The initial concept of Dawn Of The Dead birthed when Romero and his (then) girlfriend Christine were visiting a newly opened shopping mall that one of his friends opened in Pittsburgh. Monroeville Mall, which is now a well known tourist attraction in the city of Pittsburgh. Soon after Romero's vision was heightened, and the social undertones depicted in Dawn were in fact ahead of their time, seeing that shopping malls in the late seventies weren't as prolific as they are today. The true genius in my opinion that lies behind this horror masterpiece is it's openess of beautiful exterior shots, like the airport scene, or the montage sequences with rednecks flanked by national guardsmen make sport of the undead. And not to mention the character depth. Rarely these days do we get to enjoy a good zombie film with dimensional characters that we really care about. In Dawn we care about all of these characters, we laugh with them, and we feel their pain, their lonliness, there is great audience connection.
When I first discovered this movie I was turned off by it, mainly because of the absurd zombie make-up that was sloppily applied and I also felt the soundtrack was beyond rediculous. But all of that diminished quickly upon my second viewing, I began to enjoy it more until I finally fell in love with it. This movie plays like an EC comic-book with over the top gore, exaggerated headshots and gun fights, and the soundtrack is true a masterpiece, almost all music scores were produced and recorded by Goblin, who have collaborated with horror maestro, Dario Argento - who is also an executive producer in this film.
I consider Dawn Of The Dead to be Romero's most daring and ambitious effort. It is brilliantly cut, but it lacks a bit of story direction, there's hardly any plot, which is fine by me. Most plot induced zombie films are redundant and are derrivative of other movies, it's hardly original and we can guess what's going to happen after viewing it for the first ten minutes. But not Dawn Of The Dead, we are always kept on the edge of our seats, Romero is NOT afraid to kill off his characters - which I don't know is such a good thing, but it's very effective nonetheless.
The film opens inside a frantic News station where one of the lead characters works in - Francine Parker, played by actress Gaylen Ross. Amidst the chaos and confusion we meet Stephen Andrews a G.O.N. news traffic reporter played by David Emge. Soon after a heated discussion we are taken to one of the greatest action sequences ever made. SWAT team members have been called upon to recover and destroy the infected bodies that are being hidden and protected inside by a group of adamant residents led by "Martinez" - played by John Amplas (Martin, KnightRiders, Day Of The Dead, Creepshow).
A bloody battle ensues after Martinez and his men attempt to fend off an army of SWAT members, but they are soon outgunned and eliminated. Here is where we meet Roger, played by Scott H. Reineger. Shortly we are in a chaotic battle inside the apartment building. Zombies shamble about, and are ripping people to shreds, as SWAT members begin to lose it. Roger is caught in the mayhem, and is soon overwrought by his emotions. In a basement we meet Peter, where Roger discloses his closeness to Stephen, or at least implies it.
The movie generates momentum after the characters arrive at the Monroeville mall center where they soon decide to stay. Later they must find ways to fortify and protect their new home - or paradise, but over-confidence would soon prove to be the down fall of one of Romero's beloved characters. The attention then focuses on the character's monotony for everything that they're living for, life itself becomes a burden to carry over day by day. Everything begins to crumble before their eyes as a band of raiders spot the chopper on the rooftop, that very night they assemble their gang for a sloppily planned assault to take over the place, and take whatever items they desire as well. This sequence alone caught me a bit off guard, especially the pie fight, which I can't say is my favorite part of the movie, but it's still fun. The sequence opens with amazing stunts, most of them done by make effects artist Tom Savini, who also has a cameo role as Blades. Stephen in complete bravado and folly takes it upon himself to combat the dozens of raiders who threaten to destroy everything that they've worked hard for in the past months. What follows are graphic scenes which contain high levels of gore - but Romero and his brilliant techinicality manages to inject some great moments of humor; a great example would be the raider testing his blood-pressure and before you know it an entire horde of zombies are ripping him apart, now that was a great classic moment.
Countless hordes of the undead are let inside by Peter, the raiders soon find themselves outnumbered, outgunned, and completely surrounded which is never a good sign. What follows are the classic zombie feast sequences, and my favorite - the intestine tug of war. Before the actual ending that we are seeing today, Romero originally kills every single one of his characters. Now i'm not saying that would have been the best choice for this movie, because it works fine as it is, but I can't help to wonder how people would have reacted, the ending either way would have been extremely effective. Overall Dawn of the Dead is bar none, the best zombie movie ever made, and it will never be matched. It has everything other zombie movies can't offer, so this film still remains, not only the best zombie film I've ever seen, but the best horror movie ever made.
Reviewed by Biohazard - 9/19/07