Dawn of the Dead

Director: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross

Year / Country: 1978, Italy / USA
Running Time: 139 mins.

Ten years after the towering success of low-budget zombie flick Night of the Living Dead, its director George A. Romero finally delivered a follow-up. And when he did it exceeded all expectations. In this appropriately titled sequel, the zombie threat has grown alarmingly. There are barely places left that are zombie-free. In this apocalyptic nightmare, we follow a group of four survivors that want to fly to safety by helicopter.

They manage to land on the roof of a zombie infested shopping mall. Once they have sealed off a ‘living room’, they realize this isn’t such a bad location considering the times. After all, a shopping mall offers them plenty of supplies and relative protection against the flesh eating things outside. But new problems arrive. Tensions within the group are a constant factor and a gang of sadistic bikers, armed to the teeth, want to invade the shopping mall.

Never before (and after) were zombie movies this tense, entertaining and metaphorically rich. Its basic concept works incredibly well. We have the heroes, the location and the multiple threats that ensure an amazing two-and-a-half hours. Typically for Romero, the group consists of two white men, one black man and a pregnant woman who together form an interesting Utopia in the barricaded shopping mall.

The zombies, a metaphor for consumerist society, are great in evoking a varied set of emotions. They can be scary, funny and sad. That the humans are more frightening than the monsters is shown through the constant infighting of the heroes, the bloodthirsty rednecks and the bikers pointless torturing of zombies. Romero effectively makes the point that humans are incapable of dealing with crises. The extremely gory effects by Tom Savini require a strong stomach – especially during the finale – and the Italian rock band Goblin provides the fitting musical score. All the wonderful elements combined ensure a movie experience that is both intelligent and a lot of fun.

Rating:

Biography: George A. Romero (1940, New York), who lived in Pittsburgh, made his feature debut with Night of the Living Dead. It was a low budget zombie movie that was both groundbreaking and shocking in its time. Quickly, it became a major horror classic. He then directed some smaller, personal films in which he often combined horror and social commentary. In 1978 he topped the success of Night of the Living Dead with his brilliant follow-up Dawn of the Dead. In the eighties his career stagnated a bit when he created the third part in his zombie series Day of the Dead. It was a failure both commercially and critically. In 2005 Romero made a small comeback with Land of the Dead. Romero died in 2017.

Filmography (a selection): Night of the Living Dead (1968) / There’s Always Vanilla (1971) / Season of the Witch (1972) / The Winners (1973, TV episodes) / The Crazies (1973) / O.J. Simpson: Juice on the Loose (1974, TV doc) / Martin (1977) / Dawn of the Dead (1978) / Knightriders (1981) / Creepshow (1982) / Day of the Dead (1985) / Monkey Shines (1988) / Two Evil Eyes (1990) [with Dario Argento] / The Dark Half (1993) / Bruiser (2000) / Land of the Dead (2005) / Diary of the Dead (2007) / Survival of the Dead (2009)

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