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Zombie Horror Film

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead has a strong claim for best zombie movie ever made. It's Romero's sequel to Night of the Living Dead and picks up the action a few weeks later. The zombie population is growing exponentially, chaos reigns, and the few surviving humans are in a desperate situation. This is a fantastic film which works on several levels as a human drama, a black comedy, a satirical comment on consumer society and of course as a seriously gory horror.

The film is packed with well written characters and we follow two SWAT team members, Roger and Peter, as they join forces with a helicopter pilot named Stephen and his girlfriend Francine. The four of them decide to make a break for it and as they escape in a helicopter it becomes apparent that the zombies have completely over run the authorities. Running low on fuel they decide to land on the roof of a shopping mall in a quiet suburb, figuring they will at least be able to stock up on supplies before moving on. Once there they are seduced by the ready availability of material goods and decide to settle and try to wait the crisis out.

There are still no answers as to why the dead have returned to life and seem intent on eating the flesh of the living and with nowhere to go the group decide to make the mall as safe and comfortable as they can. They set about clearing out the zombies who are wandering aimlessly through the mall remembering their past lives, an obvious poke at the alarming number of slack jawed material obsessed consumers who spend all their spare time shopping. The group pilfer whatever takes their fancy from the shops but during the clear up operation tragedy strikes and Roger is bitten. As they wait for him to die, knowing they must watch for his reanimation a depression sinks in. The remaining group live there for a few more months growing increasingly restless until a biker gang of marauding survivors invade their haven provoking an outrageous pitched battle which is intensely gory and extremely funny.

The script and direction from George A. Romero are excellent and this is probably his best known work and certainly the one that had most impact and influence on popular culture. Italian horror director Dario Argento was a huge fan of Romero's first film and he helped to raise the capital needed for the sequel. Romero made the film on a budget of around $650,000 and it took over $55 million at the box office worldwide.

The cast are mostly unknowns and of the four central characters only Peter, played by Ken Foree went on to have a successful acting career. Despite this the performances are thoroughly convincing and each of the characters has depth and a satisfying sense of reality about them.

The film also benefited from the make-up and effects skills of Tom Savini. He worked as a combat photographer in Vietnam and was able to recreate the most gruesome gore for the movies. Dawn of the Dead was where he really made his name with some incredible visceral sequences. He also played the leader of the biker gang who invade the mall.

This really is incredibly gruesome stuff and it pulls no punches, the relentless waves of zombies seem unstoppable and their eventual victory somewhat inevitable and as you root for the group to survive, the tension can make it an almost gruelling experience to watch. Romero was careful to keep the action flowing though and he threw in a good portion of black comedy to relieve your fraying nerves.

This is one of those films that draws me in every time I watch it and never gets old. The social commentary is still valid, the script is full of excellent dialogue, the effects still look great and despite the imitators no-one has come close to making a zombie movie that is this much fun. For me this is still the undisputed heavyweight champion of the zombie genre.

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