Dawn of the Dead (1978)

I opted to not start watching the original Dead trilogy in chronological order out of interest to see how it might affect the viewing experience when you don’t see Romero’s vision of zombies naturally develop over time, on the off chance this might make me view things differently. And it certainly had that effect to some extent when we immediately jump to a point where we’re already fighting zombies on a large scale and we seem to be losing.

Despite being over thirty years old, the movie proves to still have power behind it. It manages to captivate you in its story with moderate ease, and beyond certain minor aesthetics, very little feels dated. I was even amazed how intense it could still feel at times, despite clearly remembering the basic plot of the movie. You don’t need fast running zombies to make the movie scary, just by creating a sense of uncertainty and emphasizing the lingering sense of danger when walking through empty and almost claustrophobic feeling corridors and dark rooms, never knowing if the next corner might be hiding another patch of undead zombies, is enough to keep you at the edge of your seat.

Having read up on the production and discovering that they initially had a different ending in mind, I’m glad they opted to not pursue the original angle where everyone dies gruesomely at the end. It would have been too uncomfortable and  grim if no one survived, especially since Romero’s original idea was to really rub it in by giving the implication in the end credits that even if they had made it out to the roof, their escape with the helicopter would have been entirely in vain as the helicopter was almost out of fuel. Now I usually favor bleak endings, but this is a rare case where I think ending the movie on a slightly happier note was the right call. They do still keep a dark cloud on the escape, which works well and is a good compromise as a whole, as by ending the movie right after they fly off and giving you no after the credits reveal, you are left to only speculate what happens next. And the more you think about it, the more scary it becomes. After all, they are forced back to the great unknown, a world is filled with zombies and the only other survivors seem to be biker gang looters who you really don’t want to cross paths with again. Could they really find another place like the shopping mall that would provide the same type of provisions and safety before their fuel runs out? Odds certainly aren’t in their favor.

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