Cult Movie: George A Romero's classic 1970s zombie satire Dawn of The Dead still has plenty of bite
Dawn Of The Dead
WHILE it feels more like a public information film than a horror satire in 2020, but Dawn Of The Dead was a game-changer when it first appeared on cinema screens in 1978.
Director George A Romero may have written the on-screen rule book for the undead with his 1968 classic Night Of The Living Dead, but for sheer visceral power and satirical clout, it's hard to beat the shopping mall frequenting brain munching herd of reanimated corpses he unleashed a full decade later.
The reasons for its brilliance are manifold, but near the top of any list of reasons to love it would have to be its masterful blend of full-on horror gore and wildly unhinged social satire. It is that rarest of things, a knowing horror film that is both scary and funny in equal measure. That it feels almost like a documentary rather than a cheaply made horror epic today only reminds you of the weird-out era we're living through right now.
From its shopping mall setting, where the zombies gather like the brain dead consumers they once were, to the range of memorable and iconic undead characters and the sparky dialogue, this is the perfect example of the 70s zombie flick.
There's a typically unsettling Goblin score to enjoy, special effects guru Tom Savini supplies the entrails and innards that are scattered liberally throughout and even the Italian master himself Dario Argento weighs in to help with the editing and music.
The human survivors Stephen 'Flyboy' Andrews (David Emge), Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross) Peter Washington (Ken Foree) and Roger DeMarco (Scott Reiniger) are predictably irritating, but that's what we expect – and watching them negotiate their way around the zombie crammed shopping complex is hugely enjoyable.
When Roger gets the old zombie virus, the situation rapidly changes and the real trouble finally arrives. Romero's vision of a post-apocalyptic society is a familiar one in his work, but rarely – if ever – has it been so effectively nailed as it is here in the shopping mall setting of capitalist greed and avarice.
Admittedly, the satire is far from subtle, but that's part of the fun as well. The zombie make-up is outrageous but effective in its own rough and ready way and, while the film would get the full re-make treatment several decades later, it's the original that still holds all the killer cards.
As a manic thrill ride of horror tropes, Dawn Of The Dead delivers the goods every time. As a fast and furious spoof of unhinged consumerism, it also delivers some real zingers, while never forgetting to ram home the scariness as well.
Watch it this weekend and marvel at those glassy eyed, lumbering corpses staggering through the shopping centre because it's all they remember doing when they were alive. Enjoy the lurid effects, snigger at the cheap one liners and shiver at the bloodthirsty moments of genuine gory horror.
Most of all though, keep telling yourself – it's just a movie.