• pico

    Man oh man, I could talk about this movie for hours. Days, even.

    I absolutely appreciate running with the movie’s comic angles and the fact that it birthed an entire sub-subgenre of films that take zombies (and the post-apocalypse) as a space of play, as well, but I do think Dawn is equally responsible for the nihilistic side of the genre.

    That mid-film scene (“Dummies!”) is maybe the most important moment in Zombie history: a direct polemic about What This Means for people living in the zombie apocalypse. Do we continue to live under moral codes established prior to the apocalypse and risk our deaths at the hands of a brutal new world, or do we establish new moral codes that allow us to survive at the expense of who we thought we were? This moment, right here, is where the subgenre reaches a kind of conceptual dead end, and every “serious” zombie film since has run aground on the same rocks.
    Getting past it requires a lot of hard moral thinking that isn’t easy to deal with in genre work, which is why so many works default to the same facile “I guess we were the real monsters all along” in lieu of serious engagement. You even sense Kirkman getting exhausted with this by the end of The Walking Dead‘s “All Out War” arc and trying to find some room to breathe before launching back into the same vicious cycle, which no one has successfully broken.

    And I don’t think Romero succeeds at getting past it in Dawn, either (look at the intended ending versus the one they filmed), and this consciously or unconsciously bugged him enough to try a different tack in Day by making the zombies potentially Sentient, which not only introduces a new wrinkle, but a potential way past the moral paradox (further developed in the ending of Land, which allows him to sidestep the problem by literally having these new zombies – themselves moral actors – chart a separate course). But that’s just a solution ex machina, and so no one has yet successfully answered the challenge that Dawn lays down.

    But yeah, it’s also funny as hell.

    • pico

      Oh, also: thank you for focusing so much on the music. The score is one of the weirdest and most eclectic I’ve ever heard.

      A few months ago, I was on a trivia team for a horror-based movie trivia night, and they had a “music from George Romero movies” category. When they played “Locking the Mall,” I had to argue with my team that it was from Dawn, because no one would believe that song was from a movie they mostly remembered for its gory kills and whatnot. No, my friends. Embrace the Silliness.

  • Miller

    Nice stuff! The gag that really tips the film’s hand for me is the helicopter semi-decapitation, it is filmed with the comedic tension of a Three Stooges bit — we have the dope, we have the implement with which the dope will cause himself harm, but how long can they avoid each other? The good news is, they never can for long.

    • pico

      I think my favorite detail in that gag is that, to make the head thing work, they have to pile rubber and makeup on the top of the actor’s head, so he looks a bit like Frankenstein’s monster… Which only makes it more obvious that he will cause himself harm in that very specific way.