Thursday, October 10, 2013

Film Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (Review)
United States/Italy/1978
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...a very entertaining and brilliantly written horror film."

An unknown plague is causing the dead to reanimate, in turn, collapsing society. As the government and local authority lose control, four survivors escape the chaos and find refuge in an indoor shopping mall.

Dawn of the Dead continues to follow the four survivors; two staff members of a television studio, and two SWAT members. They find refuge in the mall, and decide to make it their home. Sweeping through the many stores for supplies and goods, and clearing out the few zombies that found their way in, the survivors eventually create a secure and comfortable home. They face issue after issue, and overcome them one way or another. In simple terms: Dawn of the Dead is a survival guide for a zombie apocalypse. The ending, despite being a bit cheesy, is effective and entertaining.

Dawn of the Dead is a horror film -- much more a horror film than its remake. The zombies move slowly, but have a strong presence; the slow moving zombies are very threatening, and create a real threat. This threat becomes more suspenseful when it's placed in claustrophobic environments, and when the odds are against the survivors. And, if one gets caught by a zombie, expect a devastating bite -- these guys don't just leave a mark, they pull chunks off of their prey. Dawn of the Dead also features some effective black comedy, and some subtle social commentary. The horror, the comedy, and the social commentary compliment each other well; they never overpower the horror elements, though, as this film is quite frightening.

The acting is great from the four survivors; each role is easily believable, despite having the "70s horror acting" vibe. The special effects and makeup are superb, the practical gore effects are very disturbing and effective yet interesting -- the kind of effects that make you say "wow, that's cool," despite being a grizzly subject; gore fans will be pleased to see more of Tom Savini's masterful work. The music is also well fitted, and well placed. George A. Romero's direction and writing is brilliant; everything comes together perfectly, and the story is incredible in so many ways; the story itself speaks a lot about politics and society, and really opens up your imagination, all while being terrifying and entertaining.

Overall, Dawn of the Dead is a very entertaining and brilliantly written horror film. A horror film that is actually scary, a gorefest that uses superb practical special effects and makeup, and a story that works on multiple levels -- a masterful horror film from a master of horror.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong gore and violence.

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