WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I remember the first time I started to get over my fear of zombies, it was when I first played Capcoms Dead Rising around 2008.It was a lot of fun and the games sense of humor kept me at ease among the violence and mayhem surrounding me. Around that time I remember reading about a controversy surrounding the game and its setting, something about how it was a rip off of some movie called “Dawn of the Dead“. I had only ever heard about that film but I never watched it so I didn’t think much of it. Little that movie would eventually become one of my favorites.
Movies like Dawn of the Dead are why I’m glad I decided to do Spiderslashers in the first place. I loved everything about this movie. From the memorable characters, the creative special effects, the satire, the setting EVERYTHING. This movie is two hours long and not once did it feel its length, if anything I thought it was too short (for the record, I watched the theatrical cut of the film).
The story follows Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews (David Emge), Fran Parker (Gaylen Ross), Peter Washington (Ken Foree), and Roger “Trooper” DeMarco (Scott Reininger) as they try to escape the zombie outbreak and decide to hold up in a shopping mall. Everything works out at first but everything goes awry once a biker gang decides to try and raid them and chaos ensues. The film opens with a news room in complete turmoil as it struggles to keep on the air to get information out to survivors. This scene sets up the tone perfectly and it does a great job at showing this lived in world trying to make sense of the epidemic. Another thing it does well is show the dynamic between all the main characters. They’re all very disorganized and they don’t really get along well but as the movie goes on they all start to become close friends as you really start to care about them as people. You WANT to see them make it out alive and a lot of that has to do with Dawn of the Dead’s strong writing. One aspect of this writing is the films use of the shopping mall.
Dawn of the Dead’s most recognizable element is its fun mall setting which is used not only for comedic effect, allegory for the people that shop there. The film makes it a point to compare the zombies to mall shoppers by showing the creatures mindlessly wander around the area in various store. It’s not exactly what one would call “subtle” but it does come off as genuine. Aside from the social commentary though, the comedy in this film is very strong. The setting allows for a lot of creativity in how the survivors engage with the threats they encounter, be it the zombie or the bikers. During the final act when it’s just pandemonium the film really starts to showcase the zombies actually killing people and it’s gruesome, which is only added by Tom Savini’s masterful special effects. All of the kills in this movie look painfully real and sickening especially the helicopter blade kill early on in the movie, Savini really did bring out his best work here and with each movie I see his name I get more and more impressed. After all the chaos stops though, there’s just one thing left for them to do, escape.
This movies ending is almost the polar opposite of Night of the Living Dead’s ending. Not every main character makes it out alive unfortunately but luckily two of them do, Fran and Peter (after some thought at least). I actually vastly prefer this movies ending as it does give you hope for these characters the name suggests this is the “dawn”. They’ve left the night and are escaping towards the light at the end. It’s a bit bittersweet since they had to kill two of their comrades but it still fills you with optimism for these characters and their futures.
If you can’t tell by now, I loved this movie. I think the setting and tone greatly ups the entertainment factor of it and like I said, never feels its 2 hour running time. I might check out the extended cut and European cut in the near future because I really do want more from this movie. I can feel myself starting appreciate zombies more and more and I’m excited to watch even more movies that use them.