They just do not make them like this anymore. This had been a glaring omission from my horror film viewing for years. Having met George Romero, Ken Foree and Tom Savini, the omission was further embarrassing. I was not expecting all that much from this despite the universal praise surrounding it. This is mainly because while Night of the Living Dead is a truly great and innovative film, it never really connected with me personally. The completely different tones to each film are a considerable accomplishment on Romero’s part. I have not seen Day of the Dead, but from my understanding, it is pretty atmospherically distinct from either Night or Dawn.
Each zombie film or story follows a certain set of clichés and standards that have become attached to the subgenre, whether they originated them of not. Dawn of the Dead seems to function outside of these rules. It remains ahead of its time, over thirty years later. The characters form a family unit that is impossible not to get attached to. The characters are developed through the situations they find themselves in and are never obvious. Ken Foree’s Peter is the epitome of cool; the height of the horror movie protagonist.
Dawn of the Dead manages to provide a hilarious commentary on consumerism, when malls (where the majority of the film is set), were in their infancy. The sprinkles of humor and lightness throughout are never jarring and always fit perfectly. The music by Dario Argento and The Goblins is somehow whimsical. The film also starts in the middle of the chaos, while everyone is still trying to understand what is happening, with the controversial problems of the hypothetical zombie apocalypse in full swing. Zombie films tend to begin far after the initial outbreak or right before. It might not be scary like Night of the Living Dead but it is has its own feel to it that resonates. It is remarkably dated, which makes everything about the film that much better. This is a film to be appreciated more as a film than a horror film. It may disappoint as a horror film in a few ways (it is not very scary) but as a piece of storytelling within the medium, it has more life than anything happening with the subgenre today or perhaps ever.