Pop Junk’s 31 Days of Halloween: #5 Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Tonight we kick off the top 5 with what was once one of my favorite movies of all time.   I can’t explain why this is number 5 without talking about the next 4 but that aside any of these movie including this one could an argument be made that it is the best horror movie of all time so maybe the order a bit inconsequential.  So now that I’ve invalidated my own list I give you number 5.

George A Romero pretty much wrote the book on the Zombie genre but in 1978 he rewrote it by putting a post apocalyptic spin on it and created one of the greatest horror movies of all time.  Dawn of the Dead’s story follows the event of the “Night of the Living Dead” months later as Zombies have overrun every major city.  The U.S. government imposes a state of martial law, sending in special National Guard units to attack and destroy zombie infestation. Two members of one such unit, Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reiniger) have been tasked to overthrow a nest of zombies in a Pittsburgh housing project; kicking the movie off with an incredibly gory scene as they dispatch Zombies and the Zombies dispatch people within the unit.  When the job turns ugly and Peter is forced to terminate his own berserk, racist commanding officer, the pair decide to split the outfit with the help of his friend Stephen aka Flyboy (David Emge), a traffic pilot for WGON-TV, and the station’s floor manager, Stephen’s girlfriend Frances (Gaylen Ross). Together they steal the station’s helicopter and head for less-populated areas, but after some narrow scrapes with flesh-hungry redneck ghouls in the country outside Harrisburg, they opt for a more secure hideout. The unanimous choice and where George A Romero conceived the idea for this film is…The Mall.  After the lengthy process of purging the building of zombies is complete, the four secure themselves snugly in the miniature city, consigned to live out their lives in a dull but cushy consumer’s paradise.  But alas their paradise is cut short with a roaming gang of Biker’s who infiltrate the mall and let in the Zombies waiting to breech the Mall and get inside. This sets up a final battle with both the living and the dead. 

There really is so much to be said about this flick; Night of the Living Dead broke so much ground and the sequel really did the same thing but in a whole new way.  This film really opens up the vast idea of a zombie Apocalypse and it’s effect on the world rather than just a group of people inside a house.  Also expanding on something he said in the first film which is the Zombie’s are just following protocol; lumbering around, eating the living, etc.  It’s the human beings, living, breathing, they are the real monsters.  The invading Biker’s seem to represent violent almost military presence where the main characters living in peace seem almost pacifistic.    We like to put ourselves in the role’s of Peter and Roger and Frances; trying to survivor in a noble and courageous manner, but i guess we’ll never know. 

Another additions to this movie that makes it stand apart is the humor and social commentary.  After watching this film you’ll never think of mall shoppers the same way you used to.  Romero plays on the idea that the American consumer is just that, a zombie.  As the zombie’s lumber around the mall, Romero really has fun with the main characters and the way they live among the dead inside the mall.  There’s some legitimate laugh out loud moments that don’t seem out of place because you get the sense that in such a desperate time, some levity really does go a long way.  And it’s pretty damn wild watching these people have the time of their living out what pretty much seems like the end of the world.  Not to mention this movie has one of my favorite movie lines of all time.

Tom Savini puts his horror sensibilities into this flick as both an actor and as special effects artist, helping to create some really good zombie kills for you blood thirsty fans.  Having seen this movie so many times I guess I’m sort of numb to the fact this movie is almost pretty damn frightening.  Never before had we as a viewer seen this many zombies on screen at one time before and there are some genuine scares and gruesome death scenes.   Beneath the blood soaked zombie survival tale is just a really smart movie that accomplishes so much in just two plus hours. The fact that there are ANY negative reviews on rotten tomatoes for this movie is a head scratchier because this film is damn near perfect.  Not even so much as a horror film but just a movie in general.  

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~ by ATOM on October 27, 2011.

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