Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”

During a zombie apocalypse, a quartet of survivors — a helicopter pilot (David Emge) and his pregnant girlfriend (Gaylen Ross), as well as two SWAT team members (Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger) — hole up in a shopping mall.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • George Romero Films
  • Horror Films
  • Survival
  • Trapped
  • Zombies

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “long-awaited sequel” to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) “has a message” but it’s “drowned in buckets of blood”. He posits that the “film fails on all levels, but what’s most infuriating is its extreme violence,” noting that while “Romero claimed that no one would be bothered by the graphic killings because everyone would understand that the film is a pop fantasy,” he “has characters being shot in the head… right at the beginning, before we are aware that Romero is working on a comical-fantasy level” — and thus “viewers eventually become numbed by the violence rather than taking it lightly as Romero intended.” Peary concedes that “opinion on the film is divided,” but asserts that he personally finds it “a dreadful, embarrassing picture by a director who should know better.”

I disagree completely with Peary on this film, which has become a cult classic in its own right. His description of Romero’s choice to set the film in a shopping mall — given that it represents “a gathering place, home-away-from-home, and self-contained community that, significantly, is minus only a church” — is, to be honest, over-thinking things. (Romero has said that his friend gave him a behind-the-scenes tour of the mall used in the movie and he simply thought it would be a good place to “hole up during an emergency.”) Meanwhile, the blood and violence throughout are so obviously fake (intentionally so) that it’s hard to get too upset about them. Instead, one simply roots for this motley group of protagonists as they face the truly freaky prospect of battling hundreds of undead creatures who move slowly but bite aggressively, causing near-certain transformation. All the leads do a fine job in their roles, and Tom Savini’s special effects are impressive given the budget and era. This one remains well worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the leads

  • Impressive special effects
  • Masterful editing

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite by a master director.


  • Cult Movie
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


2 thoughts on “Dawn of the Dead (1978)

  1. Agreed; must-see, as a cult classic.

    Talking of certain flicks will take you back to when and where you first saw them. I first saw this (on its release) at the (long gone) Greenwich Theatre in NYC with my bud Tom (in the balcony, up front).

    As soon as it was over, Tom was craving pizza. C-r-a-v-i-n-g it! He must have been thinking of that while watching zombies bite into people’s necks.

    ‘Dawn…’ became a film that Tom and I often-enough revisited on a video movie night. Unlike ‘Night of the Living Dead’ – which still frightens me when I rewatch it – ‘Dawn…’ seems to be Romero operating with more of a wink to the audience. It has an OTT feel to it, meant to distract you from how frightening it could be if it were real.

    It’s full-throttle entertainment; well-constructed / directed and well-acted.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Agree with all said above; a classic and highly influential so a must. I wonder if Peary dislikes it these days?

Leave a Reply