Tonight we have a special guest in our Halloween Month retrospective of horror movies that marked my mind forever. Tonight I will talk about THE ZOMBIE MOVIE OF ALL TIMES. That’s right, tonight I will talk about “Dawn of The Dead” aka “Zombie” in Europe. This is the cult movie of all zombie flesh eaters fans outside. Never equalled by any remake, even the Walking Dead failed to impress (is it to tell you). Why this movie is so awesome? Well read.
First of all, I wanted to mention that there are two major director’s cut available whether you are in the US or in Europe. Back then Georges Romero allied with Dario Argento (the Itialian maestro of giallos and horror movies from Italy) to distribute the movie worldwide. You have therefore two cuts: The Romero’s director’s cut and the Argento’s one. Because I watched as the French version, I found the Argento’s one amplifying Romero’s genius by adding a more intense course (through cutting actionless scenes) and adding the music of the Goblin on top that gives a nice progressive rock/synth from the 70s to it. It makes it simply impressive.
The film starts on Fran, a TV reporter napping among a nightmare, only to be waken up by a colleague to take her shift and also have some rest to revitalize. We only see the disaster of what these people: a massive outbreak of zombies, way far from what we experienced in “Night of The Living Dead”. We can see people panicking and keeping the signal on air with two speakers discussing about the zombie outbreak: one rationalist and skeptical that brings this nihilist but yet most pragmatic approach (burn the bodies of those that just died) and the second one, antipode of the first speaker claiming it is insane and completely no-sense, inhumane. It clearly puts us to think what we should do in that situation. In case your dearest person is becoming contaminated by the zombie plague, will you just shoot him as you would shoot in a shooting range or will you be lost by your feelings and putting your own life at risk?
The insanity is just starting, as the local TV director enter the stage and yell about how come all programming are stopped. He yells he wants to have the normal shows and programs running on air, because tele spectators will rate down the station if not so. The insanity of consumerism of the previous decades ad nauseam, started to be served by Romero itself. Fran escape with Stephan, her recent boyfriend, as he has a safe plan.
The following sequence takes place over a building in a thing that looks like a siege from SWAT. We get introduced to Roger, the maverick hero that is also the most reckless of all four main characters. We can see an ultimatum posed and Roger advising some tips to a rookie, when aside one veteran utterly makes racist comments, claiming these thugs are welfare queens enjoying state welfare when himself is struggling and working. Here comes the another nuggets as we can see that the siege is indeed held by inhabitants refusing to give their dead relatives to law enforcement. It is a reminder of the same climate of violence and racism that were taking place in LA riots in 1963. This is our first time we can see zombie, being literally their head exploded by shotgun shots (a remarkable work from Tom Savini in terms of special effects). Roger after his adrenaline rush is just realizing the gravity of the situation and arrive face to face with another SWAT, a SWAT that have shot the racist veteran earlier on. Here we get introduced to Peter, the black main character that indeed will show all the quality of the hero from all four. Again, Romero makes the exception by putting a person of color as the savior of all four, shredding into pieces the myth of the white man savior. Among their first encounter and ice-breaking moment, appears a one-legged priest from a smoke, telling the two SWATs that all the corpses are located in the laundry room and they are free to do anything they want as they receive the final graces. However he warns them that they will soon rule over them.
We arriving back on Stephan and Fran that have indeed used the TV station helicopter to meet Peter and Roger. In the Romero’s cut, we can see Stephan and Fran facing another pair of cops taking a boat to escape the hell, followed by the arrival of Peter and Roger. This scene is deleted from the Argento’s cut and make us meet straight the four.
As they escape they fly over the countryside, we can see National Guards and locals, enjoying the shooting range, it could almost come out from the National Rifle Association as people shoot zombies, with one can of beer in one hand and a cigarette. It surely tells the absurdity of some gun enthusiasts are patented gun nutters, ready to shoot if approved. As the helicopter lands down to refuel in a municipal airport, we can see even more zombies, in particularly zombie children that Peter will not take any seconds to shoot on range with his M4. Thats some brutal to see children being shot in a movie!
Then come the big chunk of the movie as the hero find an empty shopping mall and decide to use it as a shelter. First they consider it as a safe stop, then realize that they can use it as a castle. Here Romeros is hitting straight in the American heart: the shopping mall. The temple of consumerism of the 70’s put to the mid 2000s when the e-commerce decided to pull the plug on many malls. It reminds me a novel from Ray Bradbury’s, one of those I read when I was in 3rd grade in which some people lives in a shopping mall and realizing their dream. Come on, who else would be not happy to be locked inside a mall and enjoy the ownership of all the materials and produces, without worrying about to afford them? It directly hits hard on the American psyche, as the whole social life for anything is driven by one thing: credit history (that you only gain through having credit cards). Even more when we see zombies flocking through the mall, in which Stephen tells Fran “this place had an important meaning to them in their prior life”. That makes it so unique and exciting, you will never find in any other movies.