Film Title: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Starring: David Emge as Stephen, Ken Foree as Peter, Scott H. Reiniger as Roger, and Gaylen Ross as Francine
Written & Directed by: George Romero
Ten years passed between the original Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead but just try to put this out of your mind. You’re not really supposed to notice the passage of time because Dawn obviously takes place shortly after Night as far as the story is concerned. It simply wasn’t feasible to continue to set the movies in the late sixties when the eighties were almost upon us.
Despite the best efforts of officials and law enforcement, the undead problem has reached apocalyptic proportions and society is falling apart. Francine can’t keep her television station crew from behaving erratically, yelling at the scientific expert appearing on their currently airing talk show and from finally abandoning their position.
Meanwhile, Peter and Roger, members of the local S.W.A.T. team, are raiding a building, forcing the tenants to evacuate to safety. They fail, however, finding the basement full of the undead. After taking care of the problem they decide that it might be time to make a run for it.
They go to the television station and meet up with Roger’s friend, Stephen, the television station’s traffic reporter. He has convinced Francine, his girlfriend, to abandon the station as well – there’s nothing left for her to do since all the emergency centers have been overrun with the undead and there’s nowhere left for her to inform the people to flee. All four of them load into the station’s helicopter and take off in hopes of finding somewhere safe to wait out the returning dead.
They stop at airports along the way to get fuel and supplies. Coming across a shopping mall (a relatively new force of nature at the time the movie was made) they decide to stop and see what kind of supplies they can find.
They’ve hit the jackpot. Not only is there plenty of food and clothes, there’s an ammunition store that hasn’t been touched since the zombie outbreak began. Crawling in from the top they barricade a few storage rooms and venture downstairs to get what they need.
When they find it relatively easy to maneuver around the mall and see how they could make themselves safe here, they decide to stay for a while – just until things calm down and start to go back to normal.
Denial can be a comforting thing, so these three (soon to be four – Francine is pregnant) work to make the mall safe for habitation. They fortify their rooms upstairs and even create a fake wall to hide the stairwell, opting to use other means to get around.
After losing Roger to a zombie bite, Francine starts pushing to leave the mall, wanting to go north. She realizes that fighting for material possessions just isn’t worth risking their lives. The men disagree with her but she insists that she at least be taught how to fly the helicopter just in case.
As is usual, the woman is right. 😉 A roving motorcycle gang spots the helicopter on the roof and deduces that there are living survivors inside. They attack the mall, breaking down the zombie barriers and making a general nuisance of themselves. In all the confusion another member of our heroic team succumbs to a zombie bite.
Only two (well, three) make it away alive, leaving the mall for the zombies. But really, doesn’t the mall make zombies out of all of us anyway?
Of all the Romero Living Dead films, this is my favorite. I have always enjoyed post apocalyptic stories but not for the death and destruction of the apocalypse – for how the survivors pick themselves up and manage to go on living. I suppose to be more accurate, I’m a fast of post disaster tales. I have enjoyed all five seasons of Lost, but the first season is still one of my favorites simply for the ‘how are we going to survive here’ aspect of that season. Watching people solve the problems of daily living in extreme situations is very gratifying to me.
And there’s not much more extreme than a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies when taking a step outside for a breath of fresh air could lead to taking your last breath ever.
Rating: Ten Screaming Pumpkins out of ten