Dawn of the Dead: The impact on the living made by the living dead!
By: Jeremy Todd Morehead
It was the early 90’s, and I was spending the night at a friends house. We stayed up late eating doritos and drinking Hi-C Ecto Cooler juice boxes. My friends dad rented us the Fred Savage movie LITTLE MONSTERS. When the family friendly (yet still scary at times) movie with “Kevin Arnold” ended, we didn’t know what else to watch. Thankfully the USA Network was doing a monster movie marathon (Note: I miss the shit out of when networks randomly had horror marathons). We stumbled across a movie that was black and white. Typically being our age and being accustomed to everything being in color, the title of the film captured our attention. That movie was NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Watching these black and white “ghouls” surround a farm house, trying to eat it’s inhabitants was fascinating to 8 year old boys. We were absolutely captivated by this movie, and it’s shocking ending shook us to the core. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was one of the most amazing films I had ever seen, forget about the family friendly other film I had just seen!!!!
My adolescent mind raced with what I would do, if I was to be pit against these undead people. When my parents picked me up the next day I couldn’t stop talking about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I begged my dad to take me to the video store to rent the movie. Being the awesome dad that my father was, he finally agreed (probably just so I’d stop talking to him about it!!!). While looking over the horror section I noticed another film with a similar title on the rack. I didn’t know it at that time, but this other movie would change my life, and how I perceived horror films. I picked up the VHS tape and flipped it over. I saw a connection to the movie I had just seen the night before… NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and this other film were both written and directed by the same guy, some guy named George A Romero. This movie was DAWN OF THE DEAD.
I rented DOTD and immediately popped this movie on when I got home. Upon watching this movie for the first time, I was unaware of how much this movie would change my life. Later in life, I would watch the film at least 3 times a year, get a DOTD tattoo, travel to Texas and wait in a 4 hour long line to meet my hero George A Romero, and would drive 10 hours in a blizzard to meet the cast of the film. I fell in love with this film at first viewing. I was pulled into the movie from the very beginning, as all the characters were in a crumbling world where the dead were coming back to life to eat the living. Romero’s films were never just about blood and guts, did they have those things… sure, but mostly his films are about the people and characters that are in horrific situations, and how do we as people handle these things? Romero’s movies have one thing in common, and that is that WE are the monsters, not the actual blood thirsty creatures out to eat flesh.
The characters and setting for this film are why this movie has become one of the greatest horror films of all time. You have a beautiful woman who works for a news station, You’ve got a helicopter pilot who works for the news station, and you have two trained soldiers. All of these characters connect by necessity to survive, and end up taking refuge in a perfect post apocalypse location…. a shopping mall. The movie goes from madness, to a temporary feeling of safety and happiness, and finally into war amongst our fellow human beings. It’s very much a reflection of how our culture reflects fear.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 38 years since this movie debuted. Sure the clothes and hairstyles are dated, but the themes and overall feeling of helplessness are all still very much prevalent. I watch this movie several times a year, I’ve read the novel adaptation, and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet the cast and crew. This movie is in my top 5 favorite horror films of all time. The movie still to this day has a way of affecting me. Every time I watch the film, I find myself hoping that Roger wouldn’t suffer the same zombie fate he had every other time I had watched the film. I also find myself wondering what ever ended up happening to Peter and Fran after they left that doomed shopping mall? I like to think they ended up on an island where they were free of the undead, and lived the rest of their lives happily.
When’s the last time you watched this classic? Remember, when there is no more room in hell…. the dead will walk the earth!