Monday, January 13, 2014

243 of 1001 Movies: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

After watching Night of the Living Dead I was impressed enough to be looking forward to Dawn of the Dead. I can see the appeal, especially for zombie lovers who seem to really love the movie, and it's impact on the genre is very noticeable and profound. It also seems a lot of zombie stories now copy the character types and plots though that Romero himself wrote. There was a lot about the movie I felt didn't progress though outside of just now having the budget to film in color though.

Summary: Peter and Roger are both SWAT team members who meet in the middle of the chaos abandoning their mission when it's over run with zombies. Francine is an executive at a news station, and Stephen is a reporter who have to abandon their television station once it also goes crazy as well, and they take the opportunity to load their helicopter. Now all four are put together and trying to search for a place that they can live in that is safer from the rest of the world. The logical step seems to be to find somewhere that is secluded from the city to take refuge in to protect themselves. The place they find is a shopping mall that they begin to make their own.

Acting: Overall, the acting was just a bit weak, and one of the parts that took away from the movie. It wasn't terrible, it's not a shock that these actors didn't find fame after this movie either. They make work in this role, but it doesn't seem to ask much from them emotionally or developmentally. Scott Reinger is Roger , one of the SWAT team members. Reinger was one of the stronger actors just because he didn't over act, and seemed to enjoy his part in the movie. He also handled the changes his character took on as well. I think it was mainly a poorly written character that held back Reinger especially when he made this decision to go back to his truck for a bad, even though it was obviously a bad idea. Ken Foree is Peter, and he isn't bad, but also not that great either. He delivered his lines in a way that almost felt like he was on stage instead of a movie. Gaylen Ross is Francine, and one of the better characters, I guess my main problem with the females so far in George Romero films is that they are stereotypical weak. She gets a bit stronger throughout, but much like the first blonde from Night of the Living Dead she faints easy at first, and seems to get nervous about a lot. The good news is that the development is a lot better for her, and she does get more confident in learning how to take charge by the end. Lastly, their is David Emge as Stephen, and the weakest actor of the bunch. There were just a couple of memorable moments that feel really weak because of his casting, but the humor they at least create between him and Roger does work for the better.

Filming: The color is really great in the movie, and the style is very 70's. It makes the fun a bit more fun to watch, and relive how the time looked in the most authentic way possible since that is when it was filmed. I felt that a lot of elements of what Romero used in black and white in the 60's didn't get updated to work better in the 70's though. The costume of the zombies doesn't look like someone did a lot of research on what a rotting corpse would look like, so all the zombies look blue, no matter what race they are. The best costume effort is only when a more notable character transitions. The music is also pretty bad as well, and it takes away from the horror of the movie.

Plot: So if the acting isn't the best and some of the elements of what the director put together is dated then what would justify the rating I do end up giving the movie? That is the plot. I feel that Romero felt in a way he wanted to redo the Night of the Living Dead since he had a bigger budget and probably with a bigger budget more of a story he could expand on. The first in this series tries to accomplish this one did, but with more stereotypical characters, and a darker conclusion, it seemed Romero was limited. That may be why these characters feel so reflective of the ones in his first movie. He was making a sequel to moonlight as a redo. With this comes some very nicely woven in scenes of the character developing, growing in love, forming friendships, but also realizing the real war isn't that against zombies, but against other people. It's a common theme explored with zombies, but one that Romero popularized. He also chooses the perfect setting, a mall, adding to the interesting elements of the movie.

If you're a zombie lover then you most likely enjoy Dawn of the Dead, it's just vintage zombie. It was doing the zombie idea with a lot more thought very early on. Even if the budget wasn't there yet to hire more believable actors or make a score that made it more terrifying. Romero had a vision though, and knew how he wanted to present that, and I think that overpowered any obstacles.

Rating 7.5 of 10.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) on IMDb

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