Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Love the Living Dead

Dawn of the Dead - 1978 - Dir: George A. Romero
Location: The Comfort of My House

As many of you know my birthday was on Monday and I am now, what I consider to be, an official adult. Thirty. Bah! To end my twenties I decided to watch one of my all time favorite films Sunday night around 11pm. This way I would be saying goodbye to my twenties and hello to my thirties with the same film, my favorite zombie film of all - Dawn of the Dead. Everyone should know the plot by now so I'm not going to rehash it.

This is one of the earliest horror films I remember watching. Around the same time my dad got bootleg VHS copies of this and The Evil Dead (which I will finally be seeing in 35mm in a few weeks!) and we watched them on the $1000, at the time, VCR when I was around the age of 4 or 5. I fell in love with the living dead right away and haven't stopped to look back since. The fond memories shared over the years with this film are too many to recount but I do have one that always comes to mind. There is an area in Hulen Mall, I believe it was in Montgomery Wards, where the look and location of an elevator looks a lot like the one in the department store where Stephen (aka Flyboy) is killed and zombified. My dad and I used to take bets on if the door would open and he would be standing there, or if when we were in it if the door would open to a bunch of flesheaters. This drove my sister crazy but I loved it.

I'm sure nostalgia has a lot to do with why I hold this film on such a high pedestal but looking at it recently with a more critical eye it deserves all of the accolades it's given from fans around the globe. Sure Savini's make-up didn't really come out like he wanted. The zombies all look blueish and the blood seems to be tempera paint, but some of his flesh ripping gags work really well. It worked good enough to have the MPAA try to slap it with an X rating for the gore. My favorite is a toss up between the zombie husband eating his wife in the tenement building at the beginning and the biker getting his stomach ripped into. Mmmmm.

What really sets this film apart from other zombie flicks is the way Romero skillfully wrote the survivalist tale of a four person group holding out in a shopping mall. The story addresses issues of equality for women in crisis situations and in everyday life, and of course there is the commentary on society's consumerist obsession. With Romero's films you don't just get the chills and thrills but there is a message with everything he writes.

I love so much about this film that I could probably go on for pages. The result would just be a description of each scene. Some of my favorite moments include the trucking sequence and the shopping/looting montage where they are invading all the stores, the arcade and the hilarious trip for Peter and Stephen to the bank. One of the best comedic moments is at the beginning when they are leaving in the helicopter and the cop asks if anyone has any cigarettes. Everyone says no and he leaves but as soon as the helicopter takes off two of the them light up. Cracks me up every time.

This film is not only my favorite overall zombie film, but it contains my favorite member of the living dead. Yeah there are some cooler looking zombies in other flicks, and I do love Tarman from Return of the Living Dead, but nothing compares to Flyboy. When that elevator door opens and he is standing there with his tilted head and rolling eyes it brings great joy to me. Even if he only gets about two or three minutes worth of screen time in his zombie state it's enough to win me over. Not only is it a character you have gone through so much with over the film, he looks badass and has the best zombie walk ever! The slightly off-balance shuffle full of jerky moments and the pistol dangling from hand is just spectacular. I'm not the only one who believes this Romeo has said that it's his favorite zombie walk of all his films. Someday, when I have the money, I'll be getting Flyboy tattooed on my arm to kick-off my favorite zombie half-sleeve.

I will end my gushing with a brief anecdote about the remake. When the film came out I didn't know what to think. I knew it wouldn't be superior but I still had to see it. On opening night I sat in a packed theater and enjoyed what I saw for the action film it is. Once it was over I went to the bathroom and overheard a conversation by two people at the sinks while doing my business in the urinal. They were talking about how great the movie was and one of them asked, "have you seen the original." "This is a remake?" Yes, he actually asked that out loud. Yes, I spun around in shock and pissed all over the floor. I can only hope that all those who saw this were intrigued enough to rent and/or buy the original so they can witness the multitude of awesome it contains.


btsjunkie said...

Happy Birthday and great pick! I love the film as well. I've already decided on my final 20's film... but have 10 more months before I have to worry about that :). Sux, though, that I'll be watching it (probably alone) on Christmas Eve. Hahahaha.

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