RogerBW's Blog

Dawn of the Dead 19 September 2021

1978 horror, dir. George Romero, David Emge, Ken Foree: IMDb / allmovie. The dead are still rising, and they're still hungry.

But by now we know how it all works, so there's no gentle introduction: we're immediately in the TV station as it goes off the air, not because the zombies are breaking in, simply because people are realising how pointless it is to keep broadcasting when there's noting new to say. We know by now basically how it works: if you don't destroy a freshly dead body, it'll come back and eat you. (This is officially a sequel to Night, but there's no continuity beyond the basic threat.)

And while we don't quite have all the standard zombie elements, because there's still the actual converting bite to worry about, we do get bites that are so noxious that you'll probably die of them anyway – and then rise because all the dead are rising. There's still that basic environmental, unthinking, zombie threat, and humans are a problem largely in that they let the zombies have a greater effect than they otherwise would.

But for me this is a film of three parts, or two half-parts and two full parts. The TV station satire at the beginning is what I wanted Network to be; the cops attacking the building are rather muddier and more confused (I had to rewatch a few times to work out just what happened to Racist Cop), but this still works pretty well. Those are the half-parts. Then once the action moves to the mall everything grinds to a halt: we're in one place, we're no longer reacting to immediate problems but picking our moment to go out and do a thing, but more importantly the satire of consumerism is much more heavy-handed than the earlier satires had been. Yeah, here are the zombies pawing at the shop windows just the way shoppers do for Thanksgiving sales, we get it.

And then once the bikers arrive it sharpens up again: the bikers try to take, and Stephen particularly tries to defend, not the things useful for survival like guns and food but what would once have been the valuables, the jewellery and furs and TVs. It's the class war, and of course the bourgeoisie and the workers really have an enemy in common… That part works for me, and even without the action the film seemed to perk up at that point. (The action itself is all right, but for me watching more than four decades later and having seen lots of other action really not the point of what's going on.)

Shame about the bright red cartoon-like blood, though.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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