12 October 2012

October 12th

Dawn of the Dead (1978) directed by George A. Romero
Watching this again after many years, I am reminded why this is my favorite zombie movie.  What more is there to say on the zombie apocalypse that isn't covered in this film?  Hell, even the first act accomplishes more than most other zombies movies.  In that, we watch both a TV station broadcasting emergency information and a SWAT team's assault on a housing project.  It's humanity at its best and worst amid the panic and confusion.  There's the racist, bloodthirsty SWAT officer contrasted with Roger's calm compassion.  There's the station manager's pursuit of ratings using outdated information versus Francine's steadfast refusal to endanger viewers.  There's the useless bickering being broadcast that seems especially poignant right now, less than a month before the presidential election.

Beyond this, though, I think the most important idea Dawn of the Dead presents concerns the ability to quickly accept change.  Throughout the film, only those characters who survive are those who are able to switch their mode of thinking in time.  After his terrible experience in the housing project, Roger mentions to Peter that he's thinking of leaving.  At the same time, Stephen insists that Francine leave the TV station with him in his helicopter even though she wishes to continue to work.  Roger and Stephen both understand quicker than those around them and that there's no use in pretending civilization is OK at this point.  It no longer makes sense -- it's downright silly -- to continue to do your job and take orders from a boss if there are dead people walking around.

This is no small thing.  It would take a huge mental leap to accept that society has broken so badly that your normal life is no longer ever going to be possible.  Many would simply not be able to do this and would stumble through the shambles of their old lives as best as they could... you might say in a zombie-like fashion.  To strike out in a helicopter, unsure of where to go and what will happen to the world and leaving behind everything you ever knew, would be a hard and scary undertaking indeed.

And, even after making this giant change of thinking, there's no guarantee that you will be able to do so again if required.  When the biker gang attacks the mall, Stephen finds himself unable to adapt to this new reality.  After their months of hard work, he just cannot accept the loss of the mall.  He should have known all along that the island of tranquility they'd created was never going to last forever, but he fell into the trap that its temporary comfort provided.  So, he snaps and begins shooting at the biker gang, eventually ensuring his own death.

What this all means to me: despite the disaster policy I electronically agree to every year -- sorry -- I ain't showing up at work should I see a dead person waltzing down the street.  That's a change I'm damn sure going to adapt to really fast given all of the horror movies I've seen.

Watched: blu-ray from Anchor Bay.


  1. It's a thing I wish more post-apocalyptic movies and television shows would confront. There's a nice moment in Dawn of the Dead, after the siege is winding down, where Peter is gunning down zombies in the basement and he is slowly accepting this idea that the world has gone sour and he must adapt quickly or meet the same fate. Posterity and morality are officially recinded.

    Watching shows like the Walking Dead, or the zombie-less Revolution, or even Romero's later attempts, where we are given endless asides that teach us that beating your wife is wrong, or that killing in any way but direct self defense means you're a bad person, or that nationalism is the real cause of our demise and not the damned risen dead, all of it is pathetic, misguided, and a wasted of goddamned time. Especially when we have Dawn of the Dead's blueprint to follow.

    Even in The Road, a movie I like, they couldn't resist putting a scene in there where the kid tells his dad that he is there to keep his father pure in a world gone mad. This just after their food is stolen. PLEASE.

  2. And that's probably the reason why, if a zombie apocalypse ever actually happened, I'd just friggin' throw myself to the undead. Cause it's not like things are going to get better from that point on.