Review: Box set of George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead
- Credit: Archant
These rough around the edges, unnerving classics remind us how Romero created a new movie genre that has come to satirise the rise of Western consumerism
Dawn of the Dead. Four-Disc Box Set. (18.)
Directed by George A Romero. 1978
Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reininger and Gaylen Ross. Limited Edition 4K UHD or Blu-ray four-disc box set from Second Sight Films. Includes three different versions, extensive extras and soundtrack albums. Released November.
Running time 127/137/120 mins.
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The making of Zombie movies has been one of the great arenas of human achievement over the last half-century. We’ve done precious little in most other areas of human endeavour, but we have built up an impressive set of Living Dead films, so at least we have something to show for it.
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And I believe this, Romero’s second of the films is the main reason why.
Granted, his first, Night of the Living Dead, made ten years earlier, effectively created a new horror genre, but its immediate cultural influence was mostly restricted to the crimson excesses of seedy Europeans.
It was this follow-up - bigger, bolder, more colourful – that showed how potently symbolic the lumbering dead could be.
It is as much action comedy as horror, mixed in with a DIY makeover show.
Today it’s a banal commonplace to use zombies as a satire of consumerism, but forty years ago it must have been revolutionary for audiences to see themselves in the dead-eyed creatures lurching around shops looking for someone to eat.
It’s a classic, but a scrappy, rough-around-the-edges classic; a good look for these types of films because they are all about making the best of what is still around when the world is running down. It opens in a TV studio with the Follow The Science guy getting a hard time from those unable yet to adapt to the new normal.
From there we go into lockdown, with four people escaping by helicopter and holing up in an expansive out-of-town shopping mall. A great deal of the film is taken up by the process of gentrification, in which they make the place habitable and turf out the undesirable undead.
Is it scary? Maybe not, but it is unnerving. The moments of levity only emphasise the helplessness of watching all you knew fall away. Faced with the choice of three versions - the Theatrical Cut shown in cinemas, an Extended Cut, that debuted at Cannes and a shorter, Dario Argento Zombi cut - I went for the longest because there’s more downtime, more shots of them pottering about in the mall, playing at normal life. Ultimately, these are more chilling than the blood and the gore.
Go to www.halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of the Criterion Collection release of Five Easy Pieces.