Dawn of the Dead has a strange dual honor. It is at once one of the
best horror movies since the classic universal era, and one of the best
American satires since Dr. Strangelove.
It involves a small group of
SWAT sharp shooters, a helicopter pilot, and a news reporter as they attempt
to etch out a living in the post apocalyptic hell that has occurred an
unspecific amount of time after Night of the Living Dead. They
eventually make it to an abandoned mall where they find themselves in a
virtual consumer heaven, and have to defend it from raiders, zombies, and
there increasing loss of soul.
If I was to describe Dawn of the Dead in one word, it would be
ferocious. Everything from the moment it opens is complete balls to the wall
cool. In the first scene which has to be one of the coolest horror set
pieces ever shot, a SWAT team invades a ghetto tenement which unable to
accept facts has been hording their dead. When the hapless team battles
there way in, all hell literally breaks loose. Zombies break through the
walls, floors and decimate the team. It’s a claustrophobic piece of horror
that works in equal parts because of Tom Savani's awesome gore make up and
the sheer tenacity of the attack. The fact that its the least of the many
excellent set pieces that occur in the movie speaks volumes for the craft
that went into the film.
However, if Dawn of the Dead is intense in its horror, it is even more
daring in its dark comedy. Many have wondered why George Romero has never
become more of a major force in mainstream movies. It’s simple: He's too damn
fearless. In this film he does not merely cross the taboo line, he drags us
across it with him and shoves us into the arms of a waiting corpse. As the
undead stare vacantly at department store specials, munch on body parts,
and stumble up escalators and across ice rinks to the tedious strains of
"muzak" the critique on consumer culture is not hard to see. However, it’s
one thing to go after society as a whole and another to go after those who
are supposed to be its guardians. Which is why there is a special dark glee
in watching Nuns, Buddhist Monks, Nurses, Doctors, and Cops indulge in their
new found taste of human flesh.
For the B-movie that it is, Dawn of the Dead features some pretty good
performances. When Peter stares over the multitude of the dead and rumbles
"When there's no more room in hell the dead will walk the Earth" you believe
him despite the inherent cheesiness of the dialogue. In fact nearly all the
characters are well drawn aside from Francine. While her character is
refreshing in the fact that she actually learns to fight and fly, she is
just generally annoying and unlikable. Despite being pregnant she smokes
like a chimney and drinks like a fish.
In the end Dawn of the Dead is a true classic, a film full of
viscerally unrelenting horror as well as intelligent and funny satire. Effectively
and even artfully directed by George Romero, this dark film raised the
bar for horror movies so high that many would argue that it has never been reached again.
Really nothing to speak of. The Disc I watched had the director's cut of
the film and a trailer. This is a shame because this is a film that not only deserves a cool package but would easily lend itself to one.