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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 9.39%
Average: 2.76%
Pretty Bad: 4.97%
Total Crap: 8.84%

6 reviews, 145 user ratings

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Dawn of the Dead (1979)
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by Andrew Howe

"Low-budget horror never looked so good"
4 stars

It's no surprise that I can count the number of top-notch horror films on less than ten fingers, for the genre has long been the domain of low-budget schlockmeisters and teenagers looking for a cheap thrill. Most films which rise above the bottom of the barrel are actually thrillers with occult overtones (The Stand, Candyman, Shocker), leaving only John Carpenter’s The Thing and one or two others to prove that a “straight” horror film is not necessarily a one-way ticket to mindless mayhem and reprehensible exploitation.

The fact that George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead receives three-and-a-half stars from the usually-reserved Leonard Maltin suggests that it may be something more than your average blood-drenched zombie flick, and for once he’s right on the money. Shot on a shoestring budget and featuring nobody you’ve ever heard of, DOD should, by rights, have been dead on arrival. However, Romero remembered what many of his contemporaries chose to forget, which is that well-drawn characters and an intelligent script are considerably more important than garden-variety gratuitous violence. The result is an effort which redefines the genre, and proves that, in the hands of a master, low-grade materials can still become a work of art.

DOD is set in the same universe as Romero's 1968 ultra low-budget Night of the Living Dead, focussing on a world in which the dead have risen to stalk the living. When the film opens the epidemic is still in its early stages, and appears to be controllable. This doesn't stop television executive Francine (Gaylen Ross) and her boyfriend Stephen (David Emge) from commandeering a helicopter and heading for the hills, taking two disillusioned members of a SWAT team (Scott H. Reiniger and Ken Foree) along for the ride. A pit-stop atop a zombie-infested shopping complex provides an opportunity to hole-up for a couple of weeks, and therein lies the story.

For anyone who has grown weary of watching otherwise right-thinking individuals behave like morons with a death-wish whenever the script calls for a dose of dismemberment to liven things up, DOD's protagonists are a breath of fresh air. Most of the time they do exactly what you or I would do in a similar situation, and the time spent building the characters ensures you forgive them their occasional lapses of judgement, for any foolish actions are attributable to their degenerating state of mind and inherent character flaws. They are also a reasonable likeable crew, and by the second half the viewer is fully invested in their fate, as opposed to viewing them as mere grist for the murder and mutilation mill.

We've never heard from any of the actors again (unless your taste runs to the likes of Basket Case 2), but their anonymity works in the film's favour, since it enhances the viewer's ability to identify with the characters (if Romero had cast, say, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds as the SWAT team, we'd be looking at a very different kind of film). Special mention must also be made of Foree, who is evidently under the impression that he's appearing in a high-profile drama - his intensity is palpable, and he delivers lines like "When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth" as if he truly believes them.

Romero makes sure you'll believe it too, since his low-budget approach lends the film the appearance of reality. Setting the bulk of the action indoors was a masterstroke, for it creates a claustrophobic, oppressive atmosphere. As time goes by it becomes apparent that the world at large is falling to the legions of the damned, leaving our heroes helpless and alone in their self-made prison. Naturally they start to fall apart, and the film works its way to a climax which is as disturbing as it is inevitable.

The funds Romero refused to lavish on his cast and crew were obviously spent on make-up and visual effects (it certainly wasn't spent on hiring a top-notch composer, since the music is, in true horror-flick fashion, jarring and discordant). The zombies are well-realised, and by allowing them to be identifiably human Romero rams home the true horror of the situation.

Unfortunately, the film's dramatic strengths are such that it would have been the better for a little restraint when it came to the violence, but Romero obviously doesn't know the meaning of the word. The sight of a pack of zombies gnawing on a poor slob's intestines will have many viewers losing their lunch, but thankfully the worst of the graphic mutilation is confined to the opening and closing sequences (and in reality I have little right to complain, since nobody's under the impressions that they're watching a date movie).

Dawn of the Dead is a 70's horror classic, and age has not wearied its perverse charms. Romero has never been able to live up to the expectations the film created (though the third film in the trilogy, Day of the Dead, had its moments), but a single masterwork is one more than most denizens of the genre can call their own.

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originally posted: 06/14/01 12:21:36
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell good but night of the living dead is better the 68 version of course 4 stars
3/24/14 Justin R. Not just the best zombie movie, but one of the best movies ever created. 5 stars
10/07/13 Nick Truly a perfect film, great characters, Especially Scott Reiniger's Roger. This is tops. 5 stars
8/06/12 Jeff Wilder Brilliant mix of satire and horror. A masterpiece. 5 stars
3/17/12 Silkworm Crap acting but who cares it still rocks 4 stars
12/29/11 David Hollingsworth Romero's stellar zombie magnum opus 5 stars
11/16/11 Golden J. Williams Jr. Scary to think about, fun to watch. 4 stars
6/12/11 art white zombie and zombie are the only Zombie flick's i've seen, i want to keep it thatway. 1 stars
7/06/10 art 1932's WHITE ZOMBIE,and lucio fulci's 1980 ZOMBIE,makes you forget about ROMERO"S FILM"S! 1 stars
6/03/10 User Name George A. Romero created the zombie flick with Night; he topped himself with Dawn. 5 stars
1/11/10 excitement love art is right zombie is a better ultra gore film 2 stars
12/26/09 Chad Dillon Cooper The Citizen Kane of horror films. Enuff said 5 stars
6/10/09 art said it before and i'll say it again,ONLY A ZOMBIE WOULD LOVE THIS JUNK! 1 stars
4/23/09 blah blah amazing zombie film 5 stars
4/02/09 action movie fan us against them-gorehound,s movie -silly more funny at times than scary 2 stars
12/19/08 Craig D. Lives up to its reputation as the best zombie movie ever made. 5 stars
1/09/08 art only for DEAD-HEAD"S 1 stars
11/04/07 Ivana Mann The Citizen Kane of horror films.Witty,scary & smart-they don't make em like this anymore! 5 stars
2/16/07 Joe Morris if i ever meet who stopped this guy from directing resident evil, i'll kick their ass 5 stars
1/08/07 Carlie and Katie OMG Great movie! we totally did a school project on the DEAD movies! AWESOME! 4 stars
12/05/06 Stanley Thai A very good film with scares and laughs. 4 stars
10/29/06 brandon This is by far the best zombie movie I have ever seen, remake sucked. 5 stars
10/25/06 Drew G Why does everyone say zombies shouldn't run... who said these are zombies? 5 stars
10/05/06 william c. none better 5 stars
10/01/06 Agent Sands Incredibly imaginative, spectacularly well-made epic sequel. 5 stars
9/23/06 David Pollastrini great make-up 4 stars
9/20/06 Pritchett The HOLY BIBLE of zombie films...and anyone who says otherwise is, simply, wrong. 5 stars
8/25/06 havthat There are so many layers to this movie, it's worth watching even if you're not into zombies 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist Yet another horror classic to be owned!!!! 5 stars
8/02/06 dan one of the all time great horror films.must see 5 stars
7/17/06 mark claustrophic as hell-this movie stayed with me for months 5 stars
3/24/06 Dethbyhashi Great movie with some small flaws 4 stars
2/20/06 chris f a tue classic 5 stars
12/14/05 Steven Lewis Great Romero Film. A Must have for any collection. 5 stars
10/30/05 K. Sear Spectacular. Nothing else needs to be said. 5 stars
10/20/05 Eden Big empty and dull. I dont why this is considered a classic. NOTLD is much better 2 stars
9/23/05 Jethro In cut scenes Peter was really a bad guy who stole the swat uniform then murdered wooley 4 stars
8/23/05 Eden Overrated 3 stars
8/20/05 T-100 crap 5 stars
8/18/05 ES The original paved the way for the remake, I've seen both, the updated version is better 3 stars
8/06/05 Pierre Classic! 5 stars
8/01/05 Martin brilliant satire and commentary. forever a classic.cheesy effects only increased the realis 5 stars
7/28/05 Cooper I'm sure most people agree that the best part of this movie's when Wooley goes apeshit! 5 stars
7/26/05 manuel This was his best! 4 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Said to be a classic, actually truly amateurish trash. 1 stars
7/04/05 Ice Queen masterpiece 5 stars
6/26/05 DennyRoss I loved this one - cops & robbers for adults...with zombies!! 5 stars
6/25/05 Kankasaur Loved the remake, the original's different but no less cool 5 stars
4/25/05 Indrid Cold The cheesy look and music are quite annoying and the story is actually fairly ponderous. 3 stars
3/28/05 William It doesn't get any better. Loved it so much, I bought the collectors edition. GREAT! 5 stars
3/22/05 Uncle Phucker Thank goodness we have DVD to watch. The new re make was a goof. 5 stars
1/21/05 das hilarious!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/19/05 Stefan Halka Shallow characters, overlong, dull and just plain overrated. 3 stars
1/10/05 Lucas Stenz Great film, best sequel I can think of 5 stars
11/14/04 Diana Popescu Waist of time, put me to sleep 1 stars
11/12/04 American Slasher Goddess One of the best zombie movies ever. 5 stars
11/07/04 J.D. No real fan could actually like this boring flick. A great idea that was wasted! 1 stars
11/04/04 Lord Durvok 2 One of the best horror films ever. This is not an opinion. 5 stars
10/31/04 asina almost perfect. 5 stars
10/28/04 fagabeefy cool flick , the make-up effects sucked hard though 2 stars
10/25/04 Ric A decent apocalyptic vision, but it's not scary, thrilling, or even particularly funny. 2 stars
10/21/04 Kevin it was ok, but not horror 2 stars
9/24/04 RiverRat Truly a great film - not for morons who only want "splatter-porn" crappola. A classic. 5 stars
9/15/04 yo amazing 5 stars
9/14/04 Shane snell this movie was grate i really like it 5 stars
9/03/04 me satire for the smart guts for the layman 5 stars
6/24/04 Neil Simple, Silly, Low Budget, Mediocre and Incredibly Magnificent 5 stars
5/24/04 sherone rose i loved dawn of the dead and its cast they were brilliant 5 stars
5/05/04 lewis hall all time classic. they dontmake flims like that no more iz romero got out new?????/ 5 stars
5/01/04 dead next door CLASSIC 4 stars
4/19/04 Josh are you people serious? this is so cheesy its unwatchable, worst zombies ever 1 stars
4/18/04 Father Merrin There is only 1 zombie movie & this is it! A true classic. A re-make is unnecessary! 5 stars
4/13/04 Adam D just seen this late night a few days ago and thot it was insanely good. 5 stars
4/10/04 American Slasher Goddess One of the best zombie movies ever. 5 stars
4/08/04 Eloise sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better than the crappy 04 remake. 5 stars
4/06/04 glenn good movie, new one is better, also try phantasm!! 5 stars
4/01/04 tediboy this classic is still the BEST!!! 5 stars
3/29/04 true review - correct review everytime notld is masterpiece because it wasn't written by romero, his movies suck 1 stars
3/23/04 Morally Sound My second favorite movie of all time. The best in the Living Dead Trilogy! 5 stars
3/21/04 Samuel don't know if its better than Night of the Living Dead, but its still a damn good movie 5 stars
3/20/04 truth zombies are cheesy, movie is pretty boring, not scary, NOTLD is much better 2 stars
3/14/04 Jack Sommersby An innovative masterpiece. Nothing's ever come even close. 5 stars
3/13/04 Carl This movie KICKS ASS!! 5 stars
3/11/04 Robin Flores This was a disturbing movie along the lines of Edgar Allen Poe's Masque of the Red Death. 5 stars
2/13/04 Kai A total classic. 5 stars
1/24/04 Elena At least it's honest about being a cheesy zombie flick, and doesn't try to be smug... 1 stars
1/16/04 Kimberly Lynn Cole ROGER RULES!!!! I LOVE SCOTT REINIGER what a cutie pie!!!! 5 stars
1/15/04 Matt A great cult classic!! One of my favorites 5 stars
12/07/03 Richard Long Best Horror Movie Ever Made 5 stars
12/05/03 Makaveli greatest movie eva made - Hands down! 5 stars
11/29/03 chris k my fav movie of all time 5 stars
11/27/03 John well it's simply of the best horror movies ever made 5 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess The best zombie movie ever. 5 stars
10/20/03 zombie lover dude this movie is awsome!!!!!! love the spfx!!!!! 5 stars
10/06/03 Jack Sommersby Original and brilliant. Standout set piece after standout set piece. Grade A stuff. 5 stars
8/14/03 Johnny P Awesome zombie flick. You go George! 5 stars
8/03/03 bronson fantastic 5 stars
7/04/03 Dave Hopman Bring on the fourth Dead Movie, George!! 5 stars
6/18/03 Jim Myers I saw this Masterpiece when I was 14...I will be 37 in August, and I still think it is The 5 stars
5/25/03 Scott(first watched when 5) Night:67% - Day:45% & Dawn:93% "Complete Masterpeice" 5 stars
5/05/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik I saw the Director's Cut. Brilliant. 5 stars
4/12/03 William Stewart Has to be on my top 5 best horror films--Good Stuff George! 5 stars
1/17/03 mans0n i dont think i will ever be able to get the music played inside the mall out of my head! 5 stars
1/13/03 Stevo stunningly evocative and creates a unique picture. beyond horror 5 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby One of the best. Brilliantly realized and executed. 5 stars
10/26/02 Charles Tatum The sequels were better than the first one 5 stars
10/01/02 murat Good film but what was about that raid on apartment at the beginning huh? 5 stars
9/22/02 Morally Sound George Romero + Tom Savini = A+ Horror Movies 5 stars
8/14/02 palaboy101 George Romero, you're the best! 5 stars
7/12/02 .Choadushouse. This movie really just licked balls (maybe good for laughs)...and so does the original! 2 stars
4/25/02 Phoenix Not a classic at all. Horrible movie and terrible acting. Stick with the original. 1 stars
4/03/02 Edfink Lombardo A masterpiece of horror...Wonderfully atmospheric. Delivers the goods with consistency! 5 stars
2/09/02 Ebony One of the best...I heard that BeaconPictures is remaking this. Hope they don't ruin it. 5 stars
1/04/02 Jake Trashy, not funny or scary. All I got was gore and a hate for people. 1 stars
12/15/01 Peter Herman shocking... not because of the gore but because of the analogy made... 5 stars
12/09/01 Keith Up there with Evil Dead, The Shining and Dead Alive as greatest horror film 5 stars
11/03/01 Mike J I still haven't been brave enough to revisit the one movie that scared/scarred me as a kid! 5 stars
9/30/01 Mohammad J. Indeed fucking awesome 5 stars
8/07/01 palaboy THIS IS THE BEST HORROR MOVIE, PERIOD. 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk The only good mall is a 'dead' one. This movie kicks ass and takes names. Foree is the man. 5 stars
7/19/01 Ted Villavicencio This movie is the reason i loved the horror genre! One of the greatest zombie flicks ever! 5 stars
6/30/01 Zombie In the not too distant future. 5 stars
6/23/01 Ian Barr Brilliant. Satirical and Wild. 5 stars
6/20/01 Elvisfan Great frigging B-movie; if you didn't like it, keep it to yourselves 5 stars
6/19/01 Xx-Bull-xX Not only does the movie rock, but the soundtrack kicks ass! 5 stars
6/15/01 zombie one of the best horror films ever made 5 stars
6/05/01 Just like a Wop . . . Saw this last fall and was completely engaged. Wonderfully dreary. 5 stars
3/26/01 Atir 2,000 Zombies bite the dust,in a mall of all places!Horrible makeup job,wardrobe&acting 1 stars
10/16/00 The Bomb 69 campy and funny, i laughed throughout 5 stars
10/14/00 B.J. Charles This movie is one of the most interesting zombie films I have ever watched. 5 stars
7/03/00 DAVID This is truly the best horror film ever made!!!! 5 stars
5/03/00 PJ Even better than the first, absolutely scary, funny, smart, and brilliant, Romero's best 5 stars
4/12/00 Adrian Pickworth One of my all-time faves! 5 stars
11/14/99 J. Shopa Absolutely the best movie ever 5 stars
9/20/99 Travis D'Souza This is the best fucking movie I have ever seen. 5 stars
8/11/99 Japtalian One of the best zombie movies ever. Soundtrack is eerie. 5 stars
7/18/99 Eric Would be a lot better if the action scenes weren't so badly choreographed 3 stars
7/05/99 David Keech A complete gore-fest. Absolutely hilarious if you recognize the satire. 4 stars
6/28/99 Steve Bashakus This is the best horror film ever made - the yardstick by which all things are measured. 5 stars
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  10-Apr-1979 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004

  02-Jul-1979 (18)

  02-Jul-1979 (R)

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