Hey, it’s the greatest zombie movie of all time, but is it the greatest horror movie, that’s the real question! Oh, and this is another installment of Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010, I have to stop forgetting to type this!
Written By: George A. Romero
Directed By: George A. Romero
Is Dawn Of The Dead the best horror movie of all time? This is a question that I have seen or read being discussed on a few different occasions, I once listened to a podcast discussion of this almost devolve into fisticuffs because someone had the audacity to argue that Dawn Of The Dead wasn’t the greatest horror movie of all time. Here’s my take on it, just in case you are interested. IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER!!! Was that large enough for you, do I need to bold that for you, maybe italicize it even? Listen, Dawn Of The Dead is a great film, that’s all that matters, and if you can’t watch a great film and be content with the fact that it is great and others think it is great as well, then in my humble opinion maybe you shouldn’t be watching movies in the first place.
Okay, with that bit of a pointless rant out of the way, let’s delve into Dawn Of The Dead. It’s not like George A. Romero penned Night Of The Living Dead and followed it right up with Dawn Of The Dead, he did movies, either as a writer or director, like The Crazies and O.J. Simpson: Juice On The Loose, yes, you read that last movie right. But, whether his subject matter was something else in the realm of horror or a TV vehicle for a soon to be murderer, Romero remained most deeply associated with his cult hit, Night Of The Living Dead. That movie had already gained critical and cult acclaim, and was recognized, whether truthfully or not (I’m not a film historian, so I can’t definitively say this next part is true), as the film that changed the way horror was consumed by the masses. For that reason his Dawn Of The Dead was perhaps destined to reach the acclaim that it has and can explain why for most people Romero is only associated with the Dead series and the rest of his work has been pretty much forgotten.
Yes, there is a lot of social commentary in Dawn Of The Dead. That is what the film is most famous for after all, but that is also the reason why I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about said social commentary. Endless prose has been written on the messages and themes to be found in Dawn Of The Dead, there is literally nothing I can add to what has already been said. I will say this much, Dawn Of The Dead is brilliant in its social commentary. Consumerism is taken to task hardcore, most notably in the final scenes when the zombies rummage through the mall shops in the same fashion as the surviving humans did previously. You see, there is nothing that separates us from the zombies, our consumerism has already turned us into zombies! And, once again Romero has cast a black lead character, and once again this isn’t even a focal point of the story. Peter is simply a dude, a dude trying to survive, no more no less. That may be Romero’s greatest social commentary, that while others may want to look at Peter as yet another example of forward thinking, in reality he is just a normal guy and he should be viewed as such. There’s more social commentary, lots more, to be found in Dawn Of The Dead, but the key to it is that it never feels forced or heavy.
Since I’m not going to talk much about the social commentary in Dawn Of The Dead, although I already talked about it more than I originally intended, then what am I going to talk about? Not the excellent blood and make-up effects from Tom Savini, or the wonderful use of music throughout the film or the spot on direction from Romero. Those, as well as all other excellent aspects of Dawn Of The Dead should be so obvious that I don’t need to expound on them. No sirree Bob, my talking point is going to be the idea of realization. There are moments peppered throughout Dawn Of The Dead where characters, or the camera, force the audience into a realization. Early on it is the realization that this is the end, that the world has devolved into chaos and there is nothing we can do about it. Then it is the realization that we are human, but we are also consumers and will fall back into the consumer mode that we know. Finally there is the realization that we are human and thus we are more evil than the zombies could ever be, we will turn on one another and cause untold pain even while we face our biggest foreign threat. There are more, Dawn Of The Dead is a movie with realization after realization.
I began this review asking a simple question about Dawn Of The Dead. I’m going to end it with a few simple sentences. Whether your thing is social commentary or end of the world apocalyptic horror that is more about atmosphere than the scare, you should enjoy Dawn Of The Dead. It is Romero’s best work, and it set the standard for the thinking man’s horror movie that is neigh impossible to reach. Quibble all you want about the placement of Dawn Of The Dead within the horror ranks, I’ll be happy simply basking in the glow of its greatness. It’s not the greatest horror movie I’ve ever seen (oooh, shocker), but I don’t give two shits about that stuff, Dawn Of The Dead is a treat to watch and that’s all that matters to me.