A classic never dies, not even if you destroy the brain. Such an enduring film is George Romero’s 1978 masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead. “Dawn” essentially picks up where it’s predecessor, the defining Night of the Living Dead left off– no one knows why the dead won’t stay that way, and the pandemic has caused full-scale panic and rioting. “Night” ends with the possibility of… Not hope but containment. “Dawn” begins with neither.
Four survivors barely escape Philadelphia in a news helicopter and after landing on the roof of a shopping mall decide to circle the proverbial wagons inside the monument to capitalism and commerce. They become at once prisoners and castaways in the land of the dead.
The zombie genre owes nearly every gimmick ever realized to this movie and to Romero. Written with the help of Italian horror-maestro Dario Argento, Dawn of the Dead is not only the strongest of the “Dead” series, it’s also the greatest zombie movie ever made– the standard by which all others are judged. It’s commentary, thrilling. There’s no question who the villains are either– not the cannibalistic corpses craving flesh, but the heart-beating humans who are just as void.
I still get chills when Ken Foree utters that terribly beautiful line, “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” Prophetic, huh?