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Dawn of the Dead



Review #218, Movie #289
Dawn Of The Dead



Year Of Release
1978

Director
George A Romero

Producer/s
Richard P Rubinstein, Claudio Argento, Alfredo Cuomo

Writer/s
George A Romero

Cast
David Emge, Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, Scott Reiniger and Tom Savini

Notes
This was Romero’s first collaboration with makeup maestro Tom Savini. Savini was offered the job for Night Of The Living Dead in 1968 but had to turn Romero down through being drafted into the Vietnam War.
Effects expert Savini thought that the blood used in the film was too bright and almost luminous, which according to sources was actually down to a mistake on behalf of the production team… but Romero actually ran with it and talked Savini round due to the comic nature of the blood adding to the comic nature of the film.


The thing to remember about Romero's Dead Series, is that they aren't direct sequels of one another, they're more "spiritual" sequels. As the films progress, the state of decomposition of society does too, but each film should be considered "stand alone".

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Synopsis:
After only 3 weeks of a deadly virus taking over the World, Governments and Local Police have become unable to control the situation of flesh eating Zombies.
TV Station workers Stephen and Francine see the future is glum and steal the Network's Helicopter and head out of town, on the way, they meet Roger and Peter, two members of a SWAT Team who have gone AWOL due to the fact that society is failing and the Police Force has pretty much failed already...


... and the four end up finding a Shopping Mall that is devoid of any living people.


Review:
With a bigger budget, about 6 times that of Night, though by reckoning the 10 year gap probably makes it about equal due to inflation, Romero has been able to put to screen a more (ahem) fleshed out story combined with some extra action.


It's also the film that has been parodied, copied and even remade more times than the other Dead films. Has never been bettered though.


What's different really, is that the film feels like and extension of the first, yet bares no resemblance at all.


There's more guts and gore this time round. The film in places feels like an exploitation film in regards to some of the scenes. It feels as though Romero has told the various Zombified extras and stuntmen to stand still and stare just past the camera while they get a good shot of the gore and brains falling out their freshly shot foreheads.
It does add a much different aura to the film than anything really seen before, but gladly, not every action scene or gory scene in the film is laden heavily with exploitative amounts blood and goo.


The general screenplay and story this time round has in hindsight started the trend of Zombie Apocalypse conversations that take place mainly between teenaged boys.
Survivors hiding in a Mall.
It works really, really well too. A couple scenes are a little contrived and some of the filmmaking is still experimental, but the special thing is that it makes the film, like Night, universally recognisable.
There's also a subtle undertone of Consumerism, Anti-Consumerism and satire toward the mentality of people who buy for the sake of buying and what it all really means in the grand scheme of things.
It's cleverly put together.



The acting is also improved. This time round, actual actors, albeit at the start of their careers, were hired.

Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger play Peter Washington and Roger DiMarco respectively.
I wasn't sure about Reiniger to start with, he seems more like a last minute add-on even though he's the first main character we meet but he comes into his own eventually.
Foree though makes this movie. He plays the intelligence of the group. The wise man who leads them and protects the group. Foree is a little amateur at some of the action scenes though but it's fun to hear a heroic tune kick in when he starts getting physical.

David Emge and Gaylen Ross play Stephen Andrews and Francine Parker... together, the two portray almost the lost souls of the film. Completely out of their depth in the chaos and follow Peter and Roger for their own survival. In the Mall though is when they come into their own and become disparate personalities and Francine becomes almost a lifeline back to sanity for Stephen as he becomes lost in the life they're now leading.



The action, as I said, feels more like an exploitation in blood and gore at times.
The thing is though, it makes the film stand out. Not just from the original movie, but anything else too.
There's also more gunplay in this one and a handful of scenes with a gang of raiders in the Mall that adds some excitement.
As I said in the Notes as well, the blood and guts, and some of the sound effects too, have been almost caricatured and turned more toward a "comic" nature by the filmmakers and it makes the whole thing much more fun to watch amongst some of the scares. This film though is much less scary than the first.

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All in all, an improvement over the original in technical terms, but lacking the actual scares, psychological edge and spooky atmosphere.
It's still a romping gore fest though and contains much more humour and hints of satire amongst the blood and headshots.
There's also added action and some nicely played character dynamics and character arcs going on too.

Another Classic from George A Romero.

My rating: 93%