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Dawn of the Dead


How do you write a review of DAWN OF THE DEAD at this point? I’ve discussed it to death with a million people over the years, and I figure we’ve all gone over it all before, right? It’s kind of presumptuous to think you’ve got something semi-new to say about a movie that’s been discussed this much. In a way I’ve already reviewed it in bits and pieces over the years, talking about it in my review of the remake and probly other places. But this year I sat down and watched it again and I thought it was a shame it’s not in my reviews archive, because it’s one of my very favorite movies. Look – I can prove it by going on about it for a while! Let’s discuss how great this movie is.

But first, let’s acknowledge that this mostly-worn-out modern entertainment genre called “zombies” comes almost entirely from DAWN OF THE DEAD. Sure, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD introduced Romero’s idea of people trying to get along while the dead are coming back to life, and certainly plenty of the ideas specific to DAY OF THE DEAD have been ripped off left and right and up and down and then back from right to left and then starting over. But it was DAWN that first illustrated what was going on in the world during a zombie apocalypse. When somebody says “zombie movie” they don’t just mean a shambling, rotting person trying to take a bite out of you. They also mean the disaster as a whole, the methods of survival. The people going around scavenging for usable items, holing up in standard buildings that can be turned into fortresses, learning how to kill zombies by shooting them in the head, becoming desensitized to killing zombies by shooting them in the head, strategizing about how to keep them out of living areas, also dealing with the dangers of other survivors who can’t be trusted, and facing the world without much hope that society can be rebuilt or that the source of the epidemic can be discovered.

These all originated as zombie tropes in DAWN and are the prime subject matter of The Walking Dead, the 28 TIME UNITS LATER movies, ZOMBIELAND and by my count over four hundred thousand eight hundred sixty two unwatchable DTV movies released since the DAWN remake.

mp_dotdDAWN is also the first to begin and end mid-disaster. I always loved Romero’s conviction that the status quo cannot be restored. But after 35 years of zombie survival entertainment now it seems kind of novel the way Romero depicts the early days: the opening scenes of the TV studio in chaos, society crumbling live on air. No one wants to listen to the bad news from the scientists. The director still cares about ratings (adorable!) so he keeps info onscreen that he knows is no longer valid. Meanwhile, police are still going after criminals, and by their own admission “going ape shit” in the projects. Rednecks are having a big party hunting zombies out in the boonies.

I always forget about this, but there’s an indication that somewhere in the country somebody is still trying to do something. Some TV stations are still broadcasting, and a news report claims “The President today has sent the Congress a package of initiatives…” I wonder what they tried to do? I mean, besides what we see in DAY OF THE DEAD. Whatever the president’s plan was I guess it didn’t work. If he came up with something good I’m sure the opposing party filibustered.

Everywhere we see, though, people talk in hushed tones about “running,” abandoning their jobs, homes and duties to become scavengers, like we see in other zombie entertainment. You don’t really think about it that at one point there had to be a decision to leave civilization behind, or at least a realization that there was no other choice. There had to be a switchover from “man, I can’t wait until this is all over and things go back to normal” to “this is what my life is now.” And I guess that moment is the dawn of the dead.

Watching it this time I had the realization that this probly doesn’t seem cool anymore to most kids. Sometimes “old” equals “funny” to a younger generation. And admittedly this does have the misstep of MARTIN’s John Amplas in obvious brownface at the beginning, as if they couldn’t find a real Hispanic man to play “Martinez” or couldn’t change the character to a white guy. I’m okay with kids laughing at that. But otherwise it makes me sad because I don’t think I saw it until it was pretty old either, and it still seemed like an amazing discovery. For years it was a special unique movie, and its datedness was honestly one of its strengths. It’s such a good time capsule of the ’70s without the usual crazy bellbottoms and afros and stuff. It’s so full of ordinary home furnishings of the time – a whole lot of brown, beige and orange. And that drab realism contrasts with the comic booky touches of the blue-tinted zombies and bright orange paint-like blood splatters. And the Goblin music, I couldn’t believe it existed when I first heard it.

I like the remake and I’ve stuck with The Walking Dead and enjoyed many stretches of it, including this season so far. And I can see how to a kid today they seem more “real” and DAWN seems goofy, and what once was unprecedented, had-to-be-released-unrated violence is now comparable to an episode of a television show. Still, to me nothing can match DAWN. I prefer those characters, that world and the substance behind it. Some of these modern ripoffs do a good job of rebuilding the machinery, but to me they don’t have the same heart. They’re about survival and that’s about it.

Alot of people talk about DAWN as a satire of or message against rampant consumerism. The shopping mall setting (so modern at the time that they have a line explaining what it is – “it looks like a shopping center – one of those big indoor malls”)  brings out our heroes’ love of material items. They have fun setting up a nice pad, trying on fur coats, etc. They use these objects for amusement with no thought about conserving useful items for other survivors (though their wastefulness is nothing compared to the bikers, who come in and smash everything just for fun [side note: the good guys do that in ZOMBIELAND, so that’s where society’s at now]). They feel entitled to all this property they stole. “It’s ours. We took it. It’s ours.” Once shots are fired they decide to go to war over it.

And of course the zombies stumbling through the place are a parody of shoppers going through mindlessly, eyes glazed over, trying to buy away that little empty spot in their heart, maybe get a free bag of rock candy in the bargain. It’s hard not to think of DAWN OF THE DEAD every day-after-Thanksgiving when you see shopping mobs photographed through the windows from inside a Walmart. Our guys theorize that the zombies are instinctively attracted to the Monroeville Mall because “This was an important place in their lives.”

But even though it’s a satire, it’s a sympathetic one. It’s not making an example of them or calling them idiots. We know we would want to do some of the same things if we were there. I always thought a big part of DAWN’s appeal was the fantasy of what you would do if you had the run of a mall to do what you want and take what you want. Of course it would be fun, and you get to enjoy it vicariously through those guys. The running aoround shooting zombies while setting up the fort, that’s got a certain element of fun to it too, you gotta acknowledge. Of course, by the time Peter is uncomfortable with how much Roger is enjoying it we catch ourselves.

And after trying on clothes, playing with money, loading up on guns, eating in the restaurant, playing video games and shooting mannequins in the ice skating rink for a certain amount of time they get bored and sad. In a sense they’re super rich with a giant home and they don’t have to go to work anymore. No more dangerous raids, no more arguing with the director, and instead they get to have and do pretty much what they want. Look at all my shit. But all their shit is not enough. It’s not a substitute for real life.

Instead of trying to find an angle to this movie that hasn’t been discussed to death I would like to share with you some screengrabs of shots that struck me on this last viewing as moments or details that I personally have underappreciated over the years.

These first two happen at the small airport where they land to refuel before they find the mall.


Peter takes a look inside, where he finds and kills the zombie kids. But have you ever noticed all the notes hanging up inside this office? People have pinned scraps of paper and cardboard boxes to the walls, doors and vending machine trying to get in touch with their loved ones, or in one case a diabetic is begging for insulin. One note on the door is from a Mark to a Barbara – I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a connection to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Barbara or not.

These days when I see notes like that I think of the makeshift bulletin boards that spring up after a disaster, most memorably, to Americans anyway, after 9-11. People hang up messages to and pictures of their missing loved ones, willing to try anything to get in touch with them. It makes sense that this would happen during the dawn of the dead, especially in the ’70s when there were fewer electronic means of communication.

By the way, it’s a bummer that the vending machine doesn’t work.

In that scene some zombies appear and Stephen shoots into the office to get them. Peter, a cop and responsible gun user, is fucking pissed because he was in the line of fire. Right before he chews Stephen a new asshole we get this:

A static shot of him coming out of the office and walking straight toward the camera. I just want to acknowledge the badassness of that shot.

Later they’re in the mall and Fran has to guard the glass doors at the entrance to the department store. She sits face to face with this zombie, who is confused and not aggressive. She’s not afraid, and lowers her gun.

I like how she looks at him sadly, possibly sympathetic. The others tend to ignore, maybe intentionally, that the zombies are a walking human tragedy, victims themselves.

(And yes, alot of people on the internet have wondered about “Bach’s Arco Pitcairn.” Here’s some of the people who have posted about it. Here’s a story about a tourist visiting Monroeville Mall and getting a better idea what it means.)

See, Peter and especially Roger are more glib when they’re faced with the zombies:

They don’t look at them as former people. Roger clearly enjoys fucking with them. The detail I wanted to point out in this shot, though, is all the fingerprints on the window. That’s what would happen in zombie world. A million hands rubbing against windows, and who’s gonna bother to clean them? Come to think of it I remember when they had one of those “zombie walks” in Seattle, hundreds of people dressed as zombies stumbling around together for fun. The windows of the neighborhood business were all smeared with grease, makeup and fake blood, they had to put up signs asking zombies not to touch the windows. I felt bad for them. What a pain in the ass.

I imagine this would become something you pay attention to in a world of zombies. If you come across clean windows you know that somehow zombies haven’t made it there, or that a clean freak is living nearby.

Here’s a quick shot that I like of the parking lot from the roof:

I just like that zombie in the middle with the crazy fur coat. I wonder what the deal is with that one.

Here’s another badass angle I love:

Look at Peter, folding his arms Run DMC style in a fur coat. They are the kings of their domain, looking out over all that they’ve conquered from their throne in front of Penneys.

Here’s a sad one. I actually forgot about this great moment:

After leaving Fran and Stephen alone for a romantic dinner in the restaurant, Peter comes out in his nice clothes to open a bottle of champagne at the grave of his recently fallen comrade Roger. Of course they had to bury him, dogtags and all, in a fucking mall planter. But this is the world they live in now.

Finally, a quick shot from inside the vent when they’re crawling around checking out the different stores:

I think this is the only, or if not then the best, look at the electronics store/department. Look at that: tape decks, wood-paneled TVs, cassette tapes, record players. What’s that colorful spot in the upper right? The red and white thing might be one of those sturdy plastic record players for kids. Can anybody identify what’s in the box to the left of it?

What I love is that this was the state of the art of the time. In 1978 the meaning of the shot was “holy shit, look at all this expensive stuff.” Now it looks like the world’s greatest thrift store. You can appreciate it for nostalgia or to chuckle at its datedness, but it only strengthens Romero’s point that this stuff that they have, that they got when they whipped ’em and got it all, this property that they fight the bikers to the death for… it’s just a bunch of crap. If society had continued it would’ve been obsolete before long and hard to get rid of other than dumping it off at the Goodwill, the last place most of us ever saw equipment like that.

DAWN OF THE DEAD is not as disposable. Yeah, let’s face it, this is one of the best movies ever.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 at 2:32 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

116 Responses to “Dawn of the Dead”

  1. Very well written, Vern.
    The bulletin board notes posted everywhere in the “checkpoint”-like location of the airport was used in the great zombie video games Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2.
    It’s crazy to me that this, one of the earliest zombie movies ever, is still the best, and even after so many years and so many other zombie movies, none has managed to match it in so many different categories. Most of all, the atmosphere and mood.
    I still remember the first time I saw this movie on a VHS (that I bought at the mall..!). It’s still my #1 favorite movie today. Such a good, good movie.

  2. I didn’t see Dawn until I was 17 or 18, and I’d already seen all kinds of horror movies at that point, but watching it for the first time was like a revelation for me. I’d never seen anything like it. I still haven’t.

    There’s something about the style of the movie that just pulls you into that world. I think the weird, alien look of the seventies actually helps with that. When you watch, you’re not picturing this happening in the world you know; you’re picturing yourself in THEIR world.

    I also love the way the movie is edited. There are all these quick cuts, but you don’t even notice them most of the time.

  3. I’m not a big fan of horror, but I’ve always liked this one. It’s hard to get it completely right when you’re telling people about how much, and why, you love something. But you did a great job, Vern.

  4. you may consider me a kid (24 years old), but I think that is the greatest zombie movie ever made, bar none, there may be other great ones, but they all steal from DAWN OF THE DEAD, it’s the granddaddy and king of them all

    yeah, it’s a little rough around the edges, the low budget shows in places and it’s very, very 70’s, but to me that all adds to the charm, it’s mind blowing to see so many zombie related tropes one can’t help but in a way think of as modern in a movie from the 70’s, it just goes to show how fiercely creative and ahead of it’s time this movie was, it’s like discovering a sci fi movie about virtual reality from the 1950’s or something, if you know what I mean

  5. This is also one of those movies, that for any weird reason are still banned in Germany, although way more disturbing movies got away with a 16 rating during the last few years. Once I saw it on a bootleg tape though, that apparently had every possible version and deleted scenes burndlefly’d into an impressive, but pretty amateurish supercut. I still liked it though.

  6. oh Germany, you guys really have something against violent media don’t you? don’t they also turn every video game enemy into robots over there?

  7. Not anymore, but you still get disappearing corpses, no blood splatters and stuff like that every once in a while.

  8. And still a guy like Jörg Buttgereit seems to have been able to work in Germany since the 80’s. Do you have a large underground movement for horror?

  9. I love that piece of music that starts playing when Fran is looking at the baseball guy and while they’re looking down at the re-dead corpses from the balcony. It’s supposed to be their moment of triumph and the music is so haunting and sad.

    And the proposal scene is great. It calls in to question the whole idea of marriage. What’s the point if there’s no one to honor it? What is he asking of Fran, that she not fuck Peter? And she turns him down!

    I think that’s what I love most about it. It has the laughs and gore and action, but there’s this beautiful undercurrent of sadness to the whole situation that the other zombie stuff hasn’t quite been able to capture. They’ve survived, they’re secure, and they’re still fucked, because while you’re up on the roof playing your solo tennis game there are still corpses rotting on the ground below.

  10. Don’t know if I would call it large, but we have our underground scene, with Buttgereit, Schnaas, Bethmann and Co. I don’t follow the scene, so I don’t know if there are any promising newcomers. Also many of their movies are usually released heavily cut, but then get an uncut release in Austria or Switzerland, which is how you can get them.

    I should also say that the FSK doesn’t have the same set of rules like the MPAA has and the group of people who rate the movies changes every few months. Every new movie is a gamble. So one day the unrated version of THE HILLS HAVE EYES (remake) runs uncut in German theatres with an 18 rating and the next day HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN only gets a DVD release with JK rating (kinda like your NC-17) and gets banned a few weeks later.

    But I already talked about that problem in several other comment sections, which is why I don’t wanna go too much into detail, to avoid repeating myself and boring others.

    Trivia: Buttgereit’s NEKROMANTIK seriously avoided being banned, because he somehow convinced the judges that this movie is a piece of art!

  11. It’s funny how movies have increased exponentially in size and scope since this movie was made (I’d imagine WORLD WAR Z spent more on gas than the entire budget of DAWN) but this remains the only true zombie epic. It’s a zombie apocalypse in full, every angle explored. Everything that really needs to be said about zombies—how they work, how to survive them, what procedures to follow, what to avoid, what they symbolize, what they say about us as a species, why we’re attracted to the concept and ignore the tragedy, why we try to pretend that it could never happen to us—is all right here. There are lots of other good zombie movies (and way more terrible ones) but they’re all just playing in DAWN’s sandbox. It’s the GONE WITH THE WIND of zombie movies.

    Full disclosure: I’ve only ever seen the so-called director’s cut. I hear the other cuts have their fans, but I just don’t want to lose a single moment of that footage. And while Goblin’s music is beyond awesome, “The Gonk” is the true theme song to me. Yes, it’s an apocalypse, a horror show, a catastrophe, a cynical autopsy of modern man and all his social diseases. But it’s also all just an absurd carnival. Might as well dance.

  12. That last screen grab of the contemporary consumer electronics is what I imagine North Korea’s war room looks like.

  13. Yeah I like the “director’s cut” the best as well. Apparently Romero prefers the theatrical cut, but to me more is always better when it comes to my favorite movies.

    The European version is pretty interesting though as the soundtrack is almost exclusively Goblin with most of the stock music excised. Also, it has some additional gore not shown in either the US Theatrical or “Director’s Cut” versions. I think somebody out there even made an “ultimate” composite of every version so you get the longest possible cut, not too sure what the quality is like though.

    Apparently a Japanese 3 disc blu-ray release is coming up in December which will be the hi-def equivalent of the Anchor Bay Ultimate Edition. If it’s reasonably priced and region free, might be worth looking into, and if it isn’t, hopefully it’ll mean we get an equivalent set on our side of the pond.

  14. I love DAWN and I think it deserves all the credit and praise it gets, but my favorite zombie film of all time Fulci’s ZOMBIE II a.k.a. ZOMBIE. ZOMBIE lacks the social commentary featured in DAWN and it doesn’t really deal with civilization crumbling the way DAWN does, but ZOMBIE has more action, some amazing gore effects, and (SPOILERS) a zombie vs a shark.

  15. sweetooth0: If that ultimate composite version is the one I saw, the quality is shit. It literally is edited together out of every version, which means the picture quality changes with every cut and so does the score. It’s not like one of these carefull made fan edits, it’s just a million jump cuts. But like I said, it was still a pretty good movie that got its point across.

  16. ‘We’re still pretty close to Johnstown. Those rednecks are probably enjoying this whole thing.’

    Romero really captures what Pennsylvania is like for me in his films. I live about 45 minutes outside of Johnstown (opposite direction from Monroeville) and, 35 years later, it’s still the same around here. The landscape is beautiful, but the people give you little hope for the future sometimes. Imagine the societies depicted in Night and Dawn, but with the zombies removed. Those gun toting rednecks and bigoted police didn’t just appear overnight in response to the zombies; they were already there. Fortunately, most Pennsylvanians are not as bad Sheriff McClelland in NotLD or Wooley in DotD, but those are accurate depictions of a vocal segment of the local population that has not changed in the following decades. Spending my life not fitting in with them makes Romero’s films really hit home for me.

  17. CJ, a Norwegian judge ruled that NECROMANTIC wasn’t art, but he didn’t find it offensive enough to convict the film club that ran it in Oslo in the mid nineties.

  18. A few years ago, I had a girlfriend who was 25 at the time (not sure if she falls into the kid category) and was shocked to find that she thought this movie was hokey, dated and unintentionally funny. (For her, it was mostly the blue zombie makeup that ruined it if I remember correctly). I felt like she was committing some sort of blasphemy.

    Charles: zombie v shark. That really is one of the greatest weirdly awesome things to ever happen in a movie in my opinion.

  19. Also, how is it that I’ve yet to hear about a band called Bach’s Arco Pitcairn.

  20. I first saw this as a teen in the mid 80’s. What stuck with me was the bleak atmosphere, and the way society was depicted as being totally fucked.

    Sure, its a bit dated technically speaking but the commentary on greed and consumerism is more relevant now. Have you ever seen the real life frenzy that takes place every Christmas when the department stores open for their Boxing Day sales? Fuck me sideways. During a sale a few years ago in a Melbourne store, as the doors opened, the waiting crowd pushed so hard to get in a woman in front lost a couple fingers in the door. Just so she could save a few bucks on a new cappuccino machine. I prefer to have all my digits.

  21. Or just a grindcore band called Pitcairn. They’d have nothing but 45-second-long songs called “Human Gristle Mastication” and “Stomach Full of Rusty Staples” that all sound like a plugged-in mic dropped in a garbage disposal.

  22. It is dangerous to assume younger generations will have X reaction to things which came before.

    You know those articles that talk about how all the kids these days laugh at old horror movies and text through them? Those are written for old people to vent feelings of anxiety about oldness and perceived displacement in the world.

    The truth is that plenty of people laughed through the original Halloween or Dawn of the Dead back when they were newly released. Folks got dragged to them by friends and dates even though they lacked interest. They got up for smoke breaks. They snuck in a backpack of Milwaukee or a flask of something stronger and proceeded to heckle loudly at whatever happened to be on the screen.

    However, people who love cinema understand films for what they are and where they came from. The fact that Rosemary’s Baby has that line about Vidal Sassoon (when the brand was high style as opposed to Safeway on sale) is now unintentionally humorous, but anyone who loves film is also feels the intent of the line– we feel happy for Rosemary and smile at her attempt to be seen as fashionable in her somewhat dilapidated New York apartment.

    I have an 12 year old nephew I see a few times a year. His entertainments and ways of interacting with the world/friends exists in a totally different world than I experienced at his age, but the boy has a natural love of cinema, and in that the gap between us disappears.

    In any case, Vern, I hope you’ll do more of these mini-commentary like pieces. Highlighting all these little details is an interesting and fun read.

  23. I’d say most people, regardless of age, don’t have much appreciation for movies without high production values. They see grainy film stock and unrealistic makeup and assume they’re watching a piece of crap. The younger generations possibly exhibit this trait more often, as, due to the quantum leaps in camera technology of the past 20 years, they’ve never been exposed to media that doesn’t look slick and shiny.

  24. Can’t believe I forgot to mention it here before… but I missed one hell of an opportunity earlier this year.

    A screening of the original “Dawn of the Dead”, in a closed shopping mall, with zombies. Real ones. (Well, real people dressed up like them, I presume.)

    Unfortunately I only found out about this the night before it was due to happen, at which point the tickets had long since been sold out.

    Did I consider dressing up as a zombie myself and trying to latch onto the actors? HELL YES. Unfortunately this presented practical problems… I was at work that day and had no time to buy clothing / makeup. (Where’s that mortician’s makeup bag when you need it?) I would absolutely have done it though.

    Majestyk – I acquired a colourblind love for film at a very early age. I remember watching the likes of “Citizen Kane” and “Twelve Angry Men” long before I saw “Night of the Living Dead”. It probably helped that I grew up in a family home that had only a black-and-white TV until I was six or seven years old (not that common, even thirty years ago). I loved moves like the fifties monster mash-ups (“Day of the Triffids”, “Attack of the 50ft Woman”, etc) and uniquely British creations like “Carry on Screaming”. I was never really into Hammer horror, at least not then (I’ve seen quite a bit of it recently as it’s had a resurgence over here as of late). And as much as I love the really good grittier older British movies (stuff like “Day of the Jackal”), I also have a lot of love in my heart for the likes of the Ealing comedies and “Whisky Galore” and their ilk. The fact that many of these films came from an era that was both socially and technologically far removed from my own never really bothered me.

    And honestly I think my own perception of kids is almost the opposite of yours, at least the ones that I know… I have a couple of nephews, one of who’s thirteen, the other ten. I showed the ten year old my copy of “Ultima 4” and he could not get enough of it… the thirteen-year-old watches re-runs of “Knight Rider” when they come on TV and loves them. It doesn’t matter to them that these things look “old”. Hell, a friend of mine has a son who’s a film buff himself at seventeen years old (and probably already has a better taste in films than I have – which probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody here!)

  25. Although – to continue that last point – I would say that I agree with your point on one very specific count, which would be movie scoring. To this day there are great pre-Herrmann (this is how I date film scores, by whether they were made before or after Herrmann’s influence took hold) films that I find maddeningly unwatchable because the scoring, to me, just sounds so awful. “The Big Sleep” is a classic example. Based on a Raymond Chandler novel, starring Bogart and Bacall, one of the all-time classic films from the noir era… but the score just makes me want to tear my ears off. Such a huge shame.

    So to that extent I’d agree with you, although it’s never been the visuals that have bothered me in that way. It’s always the sound.

  26. It seems younger generations are exposed to exponentially more types of media than previously. When I was a kid it was impossible to see most types of films even if I read about them somewhere. Growing up in a small town in the days before the internet, “home video” was the realm of Hollywood new releases for rent at the grocery store.

    It may be true that most people assume based on initial impression, but I wonder if that trend will change? After all, when I talk with my nephew about movies I don’t even have to lend him a disc, he simply types the title up on netflix, hulu, or a torrent site and within moments has access to it. It seems to me that the model of “old and new” may become less important in a world where nearly everything from all times is easily available.

    The real factor is what it always is for anything: do I love this? Someone who does not *love* video games is not going to have appreciation for games of yesterday. Such a person may play their friends xbox at parties and have a great time, but to them that is all it is: a cool looking fun toy. Fair enough, but to someone who loves games, these toys are filled with the history of game design, ideas, experiments, influences, innovations, in addition to being fun. Such a person is always relating the elements of a game to others, cataloging in their mind what this game is in the world of games. And so it seems to be with cinema, right?

  27. Well, this is a special case because so many of the superficial qualities of Dawn of the Dead have been borrowed for The Walking Dead. So many people will have seen this type of story but with a modern feel to it and therefore when they see the ’70s version they’re going to laugh. This only occurred to me though after hearing eyewitness accounts of the phenomenon.

  28. DAWN is one of my favourite films of all time, horror or otherwise, but I get why people laugh at it. There’s a lot of dated and goofy stuff in it… the blue painted zombies, the bright red blood, some hilarious overacting from the zombies. It’s too high a barrier of entry for a lot of people.

    There are also a lot of genuinely funny moments you’re supposed to laugh at, like our heroes running around the department store in a consumerist frenzy or the bikers with the pies and seltzer bottles. That is something that’s missing from THE WALKING DEAD. No one ever smiles or cracks a joke. The rare moments of levity are always undercut by someone mentioning how grim and hopeless their situation is. DAWN has those funny moments but it trusts you to see the sadness lurking underneath it. It actually feels more realistic because of it.

  29. It’s funny how Vern starts off by saying that it’s nearly impossible to say anything new about Dawn of the Dead, and then he goes ahead and showcases a handful of little details I hadn’t really thought of before.

    Whoever said this was the only zombie epic gets it right. One of the things Romero does really well is create the sense that there’s this entire universe out there, and we’re just seeing one story of thousands. He does an impressive job of suggesting the scope of the zombie apocalypse on such a small budget. There’s something inviting about the universe he creates, even if it is ultimately overshadowed by a sense of dread. I rewatched this movie again last month, and it seems to offer something new each time. When montage where they’re enjoying all of the mall’s loot but there’s a sense of melancholy underpinning everything is perhaps my favorite sequence in the entire film. It’s also something I’ve never seen replicated in film, much less in a horror film.

    And for anyone who’s fans of the Scottish rock band Mogwai, the latest track they put online, “Remurdered,” has been compared to Goblin.

  30. Vern, as somebody who admittedly wasn’t a fan of the first series of “The Walking Dead”, do you not think that people who give “Dawn of the Dead” a chance might like it because of its characters (which are, as you point out in your review, pretty damn great – I particularly love the sole female character and the unusual dynamic that she has with the men)? Or is this something that you’ve not seen happen?

  31. Paul: If I was if feeling snarky I might say that if someone is a huge fan of THE WALKING DEAD then they are probably not that interested in believable, well-developed characters, particularly female characters.

  32. I will admit that the blue zombies in DAWN are a little hard for me to deal with, they look less like walking corpses and more like 70’s people in blue face paint (which I guess is what they are), I can’t help but wish the zombie effects were more on par with DAY OF THE DEAD

    however, it’s not even close to ruining the movie and in fact the zombies looking more human than normal does give them they’re own particularity creepiness

    and I guess you can choose to think about it like the zombies in DAWN are all fresh, hence why they don’t look too gnarly yet and the zombies in DAY are what they look like years later

  33. I really don’t understand why people have such problems with The Walking Dead. It’s a good show with awesome zombie stuff and some interesting characters. I don’t recall any scene in the show where some guy, for no good reason, decides to check his blood pressure during a zombie attack.

    I think it’s probably just the internet or holier than thou horror movie fans giving The Walking Dead shit because there sure are a lot of people that keep watching it.

  34. This mighT be considered sacrilege, but i FIND the zombie-makeup in Fulci´s ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS more impressive in how decrepit and gruesome they look compared to the blue-faced zombies of Romero´s classic. r. FLESH EATERS as a film however, is lackluster in every other way compared to DAWN.

  35. I’m with you on THE WALKING DEAD, Sternshein. People should watch the show instead of giving it crap.

  36. ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS is the same as ZOMBIE 2, right? The one with the shark?

  37. Yeah- ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS was named ZOMBIE 2 because DAWN… was called ZOMBIE (or Zombi) in Italy and they thought they could market the movie as a sequel to Romero´s movie. Those crazy “eye-talians!” Personally I like the FLESH EATERS title better.

  38. Pegsman and Sternshein – I watched the entire first season. Didn’t think it was terrible or anything, but honestly that was enough for me. I could never really “get into” it, and it’s long enough since I’ve seen it that I couldn’t really give you a definite reason as to why that was. I do find nowadays that I prefer my character arcs to take place over the course of ninety minutes rather than six / a dozen / however many it is hour-long episodes.

  39. Paul, then I guess it won’t make a difference to you when I say that the third season’s really the best one. 90 minute character arc? Is that even possible? Do you have any examples?

  40. I haven’t seen Dawn of the Dead in ages, but remember that when I saw it in my teens or early 20’s that I loved the films big ideas but found the filmatism, as Vern would put it, lacking. I might be wrong and based on this review will give it another shot to the head, but in my memory it’s a rather “cheap” film with some irritating editing in places (can’t remember which cut I saw) and not very convincing zombie make-up. Again, my memory might be playing tricks on me but I think there even was a scene where you could clearly see a zombie’s normal, unpainted skin at the collar.

    As for what has been said above about having to be a film lover to appreciate certain films, I think that this is true (as a film nut I can overlook certain things, or aspects of a film that make it dated if the overall work is really good), but you have to admit that if that’s what it takes to enjoy a film, it’s not really a good work, is it? If a film just hasn’t aged well, that’s okay, but one must admit that there are some really great films that are indeed timeless classics, as they work just as well today as when they were in theatres (JAWS comes to mind, or Lawrence of Arabia… I wouldn’t want to change a thing about them.)

    About DAWN still being banned in Germany: it’s come out (on video) at a bad time. During the 80’s the situation in Germany was comparable to what happened in the UK with the video nasties, and that continued into the 90’s, but for many years now, the situation is much different. Most violent films get passed uncut, some even with a lower 16 certificate. Even the Evil Dead remake was released the theatres without cuts. Cuts are mostly applied to very violent DTV horror stuff that most people could do without anyway. If Dawn of the Dead came out today, it would be passed uncut without a problem. If a distributor decided to release it over here I don’t think they should not have a hard time getting the ban lifted, as was recently the case with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

  41. I had the same experience as Paul with THE WALKING DEAD. Watched the first season, found it extremely dull, without a single character I felt compelled to spend another second with, and that was it for me. And from what I hear, things didn’t exactly improve in the second season. So apparently I have to wait until the third season for things to actually start getting good. It’s cool that you guys were rewarded for sticking with it, but that’s just too much time and effort for me. I can get my zombie fix elsewhere in much more concentrated doses.

  42. “Extremely dull”?

  43. Totally. Completely. Utterly. Dull.

  44. I didn’t find it dull which is probably how most people viewed season one since the show keeps building an audience without losing anybody.

  45. Good for you guys. I didn’t like it so I stopped watching it. Life goes on.

  46. On the topic of the “datedness” of films: This won’t be every audience’s experience, but I’ve seen screenings of old films like Murnau’s NOSFERATU and Dryer’s VAMPYR where the predictable audience amusement at the datedness of the film’s style eventually gave way to real discomfort as the film went to work on the audience.

    I like to think that massively compelling films like SUNSET BLVD or CASSABLANCA can force us to be less inclined to care about the period details that betray the year in which the film was made. If the film is doing its job, it’s not going to let an audience dwell too long on little details that date the film. Certainly I’ve never heard anyone complain about not being able to get into THE SHINING or TEXAS CHAINSAW because of the funny clothes.

  47. On WALKING DEAD: I stopped watching after the first season for the same reasons Majestyk gave. It boggles my mind that such a forgettable show has much a massive audience while brilliant stuff like CARNIVALE and MILLENNIUM struggled to find an audience. I can’t remember anything about WALKING DEAD apart from those dudes covering themselves in guts to sneak past some zombies. And even that scene wasn’t nearly as well done as the similar scene in SILENT HILL with the creepy nurses. At least TRUE BLOOD achived the dubious victory of irriating the living shit out of me before I gave up on it.

    But in fairness, every zombie walk I’ve attended has had people who take the time to fashion incredibly detailed costumes based on the RESIDENT EVIL characters, so this stuff that I’m inclined to call crappy must resonate with people in ways they don’t for me.

  48. I haven’t watched The Walking Dead because I boycott all AMC TV shows on general principles. It’s called American Movie Classics. Therefore, they should show American. Movie. Classics. Not TV shows. Heck, I forgave them long away when they started with the commercial interruptions every six minutes. I even forgave them when they started showing American Movies (That Aren’t) Classics. (“Up next… FIREWALL!”) But when they started in with the TV shows I gave up. Plus, the Fear Fridays and Fear Fest programming has been going down the tubes steadily for the past few years. Maybe I’m just too attached to their glory days when they were like TCM and actually played old movies.

    As for Dawn of the Dead, I love it as I do with the first four Romero zombie films. But for my money, Martin is his masterpiece. As for it being the “greatest zombie film ever”? I dunno, I’ve always been a Return of the Living Dead man myself.

  49. Jack, I gave up on AMC being a legitimate conveyor of movie classics when they aired MILK MONEY. But I had the opposite reaction as you. If they won’t show true American Movie Classics, then they might as well branch out into episodic series. At least there they seem to still have some integrity, because they have some great series.

    WALKING DEAD did have some slow periods and some of the characters, especially the women (hello Andrea), were annoying, but when it’s good, it’s great. I love the complexity of the characters and think the actors are great. I am especially impressed with the character of Daryl, played by Norman Reedus. I have to wonder if the character has gone in a different, more central and complex, direction than the creators originally intended when they saw how fantastic Norman is.

    As for DAWN OF THE DEAD, it is in a class by itself. I didn’t see this movie until I was in my 30s, probably, and I wasn’t put off by it being dated. But then again, I’ve always been one to love music, movies, tv shows, books, etc. from other eras. I was a teenager in the musical dead zone of the late 80s and early 90s, so I was listening to a lot of stuff from the 50s, 60s and 70s. I don’t have much to add to the other comments, but I will second (or by this time, probably more like twentieth) that the tone of the movie is what makes it so impressive. The underlying sadness and hopelessness permiates everything, making it so much more than just a scary movie.


    Season 1: I liked it enough to tune into season 2, mostly because it was only 6 episodes and I’m forgiving many flaws when a first season is that short.

    Season 2.1: What an awful piece of shit. They seriously filmed 5 times in a row the same script. (Andrea: “Where is my gun?!” Carol: “Where is my daughter!?” “Lori & Rick: “We are bad parents. And what kind of world is that for a child anyway?” Hershel: “I want you all to leave.” Somewhere inbetween: Zombie kill of the week.) But because the behind-the-scenes clusterfuck was well publicised, I cut them some slack and stayed till the end.

    Season 2.2: Almost back to season 1 level, with the exception that the plotholes and character “development” were really testing my patience at time. In the end I pretty much just stayed, because everybody was like “Oh yeah, Woodbury, Governor, this is gonna be AWESOME!”

    Season 3: The best season so far, although that is a pretty backhanded compliment. By that time it became clear that the writers spend so much time with making Daryl cool and most of all believable, that they forget to inject any kind of sense into the other characters, but all in all the season had some nice story arcs and the story stayed interesting enough to keep me watching.

    Season 4 so far: Seriously good. The flu arc went on for a little bit too long, but it’s nice to see them fight something other than zombies and marauding rednecks.

    I think by now it’s obvious that I will never LOVE the show, mostly because it will never be great. Yet I have to give the “writers” credit for keeping the story interesting enough. I really tune in every week to see what happens next and not even in a cynical hate watching way (which I wouldn’t do anyway. Hate watchers need to get a life.) Yes, for a while it was the most frustratingly written show on TV, but season 3 of GAME OF THRONES took that award. And well, maybe suffering through 2 seasons of HEROES and 1 1/2 seasons of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA made me realize how awful television really can be. Compared to these two shows, TWD is motherfucking BREAKING BAD!

  51. Man, I don’t know about this dated thing, especially compared to CGI gore I think DAWN OF THE DEAD holds up pretty goddamn well. I watched it with a group of friends who hadn’t seen it before a few years back, and there was some chuckling over the blue faces, but all the tearing and chewing and gut-ripping still won everybody over.

  52. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 21st, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Walking Dead started losing me around the second half of season 3. The first season was decent but nothing special, just your average zombie shenanigans with some above average acting. Second season started off slow but by the end got really fucking good and that quality lasted throughout the first half of season 3.

    After the break though, it just collapsed. The Governor who seemed so interesting at first, pretty much kept on doing nothing and being dull as shit. Andrea drove me to tears almost every episode, most horribly written character on any tv show ever. I cheered when she died and realized I couldn’t wait until all the others would bite it too… so that seemed like a good time to stop watching.

    I’m still kind of following along by reading spoiler reviews every week (just curious to see if The Governor will ever amount to anything), but nothing I’ve read has made me wanna come back. I’m glad others are still enjoying it but I’m surprised so few others agree with me on the (to me) obvious decline in quality.

  53. Amen. The only thing I’d add is that I miss when zombies stood in for things that commented on our lives. Our love of consumer goods, the replicated routines that got us through life, the echoes that used to be us, it all got scrubbed away for the machine fueled mobs that now overrun modern multiplexes. While there are occasional jump scares in the “Walking Dead” and it’s like I can’t help but miss the rotting mirror that was this genre at its best. Could someone please bring that aspect back?

  54. I’m just not a TV guy, I know that’s what the nerds these days jizz all over, but it just aint ever been my scene, man

    DEXTER is why, the one show that I did watch all the way through, I hate the idea of getting invested in something and then burned badly, after seeing how DEXTER played out, never again friendos, never again

    hence, I don’t watch THE WALKING DEAD, but I do find it interesting that it’s filmed in Georgia

  55. Dexter could sour anyone on television. It’s a show that always had promise. A great show runner could do a ton with that premise, but the people working on that series are just incompetent. It had two mediocre seasons, and the rest were just awful.

    As far as the Walking Dead goes, it has its moments here and there, but the writers clearly don’t know what kind of show they want to make. They also don’t have any idea how to create interesting characters. The best example of this is T-Dog. We spend over two seasons with this poor guy, and by the end I couldn’t tell you anything about who he is. After he died, I remember a character talking about how religious T-Dog was, and I thought to myself, was he, really? Any time T-Dog was onscreen, I just felt bad for the actor, because the writers were giving him absolutely nothing. Strangely enough, I think the Walking Dead video game is better than both the comic and the show, and I rarely play video games.

    Just compare the characterization that happens in Dawn of the Dead, where we are given a sense of who these people are and how they have changed over time without plodding character background, to the Walking Dead where we have a lot more facts about each character, but I still have very little idea of why they tick. Still, the Walking Dead shows up on Netflix streaming every year around Halloween, so it’s hard for me not to watch each season as they become available.

  56. What about all your weeaboo shit, Griff? That still counts at TV, you know. And DEXTER is the one show you watched all the way through? Jesus, I’m sorry, man. I called it quits after that season with John Lithgow.

    AMC hasn’t been American Movie Classics in quite some time. Shit, if you boycotted every cable channel that has strayed from their original brand to chase ratings then I hope you like staring at a blank screen.

    I stopped watching WALKING DEAD after the mid-season 3 break. I’ll probably catch up on a rainy day. It’s not a terrible show, it’s just got problems. There are too many characters that are poorly defined or inconsistent. There’s rarely any layers to the drama, just people shouting at eachother and saying exactly what they are feeling. It also feels way too concerned with giving the fanbase exactly what they want. If you want a picture of season 7, imagine Daryl’s boot stamping on a zombie’s face – forever.

  57. RBatty024 – I haven’t seen it since 2006, but I remember the first season of DEXTER being legitimately great, however it started on a steady decline afterwards and wound up terrible at the end, that fcuking lumberjack ending man….

    CrustaceanHate – when I say TV I of course mean American shows like GAME OF THRONES, BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, obviously many of the anime that I watch technically counts as TV, but anime is anime, it’s it’s own thing

    as a matter of fact, most anime TV series only last one season, they’re more like miniseries really and that’s what I like about them, you get either 12, 26 or 52 (give or take) episodes that tell a complete story with a beginning, middle and end (COWBOY BEBOP being the best example of this), I actually dislike the ones that do go on for years and years such as NARUTO or BLEACH

  58. basically DEXTER was at it’s best when there was a mystery element to the storyline, the secret of Dexter’s past and the identity of the Ice Truck Killer and all that, but once the mystery was solved the show struggled to find something in it’s place

  59. Pegsman – what I mean about the “ninety minutes” comment is that generally I prefer nowadays to watch films rather than long TV serials. I have less time and probably less patience than I used to. Put me in the same category as “Griff” (although I also enjoyed Dexter up until the final season.)

  60. The only consistently great TV series I could suggest would be The Wire. I think it benefited from each of the five seasons being from a different perspective, the cops and crims, the docks, the education system, the courts etc. The first sign of its greatness was when the lead cop McNulty from season 1 was given a back seat in season 2 and this whole other world opened up. Incredibly confident storytelling.

  61. Jesus, now THE WIRE in the DAWN OF THE DEAD discussion. Anybody got any thoughts on Batman they’d like to share?

  62. I was gonna lead back to DePalma but I wont push my luck…!

  63. One thing I miss about genre films from prior to the 1990s or so, is that there wasn’t any need to provide the characters a back story. Sometimes events in the past were alluded to, but the necessity for everyone to have a character defining trauma wasn’t there yet. These films could create fully realized individuals just from the events we see on screen. Dawn of the Dead does this really well. I also think John Carpenter has a knack for creating indelible characters who we know very little about. I wish films would go back to this a little. For instance, I really loved the movie Gravity but (spoiler alert right here) I didn’t necessarily need Sandra Bullock’s character to have lost her child. The intensity of the situation in space was enough drama.

  64. Fuckin’ a. I love the little exchange where they all mention who they’re leaving behind, and that’s it. No long sob stories or callbacks later, just that everybody’s got somebody they’re leaving. We can understand the pain (or extreme selfishness) of what they’re doing without needing the details.

    There are a lot of great simple character moments that make DAWN exceptional. I like that Steven is somewhat intimidated by the other two guys, that they’re a bit more manly and capable than him, and he gets all pissy when Fran asks to be more involved, like she’s embarrassing him in front of the cool kids.

  65. Not much left to say that hasn’t already been said about DOTD. Probably not as atmospheric or claustrophobic as the original NOTLD, but it’s still the pinnacle of all zombie movies. I’m surprised no one mentioned that moment when Stephen is (fueling?) doing something with the grounded helicopter, the rotors are spinning, he’s facing the camera, and behind him we see a male zombie approaching. It’s one of those “Dude, turn around, turnaround, turn the FUCK AROUND!” shared audience moments, and the zombie’s path is blocked by that crate (whatever), he steps up onto it, and THWACK! he gets semidecapitated by the rotors and goes down. Outfuckingstanding.

    As far as The Walking Dead goes… I’m glad there are so many people who find enjoyment in it, but I’m not one of them. I’m in agreement with Mr. M in that the zombie genre can & does work in small doses (movies), but applying it to a weekly TV show? When TWD debuted, I didn’t think it had much chance for survival. From the outset, I guessed it would play out as either a weekly zombie killfest with the humans going full-on Rambo/MacGyver improvisation to get ‘er done (which would be fun at first, but then fizzle out), or it would emphasize the plight of the humans just to survive amidst the new zombie order with the occasional zombie/human confrontation (which seems to be the direction they took). I’ve watched a few episodes over the course of its run, but it’s not grabbin’ me like a hungry zombie clutchin’ a fat kid at a deserted ice cream parlor.

    Y’know what I’d REALLY like to see come to fruition? The potential movie adaptation of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. There’s a whoooole mess of upper-crust blood & guts fun just waiting to pop with that one.

  66. We have to remember that back in the 70’s they made movies for grown ups, people with the ability to recognize different personalities by things the characters say and do. Studies show that teenagers in most cases aren’t even able to tell if someone is angry or sad by looking at the expression on their face. And that’s why too many film makers have made it a habit to hammer the message home; SHE’S SAD NOW BECAUSE SHE”S THINKING OF HER DEAD BABY!!! HE’S ANGRY NOW BECAUSE THE MAN SHOT HIS FOOT OFF!!! HE’S HORNY NOW BECAUSE SHE IS STROKING HIS…etc, etc.

  67. pegsman— OK, just free-associating here on what you just posted, but… how cool would it be for someone to make a horror movie/psychological thriller about a disgruntled ’70’s auteur who kidnaps various kids and then reeducates then similar to the treatment Alex receives in A Clockwork Orange (strap ’em down, pin their eyes open, and force them to watch actual movies with unprompted character reactions, and LEARN from it), then turn them back loose into the teen populace and force an amalgamation of BETTER SENSE as to what character motivation in movies is all about?

    Just a thought….. juuuust a thought.

  68. Am I crazy if I kinda dug the Argento cut?

    And Maggie, whatchoo got against MILK MONEY?

  69. I have the Argento cut, but I have yet to see it. What are the differences from the other versions?

  70. Fred:

    1.) Yes, but not for that reason.

    2.) Had Milk Money been made in, let’s say the 50’s, it would’ve starred Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum instead of Melanie Griffith and Ed Harris….. and as such turned out just as weird & incongruous a pairing that River Of No Return yielded, but without the Preminger imprint. Chemistry is the most important science applicable to film.

    3.) You’re FRANCHISE FRED, dammit!— 2.) should’ve been obvious to you. Not trying to be testy or a surly punk/bitch, Fred….. just sayin’.

  71. In the opening credits of Dawn I noticed Goblin are credited as The Goblins (with Dario Argento). In other Argento films I’m sure they’re just known as Goblin. Does anyone know why? Im assuming they were trying to get some name recognition in the States, maybe ‘The’ Goblins made them sound cooler, I don’t know.

    I think Goblin sounds better. Just like if Tomandandy, who scored P2 and The Hills Have Eyes remake decided to become The Tomandandy. Somehow it just doesn’t work.

  72. Chopper – I also like that Steven doesn’t remain as the inexperienced third wheel. He starts to become used to this world, and his helicopter piloting skills are invaluable. In a lesser film, Steven would serve as the entire groups undoing. Or he would start to get into arguments with other members that would lead to other complications. When I first saw the film, I thought he was going to be their Achilles heel. But the film treats him like a real person, not a convenient plot devise.

  73. Sounds to me like a lot of people here would like TWD if they gave it more than one shot.

  74. hey guys, would you mind watching, voting for and/or reposting a spec commerical I made for doritos Super Bowl competition?


    It would really, really mean a lot to me if ya’ll could throw us some love. It would make a major difference in my immediate empoyment future if I can get this thing to have a buncha views and high votes.

    We’ve got a crazy russian rock star, a corvette, and the monkey from Hangover II.

    If you’re feeling extra generous, go to my facebook event page ( https://www.facebook.com/events/356857767794441/?source=1 ) and join. You can invite all of your friends using google chrome and the instructions listed here. ( https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TOHT6OK1AxZR-L-4ta4Nc0BOhMR5WAm11_L81Lf4u8I/mobilebasic?pli=1 )

  75. You’re right rbatty, in a lesser film, Steven would just be the fuckup, like Roger would’ve been a nut that got progressively worse until his demise. But this is DAWN OF THE DEAD, where Roger was pretty level-headed until arrogance, fear, disgust, and anger drove him mad, and Flyboy stopped being a pussy but his big show of balls turned out to be a terrible idea.

    What a brilliant, beautiful movie. Thanks for the review, Vern. Made my week.

  76. tawdry hepburn – you directed a Doritos commercial? you LA people get up to some strange things

  77. Favourite zombies:

    Mannequin guy
    Hari Krishna
    Helicopter Head (aka Chopper)
    Confused Guy on escalator
    Machete Head

  78. Naw, I didn’t direct it. We didn’t have job titles per Se. But I definitely didn’t direct it. You like it? I had no creative control, do you won’t offend me.

  79. well, I didn’t think it was bad or anything, but also nothing special to be honest

  80. In other words, it’s not the DAWN OF THE DEAD of Doritos commercials.

  81. Tawdry— Good to see ya, mate… but I’m offended by the term “monkey”— Simian American, if you please.

    (Do you see?— that’s how far political correctness has fallen. Pathetic, really. That said, I did upvote your commercial; well done, sir).

    Griff— Politeness COUNTS, you punk. Get with the program, son. We support our own.

  82. Goddammit. DAWN OF THE DEAD doesn’t need your tired act. Wake up sucka!

  83. Must resist urge to defend all but the last season of BSG…

    Isn’t it a gas station?

  84. Re: Griff,

    No problem, man. I prefer honesty over politeness at all times. Thanks for watching.

    We have a decent chance at making the finals, by the by. We were as high as number 5 on the ratings for a day or so, and we’re still on the first page of most viewed content. So, fingers crossed!

    If ya’ll get a chance, vote periodically.

  85. This right here is one of my top 5 of all time. I saw NOTLD 90,Dawn, and day in one epic movie night when I was fourteen and it changed my life. I don’t think I have anything new to add to this discussion except that I’ve used an audio sample of Ken Forees ” “Wake up, sucker. We’re thieves and we’re bad guys, that’s exactly what we are.” during live performances.

  86. A few days ago, I had the privilege of watching the Euro version of DotD with some stranger I met on the subway en route to Brooklyn, and it was quite glorious. Liked this movie on my previous 1 or 2 viewings, but only now do I realize how Great it is. I feel like a real idiot for waiting til now to comprehend & enjoy this film on the level it deserves.

    The main thing is, it’s fucking *stuffed* with action.
    Not atmosphere, not world-building, not metaphor, not f/x — action.

    Memory & my general understanding of general critical reaction stupidly kept telling me that the fur coat montage, the mall-zombieism-as-consumerism thread, and the bikers-vs.-materialism invasion were the key sequences, but a rewatch proves that holy shit there’s a lot of top notch gunplay and practical tactical survivalism in DAWN. Seems like every 3rd scene is an exploration of how the good guys can best collect & use the available ammo, can best find a path to safety, can best secure resources for their long haul efforts to survive, can teach a potential backup helo pilot how to operate the bird (whose fuel level is a constant concern) (this truly is a film after my heart), and how they balance their [undead] bloodlust with their precisely focused, military-style operational planning.

    Also there’s something to be said about the visual motif of the human good guys pointing guns directly at the audience in p-o-v shots (we’re all victims! we’re all gonna die!)


    the p-o-v shots focused on the zombies appear to depict the poor undead blue bastards doing nothing but soliciting a hug (if you ignore their teeth and their fleshlust).

    (Would include some screengrabs here but fuck you watch the movie for yourself and you’ll see, and you’ll love it.)

  87. This one hurts bad:

    George A. Romero, Father of the Zombie Film, Dies at 77

    His low-budget body of work, which included 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'Dawn of the Dead,' creeped out audiences for decades.

  88. It’s hard to say he never got his “due” in life. He has a pretty big cult following (though maybe because the Internet and fandoms are bigger now a days it doesn’t seem it’s as big as it once was) and even some mainstream guys went to bat for him a couple of times, almost unheard of for a genre director. At the same time he had the Orson Wells issue of making a movie everyone loved or at least knew/respected (in Romero’s case at least two) but then no one would give him money to make other projects and when he did get one off the ground it was only after an awful hustling on his part. By the end of his run they’d only give him money to make zombie movies, then they stopped doing that even (though DIARY isn’t any good and SURVIVAL is better for what it’s going for rather than what it is). Still he made two bonafide masterpieces with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD. I’ll forever defend KNIGHTRIDERS as a great movie when almost everyone else I meet ranks as a ‘LOL what where they thinking? How did this made? Honest Cinema Sin Rifftrack trailer movie.’ Not enough people talk about MARTIN either.

    I can only imagine his frustration in his later years when he had to struggle even harder to get financing and it seems like literally EVERYbody is cashing in on his work and the only one not profiting (or receiving accolades) is him.

    “The reason why I like THE WALKING DEAD is because unlike those old ones, it’s about something. It’s not even about the zombies or gore. It’s about the people and how they interact and react.”
    -My supervisor who is old enough to have seen NIGHT and DAWN when they came out explaining why WALKING DEAD is the first zombie thing ever to make it about ‘something.’ I’m sure all us Romero die hard fans have similar run-in with norms. Goes without saying that me bringing up Romero’s work just gave him question marks and figured I was exaggerating their quality or being a hipster.

  89. Sorry, one more post.

    I was going to post about how I still stand by LAND OF THE DEAD a while ago but never did. So dammit I still stand by LAND OF THE DEAD which has a reputation as a terrible film and proof that Romero was a one-trick pony. The series was never very subtle and thus don’t know why it all of sudden being an in-your-face metaphor for class division was a bad thing. I wonder if, due to current events, LOTD is going to be re-evaluated, not to mention people looking back at his work and realizing that maybe they should have given him his due-props when he was alive.

    Also, what inspired the LOTD planned post was how much it pissed me off how many WALKING DEAD fans bitched about him when he stated he thought the show sucked because it wasn’t about anything. I know it’s stupid and probably says a ot more about me but for some reason that really pissed me off everyone talking about how he’s just some schlocky B-movie trash maker making a comment on legit mainstream art.

  90. Damn between this and Adam West a few weeks back my childhood really took a swift kick to the nuts. I wil just state that as dope the first 3 DEAD movies are, MARTIN and MONKEY SHINES is where it really was at for me. I love the hell out of those movies and always have. Will also take this moment to point out that THE DARK HALF is underrated as hell.

    R.I.P. to a true master.

  91. It’s sad because he was going to make a NASCAR zombie movie next. He was so influential. A true master. I don’t understand how some people can get funding for shit like Wish Upon but Romero struggled. I can see why Carpenter doesn’t really direct anymore.

  92. He was an absolute legend, RIP.

  93. Martin Landau also passed away today.

  94. Stern: beat me to it! I posted a very short something in the ALONE IN THE DARK thread.

    Broddie: I already mentioned MARTIN so I will also concur with your love of MONKEY SHINES. A very under-rated movie. Don’t know if it’s the premise or the goofy poster/VHS boxart (that I loved as a kid) that kept people away but damn Romero takes that ridiculous premise and runs with it. Re-watched it a few backs and the scene of the monkey waving the razor around at Kate McNeil is still terrifying. Seems it’s real legacy is unfortunately people watching the climax out of context and pointing and laughing at it. I mean I guess it is a bit goofy-looking but in context it’s a pretty heartbreaking scene.

    His next one THE DARK HALF, is only okay but it has some fantastic moments, like the climax, that elevate it. Also let’s appreciate the odd duck that is CREEPSHOW and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE THE MOVIE.

    Also since you bring him up, I don’t believe I posted anything about Adam West dying but as the days went by I realized how sad that made me felt. Re-watched THE GREY GHOST episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, always a favorite of mine, ended up being a great post-humorous tribute to man even though he was obviously still alive when it was made and released.

  95. The link to the tourist visit is dead, but here’s a link I found to a discussion where they seemed to figure out what “Bach’s Arco Pitcairn” means. Pitcairn is a town in Pennsylvania, and ARCO is a gas station chain. “Bach’s” is more ambiguous but the commenters seem confident that this must have been the name of the owner of a particular gas station.

    “Bach was the name of a guy who owned a gas station who just happened to be sponsoring the local baseball team that the actor who wore the shirt played for.”

    Bach's Arco Pitcairn

    anyone know what this means? it is on the zombies shirt that fran has a moment with, by penney's. i was in monroeville the other day, and saw a sighn for pitcairn, so i think its a small part of town or something. you guys know?

    RIP George.

  96. Romero was both a capital-F Filmmaker and someone with a profound love for nasty, messy, beautiful human beings and all the ways they can come apart, and back together, physically and emotionally – his voice was absolutely crucial in its time and will be terribly, terribly missed. As someone who grew up as a Fango/Gorezone kid, the idea that we’ll never get another film from him (or Wes Craven) hurts my heart.

  97. You really wanna know how beloved he was? He not just cameo’d on a Disney cartoon, which as far as I know isn’t something that many horror legends can say about themself, and they even modeled the character that he voiced after him!

    Phineas and Ferb - Night of the Living Pharmacists (Sneak Peek)

    In this "Night of the Living Dead"-inspired special, Doofenshmirtz's latest "-inator" accidentally turns the citizens of Danville into contagious Doof-zombie...

  98. Also note his character’s name. “Don Adaded”. Get it?

  99. Sternshein – ROAD OF THE DEAD is listed on IMDb with Romero co-writing, but a stuntman who was his second unit director as director. Could still happen? It sounds amazing.

  100. geoffrey that vhs cover is exactly why I rented MONKEY SHINES back in the late 80s. Despite the fact that it did not feature a toy monkey running crazy with a razor blade I had no regrets. The real monkey was just as freaky. Besides decades later I finally got a crazy toy monkey in TOY STORY 3.

  101. Oh my god! DAWN OF THE DEAD isn’t banned in Germany anymore!!!

  102. Congratulation! Are we talking old or new version?

  103. Of course the original. The remake never got into any trouble with the German ratingsboards

    I think the last of the big names that is still banned, is Peter Jackson’s BRAINDEAD, but I’m sure I forgot about one or two.

  104. So it’s only in the porn area that you’re so liberal?

  105. Yeah, I mentioned it here several times before, but sex, nudity and language are (mostly) no problem here. We have kids shows where people swear and stuff like SOMETHING ABOUT MARY or even BLOCKERS are rated “12” over here. Also the only reason why all those classics are (were) banned, was that it mostly happened in the 70s, 80s and early 90s (kinda like the Video Nasties in the UK) and when a movie is banned, you can only get it unbanned by fighting for it at a court. And while most movies that were considered the most horrifying thing ever in these days are by today’s standards less violent than an episode of THE WALKING DEAD or even SUPERNATURAL, you still have to take it to the court, which of course costs a lot. But after a small indie label made huge waves with their fight for TEXAS CHAIN SAW, more labels are willing to take the fight. (In case of EVIL DEAD it was even Sony!)

  106. I sort of knew that. It’s the same thing here. There was a short opening i the mid 80s, but then they started a register that shut everything down again. Now it’s completely different, but I really feel we missed out here in Scandinavia on everything that was good – when it really counted.

  107. Well, I’m sampling the ever-loving shit out of that.

  108. Of course, this was filmed in and around Pittsburgh, but where do you suppose it’s set? During the helicopter journey from whatever city they start out in, they mention having passed Harrisburg an hour ago, so they’re in Pennsylvania. Do you think they let out from Philadelphia toward Pittsburgh/the Monroeville Mall?

  109. I just watched this again, and I have these insights to share:
    1. This film wrestles with two questions:
    a) What is real (authentic, central)?
    b) Is life still worth living?

    2. Concerning question 1: What is real?
    The what is real question is central to the film, which is about society unraveling around these four people and how they respond to it. The pivotal scene of the film is the dinner, where the guy proposes to the gal, and she says she can’t (yet/now), because it wouldn’t be “real.” The sister scene is back at the “apartment,” when the TV goes to static, and she turns it off, and he turns it back on in this little power struggle. Now that society has truly been lost (no broadcast TV signal), what does that mean for the hope of a “real” life and for her to accept his proposal? Are they now doomed to an unmarried, untethered, unreal life?

    All of this pulls on deeper threads about what she means by “not real” and what would meet her bar for “real(ity).” Arguably, prior civilization was real, the collapse of civilization is also real, and their temporary respite of cozy security in the mall is real. All of it was real at some point, what is present circumstance is reality now. Reality is your life now. Why is the temporarily secured mall less than real? It is a temporary ad hoc solution in response to uncertainty and external threat. If that is less than real, then human civilization is less than real. My assertion: It’s all real.

    3. Concerning question 2: Is life worth living?
    This question get asked again and again, and the film’s conclusion is that this is a moment-by-moment series of choices.
    *Do we abort the fetus?
    *Do we try to build a life at the mall for awhile?
    *Do we get “married”?
    *Does Ken Foree’s shorter, plucky sidekick keep on living and trying to contribute after his wounds have him running on shor time?
    *When does Ken shoot plucky short guy?
    *Does Ken stay behind as the apartment is breached, resigning himself that he doesn’t want to live anymore? Or does he change his mind and make a run for the chopper?

    Is life worth living? is the constant running question

    4. And the answer for our protagonists is uniformly and emphatically yes — at all points. This makes the fixation on what a bleak film this is very wrongheaded. And it makes the nihilistic reading of the film badly blinkered to the point of being just dead wrong. This is a film that is profoundly hopeful, just as DAY is. It is a film about people who experience the utmost horror and who choose life at every step of the way. They keep going, they don’t quit. They falter, but then they come to their senses and get back with the program (Ken at the end). This is a deeply warm, humanistic film that shoes the indomitable triump of the human spirit against all horror, depravity, insanity, suffering, and uncertainty. If you can watch this film and not see that, consider Zoloft or therapy or some daily exercise (or all of the above).

    5. The anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist readings are valid. As a strong proponet of such values (between Bernie Sanders and Ayn Rand, I’m with Bernie. Between Joe Biden and Bernie, I’m with Bernie) … I co-sign the Marxist-ish reading of the film. But if you stop there, you miss so much. You miss all of the existential and spiritual and humanistic stuff I just mentioned, settling for a flattened out 9th-grade kill-whitey / rage-against-the-machine-ism that is lazy, cynical, and simply inadequate as a reading of the film.

    The what is real question is central to the film, which is about society unraveling around these four people and how they respond to

  110. Sorry, bad and lazy editing, but you get the gist

    short (not shor)
    shows (not shoes)
    triumph (not triump)
    delete last sentence

  111. Thank you, I love your reading of it.

  112. Thanks, Vern. tl;dr, when in doubt – “Get to da choppa!!!”

  113. Finally saw this for the first time, thanks to Regal’s recent re-release. Watched it on Halloween, completely alone in the theater. It fit the vibe.

    I don’t know if you guys know this, but this movie is pretty good. And in our current era of pandemics, isolation, neighbors turning against each other, scientists being shouted down, climate and civilization collapsing around us, dying shopping malls, etc., this movie is more relevant than ever.

    Skani, I also love your insight into the film.

  114. Thanks, Dude — What a film!

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