In our increasingly innumerate series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams, we present George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
There was a time zombies didn’t bore me to death. Before zombies learned to run, or caught weird viruses. Or swarmed in CGI swarms towards Brad Pitt.
George Romero’s zombies were a simple bunch. They lurched about comically in blue-face make up with their eyes fixed on some middle distance. You might laugh at them, but be careful. They’d soon take chunks out of your viscera.
Dawn of the Dead is the second film in Romero’s zombie series. With a bigger budget, Romero broadens his scope. He begins to draw out a social commentary about American society. David Emge plays Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews, a pilot who wants to rescue his TV executive girlfriend Fran (Gaylen Ross). Along with SWAT cops Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reiniger) escape the city where the lights are literally going out. They stop on the roof of a shopping mall, but finding an abundance of stuff the decide to hole up there, despite the swarming zombies downstairs.
The zombies are now literally mindless consumers, but so is everyone who approaches the shopping mall. A motorcycle gang who have been efficiently killing their way through the undead lose their cool entirely when they start looting the store. Even a zombie apocalypse can’t stop the lure of capitalism from making everyone try to destroy each other.
The effects and the horror are goopy and fun. There are some very effective shots. And Romero balances the gross out and the comedy with a sensitivity to the emotional part of the film. A scene in which one of our heroes has to kill two zombie children is particularly affecting. When the gang turns up, headed by make up artist and stunt man Tom Savini, you can’t help but shift your sympathies to the poor zombies who are massacred by the bikers before getting some well earned revenge.