Sunday, October 12, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead is considered to by many to be one of the best zombie movies ever made and influenced many subsequent zombie films. Following the events of George A. Romero's previous Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead shows the further collapse of American society due to the ever-growing epidemic of flesh-eating zombies. The film focuses on two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. members, a traffic reporter, and a television executive who seek refuge from the hordes of the living dead in a secluded shopping mall.

Dawn of the Dead is one of the best horror films ever made. The movie perfectly blends horror and gore with Romero's signature brand of social commentary. Dawn of the Dead remains effective to this day.

On the surface, Dawn of the Dead just looks like a zombie film about people attempting to survive within a large, abandoned mall (at least, abandoned by living people). However, its much more than that. The film also acts as a comment on our materialistic culture. This can be seen in the actions of the zombies, who seem to be drawn to the mall for some mysterious reason and our protagonists, who find themselves living an ultimately meaningless experience when given everything they'd ever need. While it can be a little on the nose at times (like Ken Foree's explanation for why the zombies keep trying to enter the mall), the commentary works and still remains relevant today.

However, Dawn of the Dead doesn't survive on social commentary alone. The film, like most zombie films, also works as a character piece. Ken Foree's Peter is probably the most interesting character, a S.W.A.T. member having to deal with the lost of a close friend and slowly becoming comfortable within the mall (maybe too comfortable). The relationship between Francine and Stephen is also intriguing, seeing how a serious relationship might be tested in a situation like a zombie apocalypse.

Really, I feel like the film's only major weak spot is its make up and special effects. Don't get me wrong, Dawn of the Dead does have some good special effects, especially during its climax. I particularly love chewed off arm stuck in the blood pressure machine. However, some haven't aged very well. For example, the blood looks like red paint at times and the gray make up used on the zombies causes a few of them to look blue on film. They don't ruin the film, but they are a weakness.

Dawn of the Dead is easily one of the best zombie films ever made, remaining effect and relevant after three decades. While my personal favorite "Dead" film is Day of the Dead, I still love Dawn of the Dead and feel it has earned its place among the pantheon of horror classics.