Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Favorite Era: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

We reach the end of our Halloween Countdown with not only my favorite George Romero zombie film, but also my favorite horror movie in general.  Dawn of the Dead is quite simply one of the best horror movies ever made.  Good acting, great Tom Savini f/x, a plot that manages to deliver the horror goods while still acting as social commentary (Romero tends to be a little heavy handed in this regard but here it works fine) and a great score by Italian rock group Goblin combine to make one hell of a two hours.
  • This is the first collaboration between Romero and Italian director Dario Argento whose brother Claudio co-produced the film.  Their next collaboration, Two Evil Eyes is...Not as good, to put it politely.  Actually, it's not that bad but the difference between Argento and Romero circa 1978 and them two of them in 1990 is pretty glaring.
  • First off, there are three cuts available: the 127 minute U.S. version that I'll be going from; the 137 minute extended cut that played in foreign market and the Dario Argento edited 118 minute Italian cut.  All three have their merits but I love the 127 minute version as it's what I grew up watching.
  • The first few minutes are great at showing just how chaotic a zombie apocalypse would be.  What's brilliant is that it is done from the perspective of the media trying to cover the events rather than having our characters just get attacked by zombies from the beginning.
  • Francine (Gaylen Ross) and Stephen (David Emge) make for a fairly likable couple.
  • The next stretch of film is awesome as it not only sets up our other two main guys, SWAT officers Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott H. Reiniger), but also gives us a heavy dose of the in your face f/x Tom Savini delivered.  Exploding heads, gory zombies, I'm so glad Romero decided to release this into theaters unrated.  It did well too, earning around 5 million which in 1978 for a movie that couldn't have a lot of advertising thanks to the lack of a rating is pretty amazing.
  • Matters of storytelling and gore aside, the sequence is also just a damn good action scene by itself.  Romero has always between good at this sort of thing and in fact, I consider his 2005 flick Land of the Dead to be basically just a post apocalyptic action movie with zombies.
  • The sequence leading up to the mall is great as a lean, fast form of character building.  This might be the best paced two hour long horror film I have ever seen, especially considering you are basically thrown right into the action.
  • The mall is just plain cool as a location.  It's a great, huge 70's mall...disgustingly 70's, in fact which was probably Romero's point.  What makes this movie so great is that it works great as a horror/action film but also as social commentary.  In this case, Romero is taking on consumerism and I won;t get too deep into it since there are other places you can find that sort of thing and it will be done better than I ever could.
  • The thing that hooked me on this film is the long "cleaning out the mall" section which takes up a good portion of the film, nearly an hour.  Savini really shines with his legendary machete to the head; screwdriver to the ear, the f/x work is just awesome and it's simply a horror fan's dream.
  • Romero handles the change in tone well as this section of the film goes from fun action to grim contemplation as the outside world is falling apart.
  • Roger's death and return as a zombie is wonderfully tense, heightened by a TV broadcast as a scientist type is speaking to an angry audience.
  • The quiet idyll the film settles into works well, especially the end when the biker gang (led by Tom Savini who also did stuns for the movie) comes in and lets the zombies back in.
  • The finale is gruesomely awesome.  My favorite is the one gang member who for some inexplicable reason keeps going back to a blood pressure test machine...Oh yes, he does get munched real good.
  • David Emge makes a great zombie in terms of his physicality.
  • I love the music at the end when Peter decided he wants to live and fights his way to the roof to escape with Fran.
I honestly don't have much more to say.  The film is simply fantastic.

Happy Halloween.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.