Original release: September 2nd, 1978
Running time: 117 minutes
Writer and director: George A. Romero
Composers: Goblin, Dario Argento
Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross
If the world would come to end today, how different would it be to any other day?
Should we suddenly find ourselves in the grip of a zombie apocalypse, how would we be able to tell the un-dead from the regular folks who walk around aimlessly in city centres and a ride the trains and buses with vacant stares? Thankfully there’s more than a handful of films to choose from to help us answer that question – including Dawn Of The Dead
It’s rare for a filmmaker’s name to be so synonymous with an entire genre, but when we think of zombie films, it’s George A. Romero name that springs to mind.
After scaring an entire generation witless with his groundbreaking Night Of The Living Dead (1968), he returned in 1978 with a surprising follow-up, the aptly titled Dawn Of The Dead, which again saw him delivering a commentary on a society built on consumerism.
The story follows Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree), two Philadelphia Police S.W.A.T. officers, Stephen (David Emge), a helicopter pilot and his TV reporter girlfriend Francine (Gaylen Ross) as they escape the city following the news that the zombie population is growing at an alarming rate. They take refuge in an abandoned suburban shopping mall, but only after a series of attacks from a group of zombies along the way.
There’s an exploding head, shoulders and arms being bitten into, torsos torn apart, intestines pulled out and eaten, and even a couple of child zombies get tossed onto a sofa and shot at with a rifle. After securing the mall, what’s left of the still-human group begin to experience something of a utopian existence, and for a while they’re happy as the world outside is claimed by the undead. They can do what they want and live like royals without paying for anything. They take what clothes they need, eat anything they want, they drink expensive wine, but this materialistic existence doesn’t keep them happy for long and they soon realise their palace has become a prison.
Dawn Of The Dead is part social commentary yet full-on horror. As the traditional world view of society begins to collapse and chaos and anarchy begin to take over, it offers a look at the balance between dystopia and utopia. There’s no more waking up at 6am with dead-end jobs to go to, no more standing in queues at the supermarket, banks, post office, no more traffic jams – life would be great – but on the other side there’s also no one to produce the food for the supermarkets, no one to drive the trains, planes or buses and no one to keep producing the fuel to keep them running. If you’re one of a handful of survivors, utopia can turn into a living nightmare.
While filmmakers have been mixing the living dead with dystopian societies for a few decades now, what’s interesting to see is how quickly society can break down in such situations and that’s why Dawn Of The Dead remains such an enjoyable experience. Without Romero’s “Living Dead” films, we wouldn’t have had 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, or Zombieland, which just goes to show – while these creatures might be long dead, the genre certainly isn’t.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .