By Raymond Knowby

I was just about ten years old when I first saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in its full feature length glory, thanks to my dear mother’s intervening cinematic influence (though in fairness, Russ Streiner’s “they’re coming to get you Barbara!” was already long embedded deep within my cerebral cortex from onscreen homaging in 1981’s HALLOWEEN II). By a bizarre twist of fate and televised programming, DAY OF THE DEAD would be my next excursion into Romero’s then three-part tale, even though I didn’t realize they were connected at the time. For this grandfather middle chapter and hailed zombie masterpiece, I had actually known about the title the longest, due to a little non-fiction Stephen King book called Danse Macabre.

As film fans, we each have a moment in our lives that ends up being some kind of spiritual awakening. DAWN OF THE DEAD was mine. Though it had been a little while in the waiting, my impressionable thirteen year old self brought the faded Thorn EMI vhs tape to my room one evening, pulled the blinds down, and totally absorbed myself from frame one of the W-GON tv station introduction, watching the color seep into a dream that had started in black and white just three short years earlier.

A unique continuation, Romero’s sequel is all at once a razor sharp satire and gory vision of armageddon. The recently dead are still reviving and attacking the living, and as society further collapses four people find refuge in an abandoned suburban shopping mall now overrun with the flesh eating corpses. Securing the location through a series of skirmishes with the creatures, the heroes succumb first to boredom and then to hopelessness as the world outside their consumer paradise falls apart. When a marauding band of looters set their sights on plundering the hard-won stronghold in the movie’s final half hour, it’s the zombies that win the day and make out like the real bandits.

Tom Savini’s claim to fame with thrilling and copious special make-up effects highlight this masterpiece of writing and direction. DAWN OF THE DEAD manages to transcend its age while at the same time remaining locked firmly within its decade of decadence, and it is one of the best the genre has to offer.

The dead shop for human flesh in DAWN OF THE DEAD.