: Dawn of the Dead
Author: George Romero
Director: George Romero
I’d never seen any of the Dead series, and while I figured they were good, I assumed they were typical horror flicks. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Tomorrow night IFC airs the original The Night of the Living Dead, and I can’t wait. This is the sequel and it’s amazing. I can truly say this is one of the best films I have ever seen. It’s a genre film, no question, but it breaks out of its genre in ways that you wouldn’t believe possible without seeing it.
The plot is simple: the world is overrun by zombies (the living dead), who must eat human flesh to survive. Zombies are incredibly stupid, but tenacious — they won’t take no for an answer and just keep coming and coming (unless you shoot them in the head). Attempting to escape this nightmare is a small group of looters who have a helicopter but minimal gasoline. They land on the roof of a deserted mall: deserted of people that is, but filled with zombies. With a whole mall for the looting, the escapees decide benefits of staying outweigh the risks of the zombies. Here is where the film shines. The killing of zombies is relentless and gory throughout the film, but it is the mall scenes, where zombie life is a dull mimicry of real life, that director Romero plays with our minds. At times the zombies are ghoulish and evil, then pitiful, then heroic, then tragic, then mindless automatons. Within this satiric parody of life we see ourselves. It is a dangerous, uncomfortable vision.
This film asks all sorts of profound questions about the meaning of life. For instance, the zombies have life. Or do they? And our struggling heroes, secure in their mall fortress with everything they could ever need, face boredom: are they alive? Wow, profound, thought-provoking film. I never dreamed horror could be so intelligent (especially about mindless zombies).
Warning: this film is incredibly gory and violent, but the violence is almost comical. Romero is a master: he treats us with a series of violent images to desensitize us, then shocks us with a shot of humanity. Most unusual for a horror film. The movement of the zombies is a dance, elegantly choreographed, and like the tragedy inherent in string puppets who have no soul, is hopelessly sad.