Dawn of the Dead. 1978. USA/Italy. Written and directed by George A. Romero. With David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reininger, Gaylen Ross. Restoration courtesy New Amsterdam Entertainment. 127 min.
Romero’s follow-up to 1968’s Night of the Living Dead dashes all hope that things have turned out all right. In Dawn of the Dead, the zombie apocalypse is pervasive, with no chance of escape and no further hopes pinned to the police, government, science, or neighbors. The film opens on a news station’s last gasp, as a quartet of survivors hijacks a helicopter that takes them to a familiar location in late 1970s America: the mall. Though they quickly settle into the comforts and routine of the old world provided by the mall stores, the slow realization that life has unalterably changed creeps into our protagonists’ minds. A biting critique of the power of capitalism and consumerism—what’s worse than being undead and still wanting to go shopping? — Dawn is bleak in its assessment of humanity: we’re both victims and accomplices in our own decline. As with its predecessor, the film is also groundbreaking because of who gets to survive at the end.