Ten years after George Romero added new life to horror with Night of the Living Dead, he released a sequel that met the quality of the first film. How this film came to be is an interesting tale to hear for any fan of horror. According to IMDB, Dario Argento, the great Giallo director who gave us amazing films such as Suspiria and Deep Reed heard that Romero was contemplating doing a sequel to Night of the Living Dead and invited Romero to come to Rome without distractions to work on the script. Three weeks after arriving, Romero had written the script while Argento provided the soundtrack.
The great Ken Foree
One thing I hate about the legacy of Dawn of the Dead is how unavailable it is. On an average day I’ll see on Amazon DVD copies of this film going for 67 dollars and Blu-Ray copies from the UK (don’t think this film ever got a US Blu-Ray release) going for 120 bucks. I looked around on eBay and the first thing to come up is pirated copies from South Korea. Meanwhile, the remake is readily available and just got a release from the amazing people at Scream Factory.
The remake really has replaced the original and I hate this. While the remake is as far as I remember well done and by far the best remake of a horror film in the 21st century (not saying much), it certainly does not have the power of the original. While the original was an innovative horror film with great social commentary, the remake is just a nice and fun thrill ride. I’m not bashing the remake. I’ll give credit where credit is due, it’s a watchable film directed by Zack Snyder and how often can you say that?
A Hare Krishna zombie
The plot for Dawn of the Dead is simple, two S.W.A.T. team members and two people who work at a local television station team up and seek refuge in an abandoned mall. George Romero’s great work is notable for being simplistic while at the same time containing a high level of quality.
The first notable social commentary in Dawn of the Dead is George Romero’s opinion regarding commercialism and greed. Throughout the film we see the main characters indulging in all of the free things the mall has to offer and exceeding towards insanity when Francine is caked in heavy makeup looking at her reflection in awe and when Peter and Francine overlook the mall floor wearing fur coats.
It’s interesting to see even in a zombie apocalypse shopping is still used as a distraction. The excess of greed is best demonstrated when Peter and Stephen, better known as Flyboy are in the mall’s bank and grab fistfuls of cash in case the currency is once again useful.
The social commentary regarding commercialism is easily pointed out but people rarely discuss the social commentary regarding gender roles and a woman’s choice in Dawn of the Dead. At the beginning of the film, it’s mentioned that Francine is pregnant and three men are discussing whether or not it should be aborted while she is in another room. Upon realizing what’s being discussed, she walks in and lets it known she’s pissed. The following day she ironically states she would make everybody breakfast if she had her pots and pans.
While glancing at IMDB facts, I noticed Gaylen Ross refused to scream like a damsel in distress because she viewed Francine as a strong lead. George Romero asked her to scream once and never did again.
There are multiple things I notice in this film that seem to either predict the future or obviously was a heavy influence on what came after it. When I watch the sequences that take place in the mall and see the thoughtless zombies staggering around, I can’t help but think this is George Romero predicting exactly what the 1980s would become and mall culture in general, people without use of their brains staggering around a mall.
When the insane bikers come in and tear the place apart, raiding it while killing whoever is in their way it reminds me of Black Friday when even the dullest housewives are suddenly out for blood over a Tickle Me Elmo toy.
Multiple times we cut to people on a talk show discussing the issue of zombies and it always features someone screaming out their opinion over loud spectators in the background. When these scenes came up I always thought back on the trashy talk shows that came soon after similar to the one in Dawn of the Dead such as Geraldo, The Morton Downey Jr Show and Jerry Springer.
I also have to imagine this film perhaps more than other zombie films influenced The Walking Dead. The way the bikers invade the mall and how they become the main conflict while the zombies shortly are shoved into the background is what The Walking Dead is on a regular basis. War never ends and there is always a desire to conquer land, even in a zombie apocalypse is a consistent theme in The Walking Dead.
The original Dawn of the Dead is an important film of the horror genre. Perhaps the great loss of George Romero will make someone realize this film needs a proper Blu-Ray release. The fact that a new copy of this film is unavailable while the remake is so easily available is something any true horror fan should be disgusted by.
My favorite kill in Dawn of the Dead, a zombie walking into a helicopter blade