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Appeal of "Dawn of the Dead"?


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#1 of 97 OFFLINE   BrianShort

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Posted April 28 2007 - 06:47 PM

I just finished watching Dawn of the Dead (1978) and am wondering what the massive appeal is of it. For the record, I haven't seen Night of the Living Dead yet so maybe that would help explain some things.

I didn't dislike it. I thought it was entertaining in a campy sort of way, but it was hardly scary or suspenseful, IMO. I also had a hard time believing that a bunch of slow moving zombies could somehow take over the US. It seems like it should be rather trivial for some military units to easily contain and eliminate them. Maybe I'm just over thinking the whole thing, and should have just enjoyed it for what it is.

Now, 28 Days Later I loved, because the zombies seemed MUCH more dangerous in that.

#2 of 97 OFFLINE   Tino

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Posted April 28 2007 - 11:07 PM

These type of threads pop up every once in a while. Ones that question the popularity of a certain film when the poster didn't "get it".

I have found that no matter how many of us explain why it is a beloved classic, it won't change your mind.

For me, I love it. I saw George Romero's Dawn Of The Dead in the theater in 1978 and was blown away. It had a wonderful atmosphere, great makeup effects for it's time and an epic feel. Terrifying in it's bleakness and full of suspense and dread. Campy yes, but deliberately so.

The BEST Zombie film ever imo.

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#3 of 97 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted April 28 2007 - 11:53 PM

For its time it was a wild ride. But I've always felt it was very overrated and nowhere as good as NIGHT or even DAY. The zombie makeups don't look very effective, and they're played for laughs quite a bit. After a while the novelty of shooting them in the head and watching their brains explode gets tired too.

#4 of 97 OFFLINE   Andy Sheets

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Posted April 29 2007 - 12:45 AM

I think it's a lot of fun, although the blue-tinge to the zombies' skin is unfortunate. I really like the playfulness of Romero's movies, how he's not afraid to go from a bleak, apocalyptic tone to pie-fighting and other slapstick gags and back again Posted Image

I suspect the movie has had some of its impact lessened over time because it's one of those deals where everyone is ripping it off so the source now looks tame in comparison. At the time the movie came out (and also Night), the idea that a movie about flesh-eating ghouls could actually have a context and be about something was ludicrous. Nowadays you simply can't make a zombie movie without crashing into a huge societal metaphor.

#5 of 97 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted April 29 2007 - 01:48 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Sheets
I suspect the movie has had some of its impact lessened over time because it's one of those deals where everyone is ripping it off so the source now looks tame in comparison.

Which is one of the reasons I am so adverse to so many new remakes and spin-off's.

#6 of 97 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted April 29 2007 - 02:16 AM

I loved Dawn Of The Dead since seeing it when I was 11 or 12. I think it's got a great apocalyptic mood. It's a long movie but I think in this case, the length gives a bigger, more epic (like Tino said) feeling. There's a small group of people that you get to know and actually like despite their flaws. The zombies are almost forgotten about and they keep the focus on the people once they barracaded the mall. I love the effects even if the blood looks like melted crayons. Overall though, I think the mood of the movie makes it for me.

Just to get off topic, I think the Dawn remake is terrible and I can't understand why so many people seemed to dig it. Even alot of crusty old horror fans (who hate everything made after 1980) seemed to like it. Posted Image

#7 of 97 OFFLINE   DavidPla

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Posted April 29 2007 - 02:24 AM

I agree with most of the comments here. The bleakness, the atmosphere... and why are slow moving zombies scarier than fast moving ones? Well, one slow moving zombie might not be much of a problem... but get them in a group and they'll tear you apart slowly, limb from limb. A fast moving zombie will attack you and it's over pretty quickly. But a slow moving zombie will take its time because eventually it will get you and make it last. So much more terrifying when you think about it.

#8 of 97 OFFLINE   Marc Colella

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Posted April 29 2007 - 02:43 AM

I prefer the slow-moving zombies over the fast ones.

The Dawn of the Dead remake made me feel there was nothing special about the zombies and they were really only zombies in that they can turn you into one... otherwise it felt no different than any other monster/animal/serial-killer chasing after them.

The slow moving ones still gave a sense of urgency when they're being outnumbered and allowed for more methodical planning to get around them... it felt more tense to me.

#9 of 97 OFFLINE   Kevin M

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Posted April 29 2007 - 03:06 AM

Slow moving Zombies offer a sense of mounting/building dread for horror fans....fast moving ones are for action crowds with short attention spans. Posted Image

(I'm slightly kidding with that....slightly.)
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#10 of 97 OFFLINE   Ocean Phoenix

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Posted April 29 2007 - 04:48 AM

When I first saw "Dawn Of The Dead" two or three years ago, I felt the same way as the person who started this thread. I was very disappointed. While I was impressed with the make-up and special effects for how graphically and creatively they depicted blood, guts, and gore, I found the rest of the movie irritatingly repetitive. After awhile, it gets stuck in this routine of "run and hide from zombies, fight zombies, then run and hide from zombies again".

The subtle satire of mall culture in the scene where the zombies are clawing at the store window in the mall was the only other highlight for me besides the gore. I respect the movie for its influence on other (better) movies and how original it was when released, but I think it's way overrated. I'm glad later zombie movies found a way to be fix the problems of this one - having stronger characters, scripts, and stories to go along with the well-rendered gore.

#11 of 97 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted April 29 2007 - 05:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean Phoenix
I'm glad later zombie movies found a way to be fix the problems of this one - having stronger characters, scripts, and stories to go along with the well-rendered gore.
I'm curious what zombie movies you find to have a better script and stronger characters than Dawn. Most new zombie movies just seem to have zombies that run and cardboard characters that they lamely attempt to give some characterization to (usually by having one scene where they talk about their background) so you'd cheer when the zombies chase them down and eat them. Whereas in Dawn Of The Dead, you got to know the four well rounded characters so you cared when they were killed or in jeopardy.

I'm not being a jerk about it but I am curious.

#12 of 97 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted April 29 2007 - 05:24 AM

Quote:
Slow moving Zombies offer a sense of mounting/building dread for horror fans....fast moving ones are for action crowds with short attention spans.

Exactly.

DAWN OF THE DEAD is one of the greatest films ever made because it's more than just a horror film. The film works on so many levels and it says a lot that a horror film can take away the zombies for a good chunk of the running time and still remain effective. The characters are among the greatest of any horror film and I'm also curious as to which other zombie film had stronger characters. I certainly don't know of any. Even the characters in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD weren't as drawn out and explored as the ones here.

#13 of 97 OFFLINE   AaronMan

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Posted April 29 2007 - 06:45 AM

Another reason why the movie works so well is that it isn't really about the zombies. In fact, none of Romero's zombie films are about the zombies. Its about people arguing and fighting over the dwindling supplies left on Earth. If the humans would have just all banded together and fought the zombies directly, they might have eliminated them. But they are too busy fighting each other over shopping malls, looting, trying to control each other, ect. The humans are shown arguing on TV, the radio, the bikers fight the three left in the mall. Its confusion. The slow, often silly zombies aren't even the villains of the movie. They just exist. The humans become over confident because of their slow speed. And that is when the fun begins! The movie is about forcing people to team together who don't agree with each other and then throwing some zombies in the mix to see what would happen.

Setting the film in the mall also is a slam at materialism and consumerism. The zombies aimlessly walking around the mall resembles real malls of today with people just aimlessly walking around the mall, buying stuff they probably don't really need, other than its just something to do to waste time. He may not have planned it this way, but Romero was really ahead of his time. There weren't malls everywhere in 1978 like they are today. So to me, the movie is even more vital today.

But like others have said, so many films after Dawn of the Dead have lifted concepts, gags, and ideas from it, that it may have lost its power on new viewers.

The Romero zombie films are only very loosely connected in that each film is showing a more advanced stage of the zombie outbreak than the previous one. So it really doesn't matter if you've seen one before the other.

To me, the remake of Dawn of the Dead wasn't very good because the suspense was gone, and the mall backdrop was wasted. I thought there would be a lot more to say about today's obsession with high tech gadgets and about how there is so much more crap on sale that we don't really need.

However, 28 Days Later, which really isn't a zombie film because they are not dead but infected with a virus, was very good. It was structured like a Romero film. It wasn't about the infected people. It was about the two camps of survivors. They started arguing and then all Hell broke loose.

I hope that helped.

#14 of 97 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted April 29 2007 - 06:55 AM

I couldn't even begin to enummerate the reasons I love this film (it is without a doubt one of my favorite films of all time). I tried and just gave up- the list would be too long and too unweildy.
One thing I love about it is that it 'forgets' about the zombies midway thru and it shows you the alternate exhiliration and tediousness of being trapped/barricaded in a garden of eden. Even though an apocolypse has descended upon them, they have been able to position themselves in the most ideal of locations- someplace that can furnish almost any material desire they can think of.
And the fantasy of hiding out in a mall is a pretty potent one for a lot of people I would think. Yeah I know everyone comments on the 'satirization of a consummerist culture', but I think its simply the fact that there is a great appeal to the idea of having a fort in the middle of a land of plenty, with immediate access to just about anything you could want or need, and no one to step in and make you give it back or pay for it. But as the film shows, it would also become an empty experience after a while.

Apart from the instances of gore, I really look at this as more of an adventure film than a horror movie. The zombies are a threat, but the film treats them as a logistical problem more than a metaphysical/supernatural one. The characters just accept that this is the way things are , and they have to work within these new parameters to survive.

#15 of 97 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted April 29 2007 - 07:03 AM

Might be a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, watching Dawn of the Dead again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_Scott
One thing I love about it is that it 'forgets' about the zombies midway thru and it shows you the alternate exhiliration and tediousness of being trapped/barricaded in a garden of eden. Even though an apocolypse has descended upon them, they have been able to position themselves in the most ideal of locations- someplace that can furnish almost any material desire they can think of.

And the fantasy of hiding out in a mall is a pretty potent one for a lot of people I would think. Yeah I know everyone comments on the 'satirization of a consummerist culture', but I think its simply the fact that there is a great appeal to the idea of having a fort in the middle of a land of plenty, with immediate access to just about anything you could want or need, and no one to step in and make you give it back or pay for it. But as the film shows, it would also become an empty experience after a while.

...The zombies are a threat, but the film treats them as a logistical problem more than a metaphysical/supernatural one. The characters just accept that this is the way things are , and they have to work within these new perameters to survive.

Well said, and my sentiments exactly. I like the simplicity of Dawn of the Dead. I like the immediacy of it and the reality conveyed by unprofessional actors. It doesn't feel like a staged or artificial film. Didn't Stanley Kubrick praise Romero's work in one of his interviews somewhere?

#16 of 97 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted April 29 2007 - 08:20 AM

Quote:
Yeah I know everyone comments on the 'satirization of a consummerist culture', but I think its simply the fact that there is a great appeal to the idea of having a fort in the middle of a land of plenty, with immediate access to just about anything you could want or need, and no one to step in and make you give it back or pay for it.

I don't really buy that it was meant as a big social statement anyway. If it is, it's pretty one note. But, as the producer or somebody connected to the film said, "George says it was a statement now, but we shot in a mall because it was the only place that would let us film for free!" Of course, a good director could use that circumstance to tailor his message. It's just, I'm not down with George politically, and I'm still able to enjoy the film. It is as he's embraced the idea that he is a political director that his films have become less and less satisfying (note: I have yet to see Land of the Dead). The same is true of John Carpenter, in my opinion. Like Romero, his political views undoubtedly shaped his early films on a subconcious level, but it was when he started hammering the message home that his films began to suffer.

#17 of 97 OFFLINE   Matthew_Def

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Posted April 29 2007 - 03:34 PM

I love the zombies in this film. Slow zombies work more than fast ones, for me, because they seem so unhuman. When they run quickly (and like olympic athletes in the remake), I can tell too easily they are humans. It's hard to create an unsettling attitude when one is focusing on running. I'm taken out of the film. Slow zombies are spacey and dumb; fast ones are too determined. Plus I like that the zombies even become characters in Romero's films, I can't say that for many fast movers. I liked 28 Days Later, however, but they weren't the living dead, so them running made sense, especially when the virus was called Rage. I also like the runners in Return on the Living Dead, it may have been a comedy, but that film had great and memorable zombies, and they managed to make sense.

The blue skin even works for me. Once again they are so unhuman, and then you add on that how Romero directs his zombies to act. They are creepy because they are so unnatural. Also, as others have said, the gradual nature of the zombie takeover is terrifying.

The 4 lead characters are amongst my favorite in any film. You don't learn much about their pasts (and any background info is spread throughout the film), so aone gets to know these characters from watching them. That's always the best method of characterization to me. Roger, Peter, Stephen and Fran are like friends to me now, and I watch DoTD to hang out with them.

The idea of having a mall to oneself is also incredibly appealing. I saw the film when I was 11 or 12, and that was probably the time when I liked malls most. I also like that the film even makes one forget the plague is even going on. I hated that the survivors in the Remake wanted to leave, especially when they just messed it up.

I never found the film all that scary, though, but unsettling, especially when I though about the world in existed in. Romero's zombie's creep me out more than anything else, in any other horror film.

#18 of 97 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted April 29 2007 - 09:57 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew_Def
The 4 lead characters are amongst my favorite in any film. You don't learn much about their pasts (and any background info is spread throughout the film), so aone gets to know these characters from watching them. That's always the best method of characterization to me. Roger, Peter, Stephen and Fran are like friends to me now, and I watch DoTD to hang out with them.

I forgot to mention that I cannot stand any of the main characters in the film. I especially loathe Roger.

#19 of 97 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted April 29 2007 - 10:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Elliott
DAWN OF THE DEAD is one of the greatest films ever made because it's more than just a horror film. The film works on so many levels and it says a lot that a horror film can take away the zombies for a good chunk of the running time and still remain effective.

I couldn't disagree more - certainly with regard to the film being "one of the greatest films ever made", and that the film works as anything without the zombies.

Quote:
The characters are among the greatest of any horror film and I'm also curious as to which other zombie film had stronger characters. I certainly don't know of any. Even the characters in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD weren't as drawn out and explored as the ones here.

Oh, I think the characters in NIGHT were way more explored and given personality -- the cowardly Barbara, the heroic and determined leading man, the nasty guy who wants everyone to stay in the basement. What's so explored about the blonde woman in DAWN? The character of Roger in DAWN is just a wise-guy type who loves shooting his gun and always thinks he's so smart that I loved it when he screwed up and got infected.

Even in DAY OF THE DEAD I think the character of Sarah is a good heroine, and the Jamaican pilot is a nice guy I like to root for. The character of Dr. Logan is wonderfully eccentric and "mad", and it's a treat getting to despise the angry lead villain, Joe Pilato.

The slow-moving zombies are definitely way more creepy in general, but these days I think that approach has been done to death and I think it's refreshing to see fast-running killers zombies hot on your tail who are not easy to dodge. That's pretty scary. I will also vehemently disagree with whoever said that fast zombies are only for those people with short attention spans who like nothing but action.... this is just ridiculous in my case, as I usually deplore those non-stop, mind-numbing actionfests that offer no other substance.

#20 of 97 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted April 29 2007 - 10:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Karlosi
Even in DAY OF THE DEAD I think the character of Sarah is a good heroine, and the Jamaican pilot is a nice guy I like to root for. The character of Dr. Logan is wonderfully eccentric and "mad", and it's a treat getting to despise the angry lead villain, Joe Pilato.
I think Day Of The Dead has one of the most unlikable cast of characters in the history of film. Posted Image Although I do think that Romero intended everyone to pretty much be an asshole or crazy to show how far gone humanity is at that point.


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