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“When there is no more room in Hell” – Dawn of the Dead (1978) (Blu-ray Review)

2 min read

Dawn of the Dead remains the definitive zombie movie by George A. Romero, sitting as his second in his now six-film series, it feels the most beloved, the most intense, and the most solid narratively. Following a group of survivors taking refuge in a shopping mall during a zombie outbreak, Romero uses this setting to criticise the growing reliance on Capitalism and consumerism in the US. Now out on a brand new 4K restoration gives you plenty of opportunity to marvel at the sights and sounds of this masterpiece.

What’s improved over time is the DIY gore-effects by maestro Tom Savini, having said he based the effects on his experiences of being in Vietnam during the war as a War Photographer, the pale, rotting flesh of the zombies still holds up even in this post-The Walking Dead world, while some of the more outlandish kills – a zombie walking straight into a helicopter blade and having the top of his head cut off, bring out a childish glee.

But what remains most of all is the message at its heart, Romero has something to say about the state of the world in 1978 where the US is all about buying, we’re a few years away from the Gordon Gekko’s declaration that “greed is good”, but Romero is taking aim at mindless consumerism. When asked why the zombies have returned to the mall Ken Foree’s serious-minded Peter replies “they just remember, remember that they want to be in here”. It’s hard not to think of this release of timely given the pandemic raging and the US still insisting citizens go out and shop as if nothing is wrong – a lesson the UK hasn’t learnt either. 

The performances remain as strong as they ever did – David Emge, Ken Foree, and Gaylen Ross are all note-perfect in their roles. Ross in particular giving vulnerability but also resilience to the role of Francine, while Foree delivers “when there is no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the Earth” with sinister relish. The synth score by Goblin also adds to the film’s offbeat feeling and weirdness, but it all works for a film that is both an epic horror film and a searing critique of a society Romero was losing his faith in. 

In a battle between consumerism and the dead, there can only be one survivor.

Dir: George A. Romero

Scr: George A. Romero

Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, Scott Reiniger, David Crawford, David Early, Richard France

Prd: Richard P. Rubinstein

Music: Goblin

DOP: Michael Gornick

Country: USA / Italy

Year: 1978

Runtime: 127 minutes

Dawn of the Dead is on ‘Limited Edition 4K UHD’ and ‘Limited Edition Blu-ray’ on 16th November 2020

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