Dawn of the Dead (1978)


After the much-talked about Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968, writer/director George Romero took a 10-year break from zombies, but not from the genre. He put out The Crazies in '73, as well as the failed Season of the Witch. He then took a stab at the vampire genre in '77 with Martin before returning to the sub-genre that he started. It was the year of 1979 that saw the return of Romero's zombies for U.S. audiences with Dawn of the Dead, a film that was on a much bigger budget and scale compared to the first. I also personally feel this is the best in the Romero zombie films. Tom Savini finally got to take a shot at the make-up effects, since he wasn't able to do so in the first due to becoming a combat photographer in Vietnam. When it was time to do Dawn, Tom not only got to handle the effects, but also received a part in the film as the machete-wielding biker "Blades". The film was a success and eventually spawned two other versions when it hit VHS.

The Extended version is 30-minutes longer, with more scenes involving gore, extra sequences, and a lot of dialogue. When I first saw the movie growing up it was this version, and at the time I had no idea there were more. Technically there are many other cuts of the film in various countries, but these three are the main ones. Its been said that Romero actually prefers the Theatrical cut, and I have to agree with him. The Extended version drags on in various scenes, and although it's the goriest out there, it isn't the best. The European version came about thanks to Italian producer Dario Argento, whom cut out most of the humor, and focused more on the horror and action-elements. It's a more fast-paced movie, with additional music from Goblin. This was the last version I saw, and I enjoyed it a great deal, but after the viewing I still stick by the Theatrical cut.

The movie really kicks off with a bang; opening with a couple guys debating on what to do about the mass zombie hysteria and slowly lead to our four mains as they get together and attempt to escape the madness via helicopter. After a close call while refueling the group fly over a bunch of zombie-covered land, and an army of locals-turned-vigilante-zombie-hunters, until they stop at the local mall. I know I've always fantasized about staying overnight at the mall, but these people make it their new home. After clearing out all the remaining zombies left inside, they go on a five-finger shopping spree, and who's to stop them? Months pass with no more than the occasional zombie banging on the mall doors. That is until Tom Savini and his gang of bikers decide to take over.

The remake came out in '04, and brought the audience a new twist to the original story, with more fast-paced zombie action and a zombie baby to boot. Although the remake is an entertaining flick, there's no toping the original. My favorite sequence in this flick has to be when the biker gang takes over the mall and the hilarious pie-scenes. The movie was released unrated, so it was naturally loaded with gore; from an exploding head; ripped open stomachs, to numerous bitings of the neck and arms. Although the gore doesn't top Day of the Dead (in my opinion) it still has a lot to please us gore fiends. A big complaint I've noticed a lot of people have with the flick was the odd color of the zombies. It's true that they really don't look much more than slow-walking purplish druggies, but Tom Savini actually said the zombies were gray, and thanks to the lighting in a lot of scenes, they turned up lookin' purple on film. Sure they don't really look like the zombies we're used to seeing, but they sure have the same effect when in a large group.

Of the four main actors, only Ken Foree is the most recently active, playing in a number of films after Dawn's release; most recently in Rob Zombies' film The Devil's Rejects. Speaking of Ken, for those of us who have seen the film (spoiler ahead) there was a much-talked about alternate ending involving the suicide of the remaining players of Peter and Fran. Rumor has it that the scenes were actually shot, but it never appeared on film. Either way, I like how the film ends as-is, so I'm glad the scenes never made it. There was once a time when Romero didn't care much for cutting his zombie films for the MPAA. It's too bad that those times are long over with I.E. Land of the Dead.

Personally my favorite of the Romero zombie flicks. With all the zombie entertainment, gore, and goblin music in the background, you can't really go wrong.
Personally my favorite of the Romero zombie flicks. With all the zombie entertainment, gore, and goblin music in the background, you can't really go wrong.