If horror movies had an Academy Awards all to themselves Halloween would be The Deer Hunter, Suspiria would be One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Dawn of the Dead would be The Godfather.
I can’t tell you how many times I have viewed this masterpiece. Hell, I can’t even tell you when I first saw it. All I know is it has been burned into my memory and is one of the few things that remains up there along with the day I proposed to my fiancé, the first time I saw Bruce Springsteen live, and when I beat The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Yes. It’s that good.
My need to replicate the thrilling anxiety I felt for these characters was born. I needed more. Thus, the journey began. Since this film I am reminiscent of a drug addict who needs more and more to satisfy his thirst for the juice. I can’t get enough of horror films and sadly the subsequent fixes will never live up to virgin rush.
WHEN THERE’S NO MORE ROOM IN HELL…
Beginning in the middle as it were, we open on a news studio in turmoil much as is the rest of the world. It seems the recently deceased have, instead of just flopping down to the ground, reanimated! Not only that; they have the fierce desire to eat the flesh of the living, and in fact, it’s their only desire. This is also the way their numbers multiply so rapidly. If a “zombie” bites you and it’s infected juices enter your bloodstream you will die and be brought back as one of them. In other words: You’re fucked.
Anyhow, back to the story. Stephen, one of the news station’s employees, isn’t just waiting around to see if everything is going to be okay. He is getting the hell out of town and he is bringing his girlfriend, Francine, with him via the station’s helicopter.
Peter and Roger are a part of a military unit assigned to a housing project where the zombie population is growing larger than the tenant population. Roger lets Peter in on his plan to flee and asks if he wants to join. Together they join Steven and Francine and it’s into the air on the whirlybird.
We really get an insight on the severity of the situation when Peter is forced to shoot two undead children during a refueling stop.
Running out of supplies and ideas they see potential in a shopping mall. Here they can stock up, get some sleep, and get their bearings. But, before long they see even more potential in this mall as a fortified permanent residence fully stocked with everything they need. They just need to do a little exterminating first.
Thus begins our character’s story of survival in the face of insurmountable odds. It literally is them against the world and it’s not just the zombies they need to protect themselves from.
THEY’RE US, THAT’S ALL
Two of my dreams are represented in this film; my dream to live in an abandoned mall and my dream to be a survivor in a post apocalyptic world. Seriously though, George Romero really succeeds in presenting us with a believable post disaster world within minimal locations. The feeling of isolation and desolation is so genuine I have to look out my window every time I see this movie to make sure cars are still driving around and I’m not the only person left alive.
After the mall is cleared of zombies and our characters begin to settle into their new home a new terror befalls them. Cabin fever… and in a big way. We start to feel as if we are in the hotel from The Shining. A mall is such a big place and with only four people occupying the premises we are left with a vast void with which we fill with our fears.
Now, the blue face makeup effects may not be the best for zombies but, the film makes up for it with Tom Savini’s gore effects. There are heads getting cut off, hands getting cut off, a thousand million blood squibs, all complimented with bright red 70’s blood. Because we all know what flowed through peoples veins in the 70’s was red acrylic paint (thanks Joe). Also, this was the first time I ever saw someone’s stomach get ripped open and the entrails ripped out. I will forever be thankful of that Savini!
Dawn of the Dead is not the story of endless hordes of zombies attacking survivors over and over. It’s a story about people and how they deal with being utterly alone. Yes, there are zombies which makes the movie ten times cooler, but they aren’t the main focus. And that is what makes Dawn of the Dead a fantastic film, not just a fantastic zombie film.
I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
You just can’t get any better in the realm of zombie films.