Dawn of the Dead (1978) | History of Horror

Dawn of the Dead (1978) | History of Horror

Pierce Turner

Welcome to Spinnaker’s History of Horror. Here we will be taking a look back at everything spooky in both film and video games and analyze how horror has evolved over the last century. Check back at unfspinnaker.com every day for a new installment!

10 years after George Romero revolutionized the horror genre with zombies in Night of the Living Dead, he perfected it with the sequel, Dawn of the Dead.

With a far lighter tone than its predecessor, DotD is more of a horror comedy, but not without its dark moments. It follows a small group of survivors in a world where the zombie outbreak is starting to get out of hand. They take refuge in a shopping mall and that’s where the film truly shines. They have an entire mall to themselves which, despite the zombies, sounds like the most entertaining thing that could happen to someone.

Once they’ve settled in, they quickly start enjoying themselves. One character plays tennis on the roof. Another slides down an escalator and tries on funny hats. It’s pure fun watching these characters have fun. It’s truly the opposite of Night of the Living Dead. Eventually, a biker hang breaks in and tries to take the mall for themselves and that’s when all hell breaks loose. From there, the film turns into a violent but colorful mess. Heads blow up, intestines are ripped out, it’s the goriest film of its time and the effects are a sight to behold.

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When talking about the greatest sequels of all time, everyone goes to the obvious Aliens and The Empire Strikes Back, but I think Dawn of the Dead is one of the best! Not only that, it’s the greatest zombie movie ever made. Every single zombie movie since took inspiration from it. It even inspired my favorite movie of all time, Shaun of the Dead, a brilliant parody of the zombie genre. Unfortunately, it also inspired the 2004 remake by Zack Snyder (Batman v. Superman) that washes out all humor and color for a boring shadow of the original. Avoid this film at all costs.

While Night of the Living Dead is extremely easy to find and watch, Dawn of the Dead is the opposite. Finding an actual copy of this movie is difficult. According to a member of the film’s copyright holder, The MKR Group, this rarity was deliberate in order to make room for a new theatrical release of the film in 3-D next year. It’s the 40th anniversary of the film next year so the time is right.  Still, it’s worth tracking down a copy of your own for a chance to see the gold-standard in the zombie sub-genre.

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