Retro Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Zombie month is nearly over and it is time to celebrate possibly the number 1 fan favorite zombie movie, Dawn of the Dead.

Dawn of the Dead is George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, released ten years later and rather than taking place in a farm house, we get a mall.  Malls were growing in popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s and when Romero toured a mall he was inspired.  He showed his script to Dario Argento and eventually they begun filming the movie in the Monroeville Mall, which Romero knew the owners and they were aloud to film at night.

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Dawn of the Dead is a zombie movie that took the sub genre to the next level.  Where Night of the Living Dead changed what the word zombie meant, Dawn of the Dead showed us what they truly can do.  The movie begins with a TV report and we find the station is about to go off the air, we meet the first two main characters, Flyboy and with an assault on a bodega by a SWAT team.  Shit goes wild when they find flesh eaters.  Eventually the four of them meet up and fly away in FlyBoy’s Helicopter and scout for a location.  Evetually they find a shopping mall and take it over.  They fortified the outside and inside and find food, while builing a little apartment.  One of the SWAT guys, Roger gets wreckless after stating,”We got this by the ass!”  He gets bit and Peter has to deal with Roger as he slowly turns.  When they are settled we see a montage of life during a zombie apocalypse while livng in a mall…Good times.  Roger evetually turns and is shot by Peter, the great Ken Foree.

After Roger dies, things start to go bad.  A biker gang finds the mall and decides to take it for theirselves.  They break down the doors, which lets many zombies in and the gang wreaks havoc.  Peter and Flyboy try to fight them off, but its them vs bikers vs zombies.  Eventually things get wacky and then bikers begin throwing pies in the zombies faces.  Flyboy gets turned and Peter and Francine make a get away.  Tom Savini is the leader of the biker gang and he kinds takes center stage.  It is a fun ending to a mostly bleak movie.

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The original ending would have had Peter committing suicide, but that changed.

Dawn of the Dead became a success, even with the gore.  It is 100% one of the best and most beloved horror movies of all-time.  I know many fans who call it their favorite zombie movie.  I can go ahead and include myself into the conversation, I love Dawn of the Dead.  There is a time when I refused to watch the zombie classic.  I will come back to that in a moment.  Dawn of the Dead is a well balanced horror film, it is bleak, there is terror and plenty of gore…yet the end gives us a bit of comedy.  I have seen in documentaries the make up didn’t look right on screen, it made the zombies look, blue…but I think it works for the tone of Dawn of the Dead, the blood is bright red and looks like tempra paint, but again the blue zombies and bright red blood work.  Dawn of the Dead can almost be looked at as a cartoon in a few ways, I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it is colorful, like a cartoon or comic for that matter.  Those things, the effects, the make up and blood make Dawn of the Dead so great.  They also help the movie stand out from a slew of other zombie movies through the years.  Sure, we horror fans know each and every zombie movie, but not everyone could tell you the difference between Day of the Dead or Return of the Living Dead.  Hell, some people confuse Dawn of the Dead’s remake with 28 Days Later.  Everyone, I mean everyone knows about the zombie movie with the blue zombies…tell me I’m wrong.

I also want to take a second and talk about the score by Goblin, it is perfection…that is all.  Here is a sample.

So, why would I ever refuse to watch Dawn of the Dead?

Back when I was 3 or 4, were talking 1983 or 1984.  My mom got her hands on a VHS copy of Dawn of the Dead.  She told me it was hard to get a hold of, this was a time before video stores everywhere and mass production of VHS in all stores.  My mom was around 24 or 25 at the time and her sister and other friends gathered to watch Dawn of the Dead.  The told all of us kids to stay down stairs and play.  Well, my cousin Shawn and I were curious, my Aunt’s house was a split level and we could sneak up and see the movie from the steps and no one would see us, I remember it as if it were yesterday…this is what my 3 or 4 year old eyes saw…

It messed me up…I was scared to death of Dawn of the Dead and it took me over 15 years to sit down and watch it again.  I bought a copy on VHS at Saturday Matinee in the mall and faced my fears.  I had so many problems with seeing another person eat the flesh of others.  When I was around 13 I saw Night of the Living Dead and thought I would be ok at 18 to relive the scariest thing I had ever seen.  What happened next?  Instant fan, I loved the movie from that point on and the scene that bothered me so much, now makes me chuckle with joy.

As I said, Dawn of the Dead has been remade in 2004.  The movie is different in many ways, running zombies, the effects are better…but it is its own movie, and I do love it.  I think the remake is what caused this zombie craze over the last 15 years, sure 28 Days Later was first, but Dawn of the Dead was next level.

Dawn of the Dead is a great movie

IMDB.com has a rating of 8.0

I rate Dawn of the Dead with a 9.2

I am in constant conflict with myself, should I allow my 7 year old watch Dawn of the Dead?  He asks about it, quite a bit, I have multiple copies, t-shirts and a poster on the wall.  I may wait.

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About Ray Marek III 243 Articles
I am a lifelong horror fan. I have written for a few web sites, Kung-Fu Comrades, Nightfall Unlimited and Rage of Rayzor. Freddy's Revenge was the first Horror Film I watched, I was 5. When my mom found out I liked horror films, she began challenging me. Soon to follow were the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. Horror is in my blood, I want to share that with you...my blood...horror. I write unpublished comics. Lifelong dream is to write comics for a major comic book publisher or build my own comic book company.