Movie Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Everybody knows this is a classic movie and it’s probably one of Romero’s most loved films. I’m going to come back next and do the remake so let’s talk about the original Dawn of the Dead.

We start off about 3 weeks after Night of the Living Dead at a Pittsburgh TV station where you have basically had two commentators arguing about the zombie problem with our heroine basically sitting next to a really nice red carpeting all stressed out, a guy decides that he needs to skip town and he’s going to steal the chopper from the news station in there and wants to take the girl with him.

Flip over to a swat team that is going through an apartment building, to get rid of zombies and actually has more racism than Night of the Living Dead as they go shooting more or less anyone that moves. There is a white cop that gets in trouble, saved by a black cop, and in thanks, the white guy because a friend of his is going to be getting a chopper to get the heck out of Dodge, and invites the black cop. The black cop accepts and we have our foursome here.

So we go to the mall! Now keep in mind this is the early seventies where every City didn’t have 15 malls so it’s a little different, a fun thing is nobody’s in the mall except a few zombies and they find the magic key ring fairly quickly which allows them access to pretty much any store and the power is still on.  Gotta love it there’s a gun store here there’s a upscale grocery store here a JCPenney- I think that’s a  legal requirement to have it every Mall but I’ll come back to that on the commentary track section.

So how is Dawn of the Dead? Well there’s some funny moments in it there’s some interesting moments in it, I do think it’s fairly well done, I do thoroughly enjoy the concept and I do think it is a good chapter 2 as far as the stories concerned, but I do have some serious issues with this film.

Let’s start with the zombies they’re grey. They weren’t grayish in the original even though it was black and white and are not grey in the follow-ups, why are they grey here? Yes I understand they were hurry, yes I heard all the excuses in the commentary, yes Tom Savini is excellent but a lot of this movie the zombies are lazily done. You see where shirts get pulled up and there’s white skin, the sleeves get pulled aside and there is skin, even in the same scene you can see it rubbed off. Next up the blood is bright bright orange and that’s a problem because it gives it a very cartoony feel and I feel that as the movie went from a serious film in the start and made it more of a farce made it more goofy, you get that alot when the motorcycle gang comes in it.

Dawn of the Dead went from a serious tone like Night to a goofy one here and to me it takes away from the movie, it takes away from the seriousness we started in the last movie. There are all these cutaways of them being serious with each other, and setting up the time when the Zombies attack.

On the other hand with the foursome I really enjoyed the characters, each one of them has their own characters and each one has their own interactions. For example, the Flyboy I thoroughly enjoy he’s probably my favorite character, but even here we have a bit of a problem, he has his plan to save his girlfriend and these two cops show up and one of which is his friend but you never really see them as friends. The white cop kind of emasculates him every chance he gets, I could see it working better if it was an older brother rather than a friend. For Example,  Flyboys about to shoot something but can’t shoot straight cut and the cop basically slaps the gun down and takes the shot for him.

So overall, I enjoy the movie, I do think the effects really hurt my enjoyment of the movie. I do think the acting is well done, far better than in Night. I do think the plot is awesome, and wish it was better done. Action Star Tom Savini is fun as the gang leader. Overall I’m going a 6. I think if Romero had better tools to work with, and 3M hadn’t done day-glo blood I could see a 7 or even an 8. Maybe George Lucas will buy the rights and re-CGI it.

Now lets talk commentary track, I’ll talk a bit about the ending so slight spoiler tag after this.

I hate when people on the commentary track whine about money. This track is FULL of it. Everything is because they don’t have money,and if you are a drinker, drink everytime it comes up and when the wife says “you couldn’t make this movie today” chug. You will be out by the end of the film. Romero constantly talks of wanting 30-40 million for the fourth one, and Land of the Dead did get done for 16 million- did make 46 Million. You get all the fun of complaining about the modern system, and hearing of other movies. It’s not a bad commentary track, but I think certain people take a nap during it. You even get some background on the genesis of the idea, and love how they are in PA but have to slam the South for gun shops. All in all, not the best track to listen too once you hear it once.

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