The Video Nasties #60 – Dawn of the Dead (1978, George A Romero)

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‘When there’s no more room in Hell…

the dead will walk the Earth.’

Dawn of the Dead brings us to the end of a weird phase of the Nasties, those well known, almost mainstream films that were included on the Section 3 list but have ended up as highly regarded early films from talented directors. The Hills Have Eyes, Martin, Rabid, Suspiria. Yeah, there were some other films in amongst them too, but forget about those ones. I already have.

Apart from you, Prey. I enjoyed you.

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Dawn is Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, and is a giant leap forward in terms of filmmaking skill. Dawn is well known not just as perhaps the definitive horror/action picture, but as a scathing satire on consumerism. If anything, the film has become more and more relevant as time has passed, with the advent of that festival of fear known as Black Friday, which gives us a chilling glimpse into a real life zombie apocalypse every year. As someone who has worked in retail for a very long time and has become a committed anti-consumerist, the themes of Dawn of the Dead really resonate with me. ‘Why do they come here?’ asks Fran at one point, to which Stephen replies, ‘Instinct. Memory. This was an important place in their lives.’ In everything we do in our everyday lives, we are encouraged to buy, purchase, consume. It will make you happier! Your life will be better with this gadget, this gizmo, this doohickey. The same faces, day after day, wandering around numbly, picking things up and putting them back down again, looking for something to buy, something to fill the yawning chasm in their hopeless, empty lives. Some people say that they love to shop, but do me a favour – next time you’re out at a shopping mall, look at people’s faces and count how many you see that seem to be enjoying themselves. Y’know, smiling or laughing. I don’t believe people love to shop. They love to buy, sure, but the actual act of shopping? Nah.

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It’s not just the zombies though. In Dawn, our heroes fall into the same trap. At first they grab the essentials, food, ammo and a radio. By the time the film ends, they are trapped in their miserable consumerist hell, dressed up in fur coats, pocketing money that they will never get to spend, because, ‘You never know.’

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Sorry, I think I went off on one there. But that’s okay, what is there to say about Dawn of the Dead that hasn’t been said? It’s a fucking great movie, with some of the most exciting scenes in any horror movie and despite running well over 2 hours, it never feels forced or overlong. If I had to gripe about one thing, I would say that some of the library tracks on the soundtrack were poorly chosen. A couple of the orchestral pieces sound really dated and out of place, in particular the last scene of the film. Peter’s big moment is soundtracked to some kind of cheesy war theme and then the final shot plays out over something that could be the soundtrack for Casablanca. It’s a small complaint though, and the stunning Goblin score is still used often enough.

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Wow, that was quite a run of horror masterpieces for a while there. No, Brutes and Savages, not including you, you bag of shit. I wonder if The Evil can keep up the run of good form…?

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