By Brett Mullins
Though hoards upon hoards of Zombie films exist in today’s movie market, not one has received a comparable amount of attention to that of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. This film features a seemingly simple plot, laced with countless allegorical statements regarding the material and consumerist whims of today’s culture.
Following an inexplicable zombie outbreak, four individuals: a news producer, her boyfriend and two SWAT officers, procure a helicopter to escape the mayhem of an infected Philadelphia. They fly west in hopes of escaping the plague and eventually land on the roof of a massive shopping mall near Pittsburgh to stock up on supplies. After entering the complex, they find that, other than the several zombies roaming throughout the walkways, they have everything they need to survive. The four learn to coexist as they secure the entrances and eliminate those left wondering inside. They live a life of luxury, indulging in all the material wealth the mall has to offer, as they attempt to wait out the seeming apocalypse.
The critical nature of this film could easily and has filled volumes of academic literature. Romero, who also wrote the film, compounds metaphors upon themselves to create an onion of sorts, if you will. On the surface, the zombies are representative of today’s consumerist culture. When the foursome lands atop the mall, one asks “What are they doing? Why do they come here?” Her boyfriend responds with dry humor: “Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”
As we reach the core of the onion, the audience begins to feel that the characters are not quite content, even though they wield the power to possess even the most lavish of items. This is reflective of the absence of the will to live as a result of the lack of a goal for the future. The characters’ lives are stagnant, which is exemplary that luxurious material goods do not provide infinite happiness; rather, the act of bettering one’s self toward a brighter future equates toward the motivation to carry on.
Fitting the poetic nature of the film, Dawn of the Dead is not without its faults, which all revolve around the length of the film: 137 minutes. While such a length is necessary, to both illustrate the desperation of the characters and fit the amount of material needed to adequately convey this tale, the film drags on; it feels as though it will never end at times.
Just a note on the zombies: their abilities, as far as movement, strength and overall intelligence are concerned, appear to be inconsistent at times. In one scene, they will be lumbering around being pummeled by sledge hammers; while, in the next, they are ripping guys off motorcycles and tearing their flesh apart.
This film is an allegorical wonderland and greatly helped to establish George Romero as the definitive creator of modern Zombie films.