DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth!”
George Romero’s sequel to his classic Night of the Living Dead is in itself a classic and much like it predecessor, is considered by many to be one of the all time horror movie greats. The story takes place with the zombie outbreak started in Night Of The Living Dead still occurring or having re-occured and this time we see the signs that the living are losing control of the situation and we are starting to be overrun by the flesh eating dead. The new installment takes place again in Pennsylvania with four survivors, helicopter pilot Steven (David Emge), newswoman and girlfriend Fran (Gaylen Ross), along with S.W.A.T. team members Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree) taking to the air to escape the chaos and finding shelter and temporary haven in a massive abandoned shopping mall…abandoned by the living that is. They battle the dead to occupy their new home, but their victory and solace is short lived as they’ve lost one of their own, they begin to feel more like prisoners in their palace of consumerism and a vicious motorcycle gang arrives who “don’t like people who don’t share”. This leads to an action packed and blood and entrails soaked climax where the 3 remaining survivors battle the heavily armed bikers and the legions of the flesh eating dead now released back into the mall.
Romero again deftly mixes social commentary with savage violence as the zombie uprising started in the first film has returned (or has it been ongoing?) and is spiraling out of control. Now the living are being overrun by the flesh eating dead and there’s nowhere to run and writer/director Romero paints a bleak and desolate picture of a world being taken over by a nightmare. We get some truly chilling shots of streets, fields and parking lots filled with the walking dead and the meager forces of mankind making a last stand to remain the dominant species on the planet. He paints a grim picture of a human race who are too busy fighting each other over superficial and political reasons to unite and save itself from extinction. Romero takes a satirical look at American consumerism as well, with our survivors battling the dead and the bikers not for survival, but for the spoils represented by the product filled stores in the mall and the notion that the dead return to the mall because “It was an important place in their lives.”. Dawn is presented on a much larger scale than Night and there are literally hundreds of zombies this time and they are everywhere. Again Romero gets good work from his leads and the make-up and gore FX from master craftsman Tom Savini (who also plays the biker gang leader and did stunt work) set a new standard and made him a legend in the film FX world. Add to that a haunting score by the Italian rock band Goblin (Suspiria) and the gigantic Monroeville Mall, which under Romero’s lens becomes a character of the film in itself.
While the flick has a bit more of a satirical sense of humor then the original, it is still horrifying in it’s own way and presented zombies on a scale never seen before up till this time. A sequel that equals and in some ways surpasses the classic original.
A classic 4 zombies!