127 min., 1978
Written by George A. Romero
Directed by George A. Romero
My rating: ★★★
Who even made those pies?
* * *
Dawn of the Dead begins with Francine (Gaylen Ross) waking up in a TV news room. Two guys are talking and arguing about who/what the creatures are, that are attacking everyone. Francine’s boyfriend, Stephen (David Emge) tells her that he is going to take a helicopter and fly away from the craziness. All they have to do is wait for his friend. We then switch to his friend, Roger (Scott Reiniger), who is a member of a SWAT team as they are about to enter a building and “clean” it out of zombies. As they are clearing the place out, one of them, Wooley (Jim Baffico) starts going bonkers and pretty much shoots randomly. He is then shot by another SWAT member. After some more blood and gore, Roger goes to an area to be alone and he meets the guy who shot Wooley, Peter (Ken Foree). Roger sees that he’s actually a good guy and invites him to leave on the helicopter. The foursome ends up at a mall, and after looking around, they find a room that is untouched and break in. From there they clear out the place of zombies, seal up the place, try to live the good life and ultimately have to leave because a biker gang breaks in and runs amok.
You may be asking me why I gave such a “great”, “perfect” and “quintessential” zombie movie (or even horror movie depending on who you ask) such a low rating. Before you start telling me that I’m just crazy or wrong, hear me out. I know first and foremost that Dawn of the Dead is the type of movie where, no matter how many flaws and problems are brought up, people will always look past them and just argue, “but it’s just a great movie and you don’t understand why”. That’s one of those bullshit comments that holds no water with me. The moment you tell someone that they “don’t get something”, you are pretty much calling them stupid and trying to show just how much better you are. On the other hand, if you are able to have a conversation (back and forth, not just a monologue) and explain your point and listen to others opinions, then great. But sadly, this is one of those movies where if you don’t like it then you are just a fool and have no right to speak about it.
Well I don’t care what anyone thinks because this movie is just…OKAY. That’s right (bum bum bum) it’s just an average movie that age hasn’t been so kind to and there are some parts that just hurt to watch. At the same time there are parts that are still great and hold up today, kicking the shit out of some modern movies.
This time I’ll start with a good thing about the movie. One of the things that still stands the test of time, well actually it’s even more relevant now than it was even back then, is the connection with consumerism (even just the mall counts now). When they approach the mall for the first time, it shows that malls were a new thing, so much so that they had to actually explain (albeit shortly) what a mall is. So in the year 2016, the mall means even more to people and it carries even less stuff that is actually “useful”. The modern malls really don’t have some of the stores that actually seem useful (then again that’s basing it on where I live). In the movie you can see stores that carry actual groceries, one store is a hardware store and one is even a gun store (good luck finding that anymore). What we have are pretty much nothing but clothing stores, jewelry stores, clothing stores and sporting goods stores. Because when the zombie apocalypse happens, going to Claire’s and Forever 21 will really help. I won’t even bring up the comparison that can be made between shoppers and zombies…crap I just did!
We’re all guilty of consumerism, and I really don’t think that it’s bad. In the movie the mall is actually a sanctuary from all the shit going on outside. Towards the end they do bring it up that there has to be more to life, but in a situation like a zombie apocalypse where safety is key (and let’s not forget that Francine is pregnant) they’d be really fucking stupid to leave. The amount of supplies could last them for an unknown amount of time and with a child on the way it would be pretty criminal to raise a child in the overly unsafe environment outside the mall. You can bring up the bikers and how they destroyed the situation, but things can be fixed. Why not stay in the mall, rescue others and find supplies with the helicopter, and fortify the mall? In the end it’s because the movie is trying to make a point. A point that’s right and works for the modern day, but during a zombie apocalypse it’s really just a stupid idea. Then again modern malls would be a terrible place to hole up anyway.
Another thing that I really liked about the movie were the effects (partly). The gore effects were and still are really great. The bite taken out of the neck and the arm at the beginning of the movie are still some of my favorite. People will bring up the head exploding scene or the screwdriver to the head, but the head exploding is too brief and the screwdriver scene has shown some age. But those two bites really hit home with how good Tom Savini’s work is. There are other scenes that are great, like the staples of the helicopter blade cutting off the top of the zombies, the bikers getting ripped apart, and the machete to the head that shouldn’t be missed.
The opposite of that were the effects that I think haven’t stood up really well. A lot of the bullet wounds look meh and when Roger comes back I just don’t get the use of the makeup. There are dozens of zombies and none of them look like him. Are they trying to say that if you are bitten you turn into a prune? Because that’s pretty much what happens to him.
Now comes the makeup effect that most people complain about and I’m no different. The blue and purple faces. Why? Okay George kinda gives a reason why, but it’s not really a good one. On top of that he kinda drops that aspect right after this movie, having some with the look and others without. So he must not have been too confident in how it looked. Probably because it looks completely silly and it takes me out of the movie, especially when you have the Hare Krishna zombie.
Speaking of that zombie, I want to bring up another problem I have with the movie. People give Barbra from Night of the Living Dead crap for being useless, but holy shit Francine is ten times worse. You have the Hare Krishna zombie trying to get into the room and she is just so weak that, even with three boxes helping, she can’t keep the door closed. Then there’s the scene at the small airport where Stephen is on the ground getting attacked by a zombie and his mallet is just out of reach and she just stands there doing nothing. She looks at another zombie approaching her, but it’s coming from the opposite direction. So running towards Stephen (and his mallet) would actually accomplish two things. Getting away from the approaching zombie and FUCKING HELPING STEPHEN! What the hell. Throughout the movie she is just really useless. She says that she wants to help and she is even shown learning to shoot, but she never uses that in any real way.
Then there are the strange music choices during certain scenes. Later in the movie we get some odd A-Team music when Peter is trying to get to the helicopter. I’m just curious why that was necessary. Early on in the movie we get overly dramatic music when a car explodes and that just feels very unnecessary. Plus where did the bodies go from right beforehand?
AND WHOSE HAND IS THIS?!?
Now here are a few more oddities that threw me off.
When they are raiding the house, it goes from complete chaos (zombies, death, suicide) to Peter and Roger having a nice chat and smoke, back to chaos. It seems that they (characters and film maker) forgot that crazy shit was going on.
If they (Peter, Stephen and Roger) cleared out all of the zombies (killed) that are in the mall, then how come some of them are back when the zombies are let in by the bikers? Specifically the nurse zombie and the zombie with the gun.
Strangely they are mocking the “rednecks” for enjoying the killing, but at least they are doing something other than running away. Let’s not forget that once they locked down the mall they said they were “going on a hunt” for the rest of the zombies, and they had really big smiles on their faces. So they aren’t that different.
Why is it when Roger is acting crazy and not paying attention while getting the trucks does he make it out fine, but the moment he actually gets his shit together that’s when something happens?
Why the hell would you but the zombie bodies in the freezer…NEXT TO YOUR FOOD?
Lastly, A PIE FIGHT? Really? Why? And who even made those pies? It’s been at least a couple of months and pies don’t stay good for that long. So did they really make that many pies? If they did, than why so many?
Actually that’s my only question to this movie. Who even made those pies?
The movie is fine as a whole, but there is a ton of filler, which might have been necessary before, but now it just makes the movie drag. None of the characters are actually all that likable. Peter is pretty bossy, Roger does whatever he wants, Francine is useless and Stephen causes more trouble than he’s worth. But that being said Ken Foree is actually really good in the movie. As I said the story is fine and the effects are fine, but the movie as a whole is just an up and down ride that never really finds its mark with me.
P.S. – Support horror in all its forms. Even if I didn’t like the movie you might want to check it out and yell at me about how wrong (or right) I am.
And for your viewing pleasure here is the trailer.
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