Explain to me the appeal of the original Dawn of the Dead

Am I missing something? I saw the original Dawn of the Dead on IFC a few nights ago and it pretty much sucked on most levels a movie can suck on! Let’s just say that Romero’s zombies aren’t the only thing that was slow, lumbering and aimless. Too many shopping montages. Soo much sitting around doing nothing that I really got the feeling I was trapped in a mall for months on end.

Yes, the 70s Blaxsploitation aspect was amusing - Peter the black SWAT cop happens to know how to hotwire a car and give abortions. He gets to be the waiter while flyboy and his chick have a nice romantic dinner (right after Roger becam zombified I should add). “Do you mean real ‘brothers’ or street ‘brothers’?” was a great line.

I also loved how the guys got so angry at the girls “crazy” requests - be a part of the decision making, get to carry a GUN. FINE be UNREASONIBLE!! :rolleyes:

And how is a couple of dozen freaks on motorcycles and old minibuses a “professional army”?
So maybe some of those Romero fans who were so vocal about the remake can explain to me the appeal of this movie?


Zombies on motorcycles = Zoombies

thank you, gary larson

Perhaps I should elaborate.

For many of us of a certain age, DotD was the first movie we saw with zombies as an integral part of the plot. Note, not the first zombie movie, but the first one we saw. Somehow, it became a staple of late night independent station programming.

So, we are a little nostalgic about it, even with its pitfalls. Same way as we fondly remeber the original Star Trek or the movie Star Wars before it got its episode number.

We always emember our first love through lenses of distortion.

I think NoClueBoy mostly got it, but there’s also the anti-consumerism subtext to make it a somewhat more complex and satisfying film.

Night of the Living Dead is an icon. In addition to being a good zombie film, it also has some fairly harsh social commentary. And it’s well-made.

Fans of NotLD were ecstatic when Romero released DotD. Here was a sequel to the film they loved! The special make-up effects were cutting edge, and Tom Savini’s bright red blood added an EC Comics level of luridness. And DotD also had its social messages. There’s the Cult of Consumerism. The ‘weaker sex’ (as women were once called) was shown doing ‘masculine’ things like shooting guns (very well, too) and learning to fly a helicopter. The Urban Black Man was the philosophical one, and the Sophisticated White Guy was a clueless wimp. The unthinking dedication of the masses to ideas that had become outmoded – in spite of the overwhelming evidence that their actions were killing them – was also pointed out.

Basically it’s as NoClueBoy said. It was a hugely anticipated film that was enormously popular among fans of the genre, and it helped to spawn the ‘splatter films’ of the late-1970s and early-1980s.

First of all the movie was pretty gory, so if that’s your thing it delivered. But the main reason the movie appeals to so many people is its social commentary.

For starters the zombies aren’t the biggest threat to humanity, humans are. All throughout the movie the humans either fight amongst themselves or get overly cocky which leads to their own demise. Remember, Roger and Peter run through the mall and around zombies with little trouble, and the only time the zombies become a threat is when people stop working together and fighting amongst themselves.

The guys at the TV station are arguing about whether or not zombies are cannibals, when really, who cares? They should be arguing about how best to kill them. The one SWAT guy gets so cocky about being able to run around the zombies that he allows himself to be bit thus ensuring his own death. The bikers are overly confident and allow themselves to be taken down by the zombies even though they have weapons and vehicles. And Flyboy screws his whole group by deciding that he’s going to fight the bikers for the mall, which is pointless because they could just close it up again after they left.

Flyboy’s dumbassness brings me to the other major commentary of the movie, which is humanity’s over-emphasis on material things. The whole point of the shopping montages and their robbing the bank is to set up the heroes’ realization of how worthless material goods are if there aren’t other people to show them off to. You notice that after Roger dies they all become despondent, not only over Roger’s death, but also because even though they are holed up in a mall with every material good they could want they are still unhappy.

Then you have the bikers who fight for the mall thus setting up its loss when if they had cooperated there was plenty of goods for all of them. Flyboy decides to fight for the mall against the bikers even though there were more than enough goods for the heroes and the bikers, which of course leads to his own death. And then there are the zombies, who flock to the mall because of some vague memory they have from when they were alive. That right there is the biggest anti-consumerism message of the whole film: What would the dead do if they came back to life? They’d all go shopping.

And of course, another reason the movie is so well loved is the zombie whose head explodes from a shotgun blast at the beginning of the film. That was fucking cool.

OOOooo Oooooo I noticed something which may explain the slow pacing you describe. “The Brothers” line is only in the extended international cut. The US version cuts a little of the fat.

But generally speaking the pace does work for it. You are supposed to feel like you’ve been in taht mall for a long time. The initial glow of “We got everything we’d ever need” fades as the movie wears on. That is a great thing Romero does.

You almost forget about the threat outside.

I like the characters too. They come off as more than just 2D characters set up for the kill. You actually care about each of them. Even Flyboy for all his doofiness is a believable real person. He is what real folk would be like in the situation. He’s got the weapons but really can’t use them well or smartly. You feel bad for him when the woman carrying his child still refuses his proposal. The scene with the two lying together is a nice subtle bit of characterization.

Another thing I like about Romero is that he doesn’t do the come hollywood way of revealing his characters. There is no long speeches or scenes to show relationships or pasts that will effect them later. Instead there are nice little subtle scenes that build character.

Peter’s best scenes are with Roger. The moment where he is responding to a drugged out Roger is nice in that it shows he knows what is to come and is trying to deal with it before it does.

His best is the scene where he is waiting for Roger to get out of bed.

Then there is the climax with the Bikers… whether you like the pie fight or not it is great business and is harkened on in the opening of Land of the dead.

It is a fun comic book on film. The blood is too colourful and the grey zombies a little goofy, but therein lies the charm. Romero give som subtle and not so subtle messages about human nature in the end of the 20th century. This is far superior to anyfilm where they line up the dead guys and shoot them in video game fashion.

My daughter (she’s 38) loves these movies. She says Dawn of the Dead is her favorite because it has the most chewing. :slight_smile:

I just saw it on IFC the other night for the first time in well over 15 years. As I recall it wasn’t Peter who was doing the hotwiring it was the other cop who started the trucks and the car in the mall. Peter wasn’t such a bad guy. He went out of his way to be nice to Flyboy and made sure that whatshername knew how to shoot by the end of the movie.

Peter figured they’d been surviving on the roads this whole time so they must know what they’re doing. They didn’t seem to have a hard time entering the mall.


I could identify with Flyboy when he opened fire on the bikers even though it wasn’t a good idea. THey went through a great amount of effort to clear the mall and lost one of their numbers doing so. If I was in that situation and a bunch of people started to destroy what I had worked so hard to acomplish I’d think about opening fire as well.


Wait till she sees the new one!! :smiley:

To a certain extent my GF and I couldn’t figure out why they were being such dicks about their mall anyway. Yeah Sex Machine and his gang were a little crazy, but you know what? They had weapons, women, wheels, (probably) weed. I might have been like “hey listen guys…the three of us are getting a little bored having 20,000 sqft of commercial real estate to ourselves. You guys can hang out with us but lets figure out something so you don’t bring 10,000 zombies in here with you!”

…and then I might shoot the leader in the head and take control of the gang.
And what was with the line “…we [in the helicopter] don’t even have a RADIO”? What, they stole the one traffic copter in the world without a radio?

Sorry but I found the humans fighting among themselves thing a little contrived. “We have to KILL the zombies!!” “WHAT!!? GRUMBLE!**GRUMBLE!**GRUMBLE!**GRUMBLE!

Which is precisely what brings us to where we are now, and what allows the zombies to organize and take over the city while the humans remain divided.

Very good post Asylum.

For me, the best scene was the biker stupidly checking his blood pressure. Back then those machines were new and a novelty. He just had to try it out.