It’s a rare occasion in our quest to save horror when our reviews differ vastly from other critics or viewers. Sure, we’re not always exactly the same, but we’re usually in the same ballpark. Some notable exceptions are my reviews for campy horror films; I love them, but other critics hate them. Keith and I compare ourselves to no one else, but it is always interesting when we feel the opposite about a film. This is one of those times. Dawn of the Dead, the sequel to the spectacular Night of the Living Dead, was released in 1978 and directed by George Romero. Prior to watching this film, I heard it was amazing and I expected as much from horror guru Romero. I loved, loved, loved Night of the Living Dead, but I didn’t love, love, love Dawn of the Dead. While many laud this film as one of the best zombie movies of all time, I found it to be dull, incredibly lengthy and void of anything scary.
I think people love Dawn of the Dead because of its social commentary and graphic portrayal of zombies. The zombies are pretty vicious once they get their mouths on someone. I’d argue all zombie films feature a social commentary, but that’s an argument for a different time. Other than these two elements, I just can’t figure out why people love this film so much. It’s a far cry from the first and I’d even go so far as to say the Dawn of the Dead remake is better than this. The few graphic moments were overshadowed by long, boring sequences and far too much comedy. This film is about 30 minutes too long and very dull. Plus, when the characters spend a lot of time laughing, joking and chest bumping the zombies, it’s hard to be scared.
Throughout most of this film, the characters don’t seem truly terrified of the zombies. They run freely through packs of them, kick them, lure them closer and then kill them and even throw pies in their faces. There are moments when it gets hairy and sometimes violent, but most of the time, the zombies seem to be little trouble for this crew. How does Romero expect the viewer to be scared if his characters aren’t? Nothing about the zombies and their overly-gray faces terrifies me. And this is just crazy because the zombies in Night of the Living Dead are super creepy and definitely scary.
Part of saving horror is creating horror. And sure, these zombies gnaw flesh with the best of them and intestines spilling on the floor is gross, but where’s the terror? I never once felt afraid of these zombies. They were about as exciting as the film itself. The one interesting aspect of the story was Peter’s theory on the zombies’ presence - “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” Now that, is a scary thought. I mean, with every passing day people go to hell, so it could be any day now that the zombie apocalypse hits. Here’s hoping it’s about as silly and easy to handle as the drama in this movie.
If you liked Dawn of the Dead, you might also like Night of the Living Dead, Psychomania and White Zombie.