Dawn of the Dead

Critics Consensus

One of the most compelling and entertaining zombie films ever, Dawn of the Dead perfectly blends pure horror and gore with social commentary on material society.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 41

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 204,617
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Movie Info

Viewers who haven't seen George Romero's low-budget horror masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, might be at a loss during the first sequences of Dawn of the Dead. The opening scenes rely so much on familiarity with the earlier film that it might cause resentment among the uninitiated. But once the story gets started, plot and exposition matter not a whit. Dawn is set in a deserted shopping mall, where the ever-increasing zombie contingent from the first film have set up a sort of Condominium for the Condemned. From this vantage point, the flesh-eating creatures plan to overtake the entire country. There's a lot of allegory and hidden meaning around, but Tom Savini's excellent (and unremittingly gruesome) special effects take center stage throughout. Dawn of the Dead is not recommended for those who have trouble keeping their popcorn down.

Cast

David Emge
as Stephen Andrews
Ken Foree
as Peter Washington
Scott Reiniger
as Roger DeMarco
Gaylen Ross
as Francine Parker
George A. Romero
as TV Director
Tom Savini
as Blades
David Crawford
as Dr. Foster
David L. Early
as Mr. Berman
Pan Chatfield
as Lead Zombie
Richard France
as Scientist
Jim Christopher
as Lead Zombie
Howard Smith
as TV Commentator
Fred Baker
as Commander
David Earle
as Mr. Berman
Howard K. Smith
as TV Commentator
Rod Stouffer
as Young Officer on Roof
Jese del Gre
as Old Priest
Clayton McKinnon
as Project Apartment Officer
John Rice
as Project Apartment Officer
Ted Bank
as Police Dock Officer
Randy Kovitz
as Police Dock Officer
Patrick McCloskey
as Police Dock Officer
Joseph Pilato
as Police Dock Officer
Pasquale A. Buba
as Motorcycle Raider
Christine Forrest
as TV Producer (uncredited)
Tony Buba
as Motorcycle Raider
John Harrison
as Screwdriver Zombie
Marty Schiff
as Motorcycle Raider
Butchie
as Motorcycle Raider
Joe Shelby
as Motorcycle Raider
Dave Hawkins
as Motorcycle Raider
Tom Kapusta
as Motorcycle Raider
Nick Tallo
as Motorcycle Raider
Rudy Ricci
as Motorcycle Raider
Taso N. Stavrakis
as Motorcycle Raider
Larry Vaira
as Motorcycle Raider
Sharon Ceccatti
as Lead Zombie
Pam Chatfield
as Lead Zombie
Bill Christopher
as Lead Zombie
Clayton Hill
as Lead Zombie
Jay Stover
as Lead Zombie
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News & Interviews for Dawn of the Dead

Critic Reviews for Dawn of the Dead

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (7)

  • Romero's script is banal when not incoherent.

    Oct 7, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Romero's sensibility approaches the Swiftian in its wit, accuracy, excess, and profound misanthropy.

    Mar 29, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Between atrocities the movie has its funny moments and funny lines. It's just difficult to relish the humor when you're dripping in so much gore.

    Feb 21, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Undoubtedly the zombie movie to end 'em all.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    David Pirie

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Dawn of the Dead is one of the best horror films ever made -- and, as an inescapable result, one of the most horrifying. It is gruesome, sickening, disgusting, violent, brutal and appalling.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Perhaps horror-movie buffs will consider this an improvement.

    May 20, 2003

Audience Reviews for Dawn of the Dead

  • Apr 19, 2014
    It's a well distributed combination of all the themes and styles Romero has used throughout his career (social and political commentary, zombies, gore, dark comedy, pessimism) as there isn't too much or too little of any element. Setting nearly all of the film in a shopping mall was a brilliant idea.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 28, 2012
    In 1968, director George A. Romero made his directorial debut with the - now infamous - zombie horror film "Night Of The Living Dead". At the time, it was considered the ultimate gore-fest and has since spawned numerous imitations. Not many have achieved the same standard of that classic zombie movie but Romero himself released this follow-up, ten years later, in 1974 and arguably, it's as good as (if not better than) his debut. The epidemic of zombies, who have risen from the dead and are now walking the earth, continues as four survivors of the zombie plague take refuge in a deserted shopping mall. They decide to stay longer than they thought and try to hatch a plan to escape somehow but with the arrival of a gang of militant bikers their security is compromised. Less of a sequel and more of a remake to "Night Of The Living Dead", this film benefits from an ingenious and very memorable conceit; four people barricaded in a huge shopping mall while the undead lurk and prey outside. It allows itself to be an allegory of consumerism with a clever and highly satirical approach. It contains an occasional humorous nature but the overall terrifying premise is never compromised. Some of this humour even comes unintentionally, due to it's cheap budget and sub-par special effects - the blood used looks like vibrant, red, children's poster paint. However, the low budget only adds to the overall authentic feel and despite it bordering on the ridiculous, Romero's skill still shines through. His use of tension is excellently delivered, simply by using an extensive series of cuts. Each action sequence is edited in such a way that it is nothing less than highly skilful filmmaking and with Romero assuming both director and editor credits, he deserves the utmost respect. A more sophisticated audience may balk or snicker at the budgetary constraints and abysmal acting but really, it doesn't matter. The material is so good and handled with such skill that it overshadows any lack of worth or imperfections. In this particular sub-genre, bad acting and bad effects would normally make for a bad movie but in this instance, that's not the case. Romero is a master of his craft and this is evidence enough to prove so. A hugely enjoyable, and one of the best, post-apocalyptic zombie flicks.
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2012
    I know, I know, I know. Being the self-proclaimed "horror buff" that I am, I should have already seen this film. In fact, Romero's sequel to the masterful "Night of the Living Dead" should have been at the very top of my must see list many moons ago. Yet, due to the legion of horror fans who unremittingly declare this film's divinity, I frankly got sick of hearing about it. However, I finally decided to just give it a roll and I am very,very glad that I did. Much like other great creators of science fiction and horror - such as the stunning Stephen King - director George Romero focuses not so much on the terror itself, but rather on how a select number of humans respond to said terror. In this America now teeming with the unwanted undead, Romero shows how different personalities use the calamity to either justify their quest for power, bask in their desire to dominant another group of people, live out their consumerist fantasies, or simply quench their thirst for violence. At times the film feels like a documentary on human behavior. This is evidenced by certain scenes such as the one in which Romero follows a group of bumpkins who quickly gather, whip out some Bud Lights, and use this hoard of zombies for target practice. Also, he spends a significant amount of time showing some of the survivors, who in the midst of fighting off a murder of zombies, get their rocks off by snagging up all the goods they can grab in a department store. Romero also uses this film as a scathing indictment of the living. He uses small touches to illuminate the self-centeredness of humans during a time when they are in theory, supposed to be banding together. For example, when an innocent policeman asks our protagonists for a cigarette - a brief bit of comfort in all of this bedlam - they all deny having any. However, once they leave the policeman's company, their hands search for their open packs and shamelessly light up. And this is the group of people that we are supposed to be rooting for! Romero also shows how much energy is used to build up this consumer-based economy by showing that even in death, it will be nearly impossible to ignore the lure of shopping malls. One character sums it up well when asked about why the undead are flocking to the mall, he replies because of "Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives." Oh, did I fail to mention that this is also a very effective Zombie film? The visual effects are stunning, even if they haven't aged incredibly well. And the human meat, much liked slow-cooked ribs, look like they are sliding right off the bone. Tom Savini, who has a bit part, really outdid himself here. While not "scary" by today's standards, Dawn of the Dead packs quite a heavy punch. Much unlike the brainless creatures that haunt this film, Dawn of the Dead is smart, well-executed, and George Romero chews on some very interesting observations on the human condition. Now forgive me for I must be off. I have to go join my new legion....
    Reid V Super Reviewer
  • Oct 24, 2012
    They say that the night is darkest just before the dawn, but quite frankly, this "Dawn" has even more "bite" (Stretch of a zombie pun, anybody?) to than than "Night of the Dead", and I would expect it to, seeing as how it took them ten years to get to "Dawn". Well, I reckon it was reasonably worth the wait, just because it's always good to see a superior sequel, but really, this film isn't too much superior, even though there is more intensity, partially because this story is so much more relatable, seeing as how during any regular busy mall day, people may as well be zombies, complete with limping along up until someone gets to close and essentially has his or her face eaten off. Yes people, they're still limping around; you'd think that George Romero would up the freneticism of his antagonists if he's gonna up the tension, but hey, Zack Snyder and his remake have that taken care of, and until then, pretty much everything else about this film's mythology is bigger than ever, though not quite as much so once Dario Argento got a hold of it and took out ten minutes. Thank goodness the Germans came along (The Germans are still muscling in on Italian territory; it's classical music all over again) and most certainly compensated by having their "Ultimate Final Cut" clock in at over two-and-a-half hours... of people trying to stay alive in a mall. Come on people, this isn't "Cast Away", but hey, that didn't stop me from watching it and not minding the length too much, because although this film really isn't that good, it's not all that bad, and I made it through the uncut version of "Das Boot", which was pretty much five hours fairly well spent stuck with people in a submari-oh, I mean, U-Boat, or whatever the Germans called it. Yup, I reckon the Germans are crazy, though not quite as much as George A. Romero, and I'm not just saying that because of the films that he's been doing lately that undercut the classics. Of course, it's not like this film has a whole lot to undercut, for although the final product is a decent one, it all too often limps along about as much as the titular dead. The film doesn't exactly open too weakly as much as it opens emphasizing a bit too intensely the kind of blandness that you can expect from the body, dragging along with repetition and blandness, and it's all topped off with excessive shameless flaunting of the cheesy, overly pop and altogether mediocre, if not just plain poor stock music from the De Wolfe Music collection and the band Goblin. After the first act, the film, of course, picks up, but not too much, partially because of, yes, the blasted soundtrack, something that doesn't seem like it would be that big of a deal, yet is, in the long run, so very prevalent in the final product, and just plain not all that good, to where it betrays and dilutes the effectiveness of too many high points of intrigue. The soundtrack isn't exactly abysmal, but it is pretty weak, and more than it should be for it to be as prominent as it is, so it does plenty more damage than you'd expect to the final product, yet poor music, alone, isn't enough to topple a promising project down to underwhelming, as opposed to the excessive dragging that really intensifies the film's fatal blandness. Yes people, I know that I only know the German's crazy two-and-a-half hour non-epic version, yet at its shortest, or rather, with Dario Argento's European cut, the film clocks in at nearly two hours, with most versions clocking in still quite a ways past the two-hour mark, and when you step back to look at the story, it just doesn't warrant such lengthiness, thus padding would have to come into play, and sure enough, does, with action sequences being particularly exhaustingly overlong and repetitious, to the point of losing quite a bit of consequential weight, and engagement value with it, after a while. The forceful and bland padding is at its most intense during the action sequences, to the point of making too massive of a chunk of the film pure action, which is exhausting and not as fun as it sounds, yet notice how I distinguished the action department as an area in which the bland bloating is at its most intense, because although certain points in the films are more bland then others, the fact of the matter is that the film consistently outstays its welcome, whether when it's focusing on style or focusing on substance, which is a problem that wouldn't as intense as it is were it not for its going so pronounced by the film's key shortcoming, minimalism in the story. There is punch to this promising project, yet not as much as there probably should be, especially when the final product finds itself faced with the atmospheric blandness and excessive bloating that leaves things to lose steam, little by little, until finally, by the cop-out end, sputtering out short of potential. Of course, the film doesn't fall too short, for although things stand to be tighter and meatier, the film stands above an already nearly genuinely good predecessor, thus leaving this film to, by extension, stand on the secure at the level of quite decent, and is carried there by much, including certain things that George Romero finally has the budget to pull off. Though, of course, dated, Michael Gornick's cinematography remains fairly impressive, putting Romero's "Living Dead" series' introduction into the wonderful world of color to good use by keeping color and lighting deeply defined, yet rather faded a bit to supplement both the film's attractiveness and tone of bleak surrealism with fitting style. What further adds to the effectiveness of the film is, ironically, one of the very things that detracts from it: the action, which may go excessively bloated through too much prominence, as well as a bit of repetition, yet still stands pretty strong, with some nifty set piece concepts and staging that play with the claustrophobia in the air, as well as quite a bit of broadness in the scope, thus making for quite a few grand action sequences that engage more often than not, and are made all the more effective by the gore effects, particularly, well, when this film was first released back in 1978. Too many of Tom Savini's makeup and gore effects have dated, and pretty awkwardly at times, yet on the whole, they work, not exactly being all that verisimilar, but compensating by delivering on concepts and imagery that are genuinely disturbing, sometimes in a gratutious fashion, yet generally in an effective fashion that adds to the film's sense of consequence while providing some disgustingly kind of neat moments of violence and clever usage of some good old fashion practical effects, particularly when the effects do get to be reasonably buyable, even by today's standards. Of course, what really brings the effectiveness of the film's action set pieces to life is simply the atmosphere, which is often a bit dry, yet generally tight and rather tense, with bite, consequence and scope that reflects the weight of the situation and makes the film's most potent moments of intrigue as striking as they are. The atmosphere certainly keeps things going when the action dies down, for although George A. Romero's direction fails to dissipate blandness all together, Romero firmly establishes a sense that all is not right, maybe not to where you're constantly on the edge of your seat, but to where you're kept going, wondering where this story will lead. Romero's execution of his story is a bit underwhelming, yet adequate enough for you to stick with things, if not find yourself quite compelled at times, and this can be said about the story itself, which really doesn't have as much weight as it should, yet does have weight nevertheless, with both style and depth that isn't explored too thoroughly, yet explored sharply enough for you to feel the bite of the promising concept whose execution is improvable, yet nevertheless quite enjoyable. If nothing else, the film is entertaining, being limited in its effectiveness, depth and overall potential fulfillment, yet still having a consistent enjoyability to it that, when ameliorated by the other consistent strengths that offer glimpses of a better film, nearly carries the final to a full-on rewarding state, and certainly helps in making this film an enjoyable one, even with its missteps. To break "Dawn", down that is, the poor music selection that stands so prominent in this film dilutes momentum at most every turn, yet not as much as the excessive bloating through dragging and repetition that brings more to attention the blandness within the minimalism of the structuring of this promising story concept, thus making for an underwhelming effort, yet one that hits much more often than not, and nearly stands as rewarding because of it, going powered by nifty style and generally decent effects to compliment the mostly clever action sequences that incorporate tension to break up a consistent aura of intrigue that brings enough to attention the worthiness that stands more prominent than the shortcomings within the story to make George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" a superior sequel and thoroughly watchable thriller by its own right, even with its shortcomings. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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