Ken Foree, playing the tough-as-nails SWAT cop Peter, has gone on to do a lot more acting work. Reiniger, as the brash SWAT cop Roger, seemed to disappear after the movie; but at least he can say that he was part of one of the best freaking zombie films ever made. Gaylen Ross provides the movie with its heart and intelligence, while David Emge, as the flyboy Stephens, pushes home Romero’s point about our obsession with material goods.

There are of course, a few flaws with Dawn of the Dead, but the movie's many pluses more than make up for them. For horror fans, “Dawn” is one of those movies that can be viewed over and over again, and still be near perfect each time. “Night of the Living Dead” will always be the best of the genre, but this film definetely isn’t too far behind.

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