Dawn of the Dead (Zombie Flicks)

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I saw "Dawn of the Dead" this weekend--very standard zombie-flick fare with all of the cliches present: the small group of survivors banding together despite in-fighting, occasionally campy humor, love stories, etc. stylistically and narratively identical to "28 Days Later" with some elements of Blair Witch Project thrown in. Some nice special effects and camera work, but certainly nothing breaking new ground here. All in all, a distracting waste of two hours of my life.

I did provoke some thoughts in my mind regarding all of theories behind the sociological need for certain movie monsters at certain times in history, i.e. certain fear responses from a movie monster mirror a social event like a war, economic depression, etc. My theory on zombies is that they correlate well with the current hysteria over terrorism--the idea of "senseless violence", errational beings killing for no reason other than crazed blood lust.

Any thoughts on this?

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Monday, 22 March 2004 04:19 (seventeen years ago) link

Hmmmm...interesting theory. When was Night of the Living Dead? Was it around the time of Viet Nam, or was it years before?

I wrote a zombie screenplay (never finished it though) that is set during the French Revolution. Obviously there's a political bent, with zombie peasants attacking royalty. I sort of liked the idea of fops with powdered wigs trying to hide in a castle while being chased by undead revolutionaries. There was some humor in there as well. Maybe I should finish that. . .

A question about the new film -- is it genuinely scary?

BabyBuddha (BabyBuddha), Monday, 22 March 2004 16:03 (seventeen years ago) link

The new Dawn of the Dead is an absolute travesty. The original Romero version is one of my favorite movies of all time, so they're walking on sacred ground here, but I went into this new one with an open mind. I knew they were dumbing it down for the mallrat audience, so I wasn't expecting it to be better or even equal to the original, but I at least hoped that with thirty years of special effects improvements, it might make be worth a few good scares. Sadly, it doesn't even work on that level. Instead of setting up genuinely frightening scenarios, we get plenty of gore and loud noises on the soundtrack. I don't know about anybody else, but I am sick and tired of the same old something-pops-out-of-the-corner tactic that was beaten to death by the same movie that invented it (Halloween). You would think by now, filmmakers would have thought up new ways to scare their audiences. Aside from that, the movie doesn't even follow its own logic. I like that the zombies have been modeled after the ones in 28 Days Later and not the slugs from the old days. But then why is it that the zombies hide out in the shadows, waiting for convenient times to pop out and attack their prey? In the original, the mall was crawling with zombies, and the suspense really built up. Plus, there was a completely logical reason for the characters to be in the mall in the first place. In the new version, the characters go to the mall, well... because that's where the movie takes place. I could go on and on about the lack of logic in this movie (especially the exploding propane tank that manages to destroy hundreds of zombies but does nothing to two gasoline-filled trucks), but it seems pointless. In the Living Dead universe, the new Dawn of the Dead is a zombie clone- it works on instict, doing only what it needs to, no more, and represents everything Romero was attacking in his film. Please, please, please, for the love of good cinema, do not waste your hard-earned dollars on this piece of shit.

Anthony (Anthony F), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 02:10 (seventeen years ago) link

As for jay's post:

I must first state that it is in my humble opinion that all movies are simply dreams on film. Movies, by nature, work like dreams; when you can have a jump cut in Citizen Kane that spans a few decades, well, you know you're not dealing with reality.

So, if all movies are dreams, then horror movies are nightmares. To quote George Romero: "You use horror to show the world being turned upside down." Based on that theory, it is my opinion that the horror genre is easily the most brutally misused of all movie genres. A good horror film can force you to face your repressed fears and desires head-on, and that is a very valuable experience. I don't feel that monsters NEED to correlate with any major historical event, but it does help. The original Night of the Living Dead, for example, plays off the chaos and paranoia of its time period (racism, gangs, rebellion, Vietnam).

Anthony (Anthony F), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 02:23 (seventeen years ago) link

"I don't know about anybody else, but I am sick and tired of the same old something-pops-out-of-the-corner tactic that was beaten to death by the same movie that invented it (Halloween). "

popularized it, maybe, but certainly did not invent it. that technique was used to great effect in ingmar bergman's brilliant horror film, "The Magician".

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 03:23 (seventeen years ago) link

and as for the "movies are dreams" post, someone should really create a separate post for this topic. i can understand where it comes from, but i don't think it really applies. most films are far too logical and linear to be "dreamlike", and the production process of film creation is far from dreamlike (as anyone who has ever created a film can attest to!).

also, interestingly, most "visionary" type filmmakers don't use dreams as an influence at all. i remember someone asking terry gilliam in an interview if his dreams inspired his films, and he said no, that he rarely dreams at all & when he does, they're very linear, realistic dreams.

i would say "fantasies" over "dreams", although i'm not even sure if that is accurate. "desires" may be better, because that can apply to the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, artistic, physical, visceral, etc.

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 03:29 (seventeen years ago) link

As much as I like Gilliam, I have to disagree with him there. You can't not dream, and dreams are never linear or realistic. But whatever, that's a small point.

Anthony (Anthony F), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 03:32 (seventeen years ago) link

Now Jay's got me thinking about the "pops-out-of-the-corner" tactic.

Can we trace the origins of that? What's the earliest use of that tactic that you can think of?

I'm thinking Nosferatu, but he didn't exactly pop out the corner -- more like came out of the shadows.

As for the political bent of horror films -- I think they are more effective when that's part of it. The real source of terror in 28 Days Later was shifted from the zombies to the horny soldiers in the castle. Brilliant.

BabyBuddha (BabyBuddha), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 15:48 (seventeen years ago) link

Um, beg to differ Anthony. Some people do not dream at all, and many people don't remember their dreams. And linear, realistic dreams are very much possible (it's nearly all I ever have).

It might seem poetic to think in this Cocteau mode of the "dream film", but it's not very representative to what film is all about. Film is a visceral experience, realized through sensory response to external stimuli. This is about as far from the dream experience as one can get.

I like the concept, but it's just a bit too romanticist and not very practical when you think about the technical, psychological and physical aspects of the movie watching experience.

Now, I might be able to buy a comparison to a DAYDREAM, however....

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 01:55 (seventeen years ago) link

Your mind is constantly active, the only way you don't dream is, well, if you're dead. Like you said, most people don't remember their dreams. Most dreams only last a matter of minutes, even though in our memory they seem to have lasted years. On average, we dream one or two hours a night, and have about 4-7 dreams a night, even if we only remember one.

My comparison of movies to dreams is not based on storytelling. Yes, most movies are linear and, in terms of sequence, logical. But I'm talking about the way movies work, specifically when it comes to editing. The fact that you can jump 17th century China to New York City in the year 2050 in a split-second is entirely unrealistic and is very much the way dreams work. That's why our dreams seem to cover so much time, when in reality they only lasted a few minutes.

Anthony (Anthony F), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 02:47 (seventeen years ago) link

As for the whole political horror thing (which is what this is supposed to be about), it is my opinion that the only REAL horror movies are the metaphorical ones, which is why I would argue to the death that The Stuff is a better horror movie than Halloween.

Anthony (Anthony F), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 02:50 (seventeen years ago) link

I have to disagree re: Dawn of the Dead. I love the original and while the new one isn't nearly as great, it is a pretty damn good film that is all the better when compared to the terribly-acted mess that was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. And the first ten minutes is CLASSIC.

Gear! (Gear!), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 05:37 (seventeen years ago) link

"Most dreams only last a matter of minutes, even though in our memory they seem to have lasted years. On average, we dream one or two hours a night, and have about 4-7 dreams a night, even if we only remember one. "

Again, how does this relate to the cinema? Although film gets a reputatation as a "passive" art form, the reality could not be further from the truth. The way the brain interprets a dream vs. the way a person experiences a film is about as different from one another as they could possibly be, for the reasons I listed in my previous post.

We definitely need a seperate post for this, and it would be great to hear other folks weigh in on this.

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 22:46 (seventeen years ago) link

Ugh, what a mess! I live in Milwaukee, and I was fairly insulted that the filmmakers didn't bother to do any research whatsoever on their putative location for the film. It didn't look like it took place in the area and the characters didn't act, look, or sound like locals; it was all just bullshit. When I could ignore location related problems, Dawn was entertaining enough, but the movie had some serious editing and script problems, and it just wasn't a good zombie movie. What a waste of special effects money.

Chris F. (servoret), Thursday, 25 March 2004 10:12 (seventeen years ago) link

If you want to explore your World wide crisis=horror movie theory read dance macarbe by stephen king. Its non-fiction and talks about the point you just made plus looks at all aspects of horror stories.

sally (sally), Thursday, 25 March 2004 15:28 (seventeen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
holy shit this movie is awesome.

Curt1s St3ph3ns, Saturday, 10 April 2004 01:02 (seventeen years ago) link

yeah....i think that's how roger ebert described it.

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Saturday, 10 April 2004 01:43 (seventeen years ago) link

seventeen years pass...

DAwn of the Dead (1978) really is the perfect allegory now for COVID-19

you had me at "giallo" (Neanderthal), Saturday, 18 September 2021 15:59 (one month ago) link

in NOTLD, the undead come out of nowhere, and overwhelms the country as they are poorly understood. fairly quickly, scientists learn how to fight them, and initially it helps, but by Dawn of the Dead, skeptics like the talk show host at the beginning express disbelief that 'zombies' are real and that the dead are returning to life. rebels defy scientists instructions and do not destroy the dead, instead letting them live untreated at the bottom of their building, which continues the spread of the undead. scientists even lament that they could have stopped it 'at the beginning!' but people are reluctant to dispose of the dead in the way they've specified.

you had me at "giallo" (Neanderthal), Saturday, 18 September 2021 16:31 (one month ago) link


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