"DAWN OF THE DEAD" (1978)
TAGLINE: One of the best..."When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth."
ENTIRE STORY IN AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE:
The living turn a shopping mall into Heaven, but naughty living and zombies give them Hell!
THIS IS 'THE ONE', HUH?
And for many good reasons...fans the world over call this THE zombie film against which all others must be measured. George Romero followed up "Night of the Living Dead" with a sequel that was the horrorshow equivalent of knocking it out of the park with the bases loaded. Jaw-droppingly ambitious in spite of its budget at the time, "Dawn of the Dead" serves as a cautionary tale of how both zombies and living-kind tend of make American society a mess.
IS IT GOOD OR BAD?
Uh, hello? Don't just take every other zombiephile's word for it, take MY word that this movie deserves to be called classic. It's a rare thing to see a horror film not only give the gore-starved their buckets of blood, but also some real thoughtful commentary on the way things are to chew on.
The film opens sometime after the events of "Night of the Living Dead", and America is finally catching up to the fact that the undead are back and hungry. The only order of the day is disorder: people are leaving a television station like passengers jumping off a sinking ship as a harried government official tries to tell the skeptical host of a news program and his audience about the zombie threat. One of those working in the studio, Francine (Gaylen Ross), doesn't need much convincing before the arrival of her boyfriend, Stephen (David Emge), who offers to take them both out of the city by a stolen helicopter. At the same time, the police launch a raid of a housing project to destroy zombies being kept there by their loved ones. The situation goes bad even before zombies are given a chance to attack some cops...emphasizing that zombies are pretty stupid to go after prey carrying guns. Two of the SWAT members, Peter and Roger (Ken Foree and Scott H. Reiniger), decide to get out while they haven't been bitten. Roger, it turns out, knows a buddy who knows how to fly a helicopter...
One thing leads to another, and the four come together to fly to ANYWHERE that doesn't have zombies running rapshod over everything. At one point, they fly over a party of hundreds of rednecks backed by the military as they set out to do some zombie-huntin in a moment that watchers of "Night of the Living Dead" will appreciate. You might be a redneck if you carry a can of beer in one hand and a big bore rifle in the other..."Zombies are good shootin, yessir!" :D (I might be a redneck saying this, but I'd join one of those anti-undead posses!) As the copter's gas starts to run low, the four come across a shopping mall, and none of them sound like they've even seen one before. (They were relatively new on the landscape at the time, by the way!) They touch down, take one look at the bounty that the mall offers, and decide to make the place into their haven from an increasingly apocalyptic world. They seal off the mall and manage to dispose of every undead inside, but not before losing one of their own. They then begin to enjoy an existence where they make use of any and every resource and piece of merchandise the mall's many stores have to offer to create a new life for themselves, but realize almost too late how empty and, well, lifeless that life is. It's Francine more than the others who understands that latching on to the mall as a home and all of the commerical possessions it has to offer would make them no better than the zombies that doggedly want to swarm upon the mall just because it was important to their consumer-obsessed previous lives. But just as hope springs, a small army of living raiders storm the mall...they let in the zombies at the same time, and all you-know-what breaks loose...
OKAY, BUT WAS THERE PLENTY OF BLOOD AND GORE?
Hell, yes! This film was legendary for its gore, and those under 18 at the time of its release were expressly forbidden from watching it. (Like that honestly would have stopped any minors!) Tom Savini proved to be equal to the monumental task, yet Romero wished that the makeup and effects were tailored to give "Dawn of the Dead" a semi-comic book style. Zombies often had a too-blue pallor to their skin, and blood when spilled was distinctly bright and not necessarily realistic. It still didn't ease the movie's adults-only status, or how gruesome things got in the film. Bites are ripped from flesh, limbs are literally pulled off, one poor bandit gets piled on by zombies and has his guts ripped out as he's screaming...and in a jaw-dropping moment, a crazed cop blows someone's head apart! By the way, there has been some confusion about what version out there is Romero's definitive vision for the film, since there's a few edits of it out there. Rest assured that the version known as the U.S. Theatrical Cut is the one he wanted everyone to see. There you go!
BOTTOM LINE, DID ANYBODY GET OUT ALIVE?
Only two, and only barely...see the movie to know more!
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY:
Defining yourself by what you can buy and consume means losing touch with the things that really matter, even life as we know it, along with all the good and bad that comes with life. Or as Tyler Durden said in "Fight Club", you are not your fucking khakis. Plus, if zombies weren't bad enough, there's always living assholes to worry about.