Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best zombie movie ever

The original Dawn Of The Dead is the best zombie movie that will ever be made.

Here's why:
1. Timing
1978 was absolutely the best time in history to make a zombie movie. The concept wouldn't get played out until a good 30 years later, yet it had evolved enough to start introducing subtleties and dark humor. Those big 70s hairstyles somehow make the zombies seem even more terrifying. Plus, it was the only era where you could get away with using music this cheesy in a horror film:

2. Director
George A. Romero is the O.G. zombie filmmaker. He basically invented the genre out of whole cloth. Actually it's just a variation on "The Last Man On Earth" with Vincent Price, which was based on the book I Am Legend. So really the genre was initiated by Richard Matheson, but Romero modernized it. Anyway, he's made four zombie movies since, but none of them have been as good as this or "Night Of The Living Dead", his first one. All the stars align like this only once in a person's career, if he's lucky.
3. Commentary
So the plot of Dawn Of The Dead concerns four survivors who decide to hole up in a shopping mall while the zombies rule the outside world. Not only is this a brilliant idea that any smart person would do in real life, it creates the perfect opportunity for Romero to include some of his sharpest satire. Without being preachy, he criticizes the emptiness of American consumer culture by presenting zombies that are irresistibly drawn to wander, dead-eyed around the extravagant, but ultimately useless stores in the mall. "This was an important place in their lives," one character notes.
4. It spoofs zombies before "zombie spoofs" existed
As evidenced by this clip:

5. It's still scary
Maybe to a generation raised on zombies that move like Olympic sprinters, this stuff seems corny and outdated. But check out the beginning of the movie below. It seems slow at first, but it builds a strong sense of fear and dread just by showing the chaos and confusion that the world is in. The first onscreen zombie doesn't appear until 10 minutes and 25 seconds into the film, yet it manages to be a shock by the time it finally does. That is quality filmmaking. The feast of gore that does arrive is more affecting because of the atmosphere the movie has established before it. I wish more zombie movies had that kind of ambition.


Austin said...

I'm not the biggest fan of zombie movies or horror movies for that matter.

Of course, the only zombie movie I've seen is "Shaun of the Dead," which is kind of like the people who get their news from "The Daily Show."

Still, your review makes me curious. Not enough to watch it, but definitely curious enough to consider it, and whether I've been unfair to zombie movies. :)

Wendy McMillan said...

Start with Night of the Living Dead. The only thing that bugged me about Shaun of the Dead is that you don't really need to spoof the zombie genre. It's hilarious on its own.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

But the Daily Show is a legitimate news source. I'd say it's more like getting your knowledge of pop culture from Family Guy.

Wendy is correct that zombie spoofs are mostly redundant. However, Community just did a zombie episode that was pretty classic.