Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead
Written and directed by George A. Romero
(number 420)

Romero’s name is synonymous with zombies, and how we think of them being portrayed in modern cinema. A follow up to Night of the Living Dead, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This film is in color and also features a black lead. It’s also the first instance of the ‘hiding in a mall’ trope, which has become so prevalent because of this movie. From Jonathan Coulton to board games… malls are a thing.

I was first struck by the kick ass opening sequence with the TV news station – instant exposition of the situation (the expert explaining that the dead are coming back and eating the living) and of the general state of the nation (so much panic amongst the TV station employees, constant noise and yelling). Then we get further exposition with the security guards clearing out the tenement building, which illustrates the horror of the situation in no uncertain terms. And introduced my 100% favourite line in any zombie movie ever, which I’ve put as the best line below.

This is just generally a great movie. It’s tight, the characters make choices that make sense to me. Especially: secure the mall, live life of luxury helping yourself to goods in the stores, don’t watch Francine throwing up, don’t kill yourself if you can get away. It’s satisfying to watch a horror movie where you’re not shaking your head at the stupid things happening on screen.

Look. I have a lot of zombie nightmares, and I’m fascinated in them as a monster in general, but I don’t find these zombies scary at all. They’re just sooo… comical. Lurching around with their limbs all stiff. And the costuming and characterisation of them seemed to be deliberately humourous. Like the Hare Krishna zombie, or the one who just really wanted to hold onto a gun. I liked that they still knew a bit about the world, they were repeating movements they made in life, or were attracted to things they might have previously enjoyed. I loved these zombies, and am actually pretty glad that for the most part they weren’t scary.

Does it make me love the people? I really rate Peter as a character – how awesome to have a black dude as the main character, the most sensible and sardonic one of all of them. The most likely to see things as they are and see what has to be done. I enjoy all four of the main leads to be honest, Roger is pretty great as the slightly loose cannon fun time boy who ends up being the one to get bit and slowly turn, and you do feel for him while it’s happening.

Bechdel test: The first lines are two women talking about the weirdness of the situation they’re in but only Francine is named. The rest of the movie there are lots of women zombies, but only Francine as a named character.

Best line:

“When the dead walk, we must stop the killing or lose the war.”
I just really love having this perspective brought out right at the start of the film, because yeah. People squabbling and killing each other is just going to make the undead horde stronger, and they will invariably come and kill you. I am pretty tempted to try and write something which deals with this idea. People fighting their own predilication to anger and violence and co operating to defeat the zombie menace.

State of Mind: Thoroughly enjoyed this. May just seek out Day of the Dead, even though it’s not on the 500 list.

Watched movie count

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One thought on “Dawn of the Dead (1978)

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