Monday, July 21, 2008

Dawn of the Dead and those zombie imitations

Dawn of the Dead and those zombie imitations

By Steve D. Stones

In 1978 George A. Romero teamed up with legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento to create a horror masterpiece – Dawn of The Dead. The film was hugely successful, particularly in Europe. It was released in that country under the title: Zombie: Dawn of The Dead.

Immediate rip-offs were soon to follow. To cash in on the success of the film, another Italian filmmaker, Lucio Fulci, quickly made a film entitled Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us. Some critics have suggested that this film is superior to Romero’s Dawn of The Dead but I strongly disagree, even though I’m a fan of both films.

After all, Romero created the genre, and is a master at using the zombie as a critique of contemporary society. His zombies in Dawn of The Dead reflect just how mindless we are as consumers of “stuff.” Even when we’re dead, we have a desire to want to go to the shopping mall. The shopping mall comforts us, and makes us feel safe and secure as consumers. The living understand the security of the shopping mall too. That is why they choose to make the mall their sanctuary in Dawn of The Dead.

In 2004 Zack Snyder made a remake-homage to Romero’s Dawn of The Dead. In this film we see that the zombie is no longer a clumsy, slow walking corpse. Here the zombies are more athletic and can run quickly to catch up to their living victims in no time. Although I enjoyed this film and felt it was well made, there is something more appealing and frightening to me about the slow-moving, clumsy zombie used in Romero’s films. No matter where you run to or hide, the slow-moving zombie eventually catches up to you. This is extremely frightening to me. Snyder’s zombies catch you immediately. There is no fun or fright in this approach to the zombie.

Romero’s zombies are playful and a farce of just how mindless and clumsy even living human beings can be. Snyder’s zombies are vicious, mean and downright barbaric. Romero even shows a gentle, softer side of the zombie in his version Dawn of The Dead. In one particular scene the character Francine, played by Gaylen Ross, is looking through the glass of a department store while loading her pistol. A zombie in a baseball uniform looks through the glass on the opposite side as if he is trying to communicate something to her. He doesn’t rush the glass in attack mode as if he wants to eat her.

This is a very powerful, touching scene that shows a kinder, softer side to the zombie. As mindless as they may be, the zombies can also have emotions and a desire to want to communicate to the living. This is something lacking in the Snyder film.

Another appealing aspect to the Romero film is the strange music score by Italian pop-rock group Goblin. The music of Goblin was also featured in a 1977 Dario Argento film, Suspiria, which is considered Argento’s horror masterpiece. The music of Goblin was featured once again in a terrible 1983 zombie film: Night of The Zombies, which is an obvious rip-off of Romero’s Dawn of The Dead. Night of The Zombies was written by Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso, who also served as assistant director. Fragasso has gained a bizarre cult following in recent years for his “best-worst” film, Troll II.

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