Dawn of the Dead (1978)

dawn of the dead poster 1978 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Fun script

Zombies come off as blue

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Dawn of the Dead

Studio:  Laurel Group/Dawn Associates

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s): September 1, 1978 (Premiere)/April 13, 1979 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

dawn of the dead elevator zombies

The Dead are coming for you…and the best deals at J.C. Penney’s

The Dead are slowly overpowering the world.  Now members of a SWAT Team organized to combat them are on the run with a television crew, and the only safe place is massive mall.  Inside the mall, it seems like an almost ideal location to live in spite of the horror around them, but paradise might not stand. With the dead surrounding them, the mall could be a safe haven for the living…or a death trap.

Written and directed by George A. Romero, Dawn of the Dead is a zombie horror movie.  Following Night of the Living Dead in 1968, the film was released to positive reviews and quickly gained a cult following.  Released (and also reedited by Dario Argento), the film was released as Zombi internationally and which itself spawned a sequel Zombi 2 in 1979.

I had a VHS copy of Night of the Living Dead and for a while it was the only professionally made VHS we had.  I watched the film into the ground and therefor it has a special place for me.  Despite probably technically being a better movie, Dawn of the Dead is still second in my book…but it also is very good.

dawn of the dead 1978 hare krishna zombie mike christopher

Would you like a flower?

The story on the surface is simple.  The Dead are rising (not-called zombies), and they want to eat people.  The movie starts out rather slow in the process of getting to the mall, but once in the mall, it finds its groove.  The Dead still want to go to the mall and live their normal lives, and of course, the ultimate enemy ends up being other men.  It is a look at both our culture and our society…and it is not very favorable…though Romero does add in a lot of humor.

The cast is so-so, but in 1978, it was not always easy to get top-notch actors for a horror film, so Dawn of the Dead did pretty decently.  The star is the cool as ice Ken Foree who is hobbled by being stuck with a lot of characters who make poor decisions.  Gaylen Ross plays the female lead who feels like a transition between the helpless scream-queen and the tough final girls of the 1980s.  Scott Reiniger and David Emge are kind of bland in their roles with Emge being the over-educated, under street-smart guy and Scott Reiniger being the cold killer who takes too many risks.

dawn of the dead scott reiniger zombie

When you go to sleep but wake up dead tired

One of the more unfortunate parts is that the zombies just are not quite right.  The zombies were designed by effects wizard Tom Savini (who also plays the head raider), but the intended grey skin of the zombies comes off with a bluish tint that just does not work.  Fortunately, the gore does (including the great chopper…chopped head scene).  It is this gore mixed with the humor that makes the film stand out.

Dawn of the Dead surpasses the original film in many ways.  It is not as tight or you could argue even as tense, but what it lacks in that area is made up with social context and a creative look at the consumer world.  With the success of Dawn of the Dead, a sequel was inevitable…but the sequel proved to be a fumble (and the other sequels that followed were extremely hit-or-miss).  Dawn of the Dead was followed by Day of the Dead in 1985 and a remake by Zack Snyder in 2004.

Related Links:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Day of the Dead (1985)

Land of the Dead (2005)

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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