Night #22: Dawn Of The Dead

The zombie. If it’s possible that we reached saturation I’d say we reached it a long time ago, but they continue to endure anyway. Like the vampire we’re treated to story after story of the shuffling dead from such diverse fair as The Serpent And The Rainbow (Hi again Wes Craven) to Zombiez(I think it’s meant as like…a street thing).

Seen as the modern Godfather of zombies, George Romero released what’s considered his magnum opus in 1978 and is still seen as a high point in the genre.

But I still don’t like it that much.

Stop frothing, no really, stop it. I’ll explain myself eventually.

It is to my great shame (Apparently) that I’m more familiar with Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake that I am with the original film. But it’s ok, there’s a world where they can both exist I feel. In Snyder’s film we get to watch the outbreak from the start (Hey that title has a double meaning) whereas in Romero’s original we get foisted into a world wherein the outbreak has started and is discussed on the television. I like to think that’s it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of how things will go down. In the end we’re left with nothing to do but discuss why.  I must say that despite the fantastic opening ten minutes of the remake, I do prefer the way Romero decides to do things. From the start there’s a palpable sense of dread as it’s clear that we don’t really have much of a chance. Still we send swat teams out to apartment blocks to clear them of any walkers, but that’s still not good enough. It’s an empty gesture. Even the people doing it know it is, the ones not breaking down and sobbing that is.

It’s not long before a small group find themselves in a Mall, as do the zombies. It’s a pointed bit of (accidental) social commentary on Romero’s part, but then Romero was never one for subtle. The dead come to somewhere they recognise, so in a capitalist society it would make sense that the dead flock to the place they spent all their money. It’s always this facet that’s annoyed me the most with ‘Dawn’ fans. I get it, it’s a nice bit of satire that in reality came about because Romero was offered the location for cheap and it was easy to shoot everything in one location. Luckily for those that prescribe to the Death of the Author theory (In which what the author intended their work to be has no bearing to what it actually is) this doesn’t matter. But it seems that it’s used as a crutch to lean the numerous flaws of the film against.

The film is overlong, which isn’t usually a problem when there’s something interesting going on but the truth is there just isn’t. I would’ve preferred it if Romero had made a smaller, tighter film. It would lose none of the impact that it has, but instead Romero has to pile on a biker gang too because, as is apparent in Day Of The Dead, Land Of The Dead and Survival Of The Dead he likes nothing more than warring factions of people who inevitably fuck things up for everyone.

I will admit that my view of the film is tainted by being repeatedly told how brilliant it is because it’s so ‘smart’. It’s true that intelligence is something that’s missing in a lot of horror, but that doesn’t mean that the flaws (Some painful dialogue, dubious blue zombie effects and occasionally haphazard writing) should go unnoticed. Also; Fast Vs Slow zombies is literally the dumbest debate people can have. Don’t give me bullshit talk about rigor mortis. If you can suspend disbelief long enough to go with the idea that the dead are coming back to life and inexplicably want to eat your flesh then you can can also accept that occasionally they will chase after their meal.

Ok it feels like I’m nitpicking and I certainly don’t hate the film at all, I just think that both the genre and Romero has done better. I think the performances are generally fine and it has some great individual moments, but I don’t feel like it comes together as a whole quite as well as it should. I like the generally oppressive atmosphere despite the fact that the film is pretty funny at times, but it’s still a choppy, uneven, film. And no, I’m not saying the remake is any better either. Like The Ring I think there are things that each version does better than the other but both retain similar flaws. If you want a better taste of Romero then catch Day Of The Dead, or Martin (Which is a brilliant film). Hell for some fun watch The Dark Half, which remains largely underrated.

Just don’t watch Return Of The Living Dead: Rave To The Grave…unless you hate yourself that is.

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