Few horror movie heroes act sensibly. They’ll split up the party, forget to load weapons, walk into darkened rooms, anything to service a script that requires them to die one by one. Dawn of the Dead is pretty unique, in that it’s one of the few horror movies with forward planning. Characters think clearly about the future, decide a good course of action, and follow it. Sometimes they get emotional, do foolish things, but in the moment you can forgive them, they’re only human.
So a group of survivors take a chopper and flee from a city. Looking for fuel they land on top of a mall. They soon realise that the mall has everything they need; food, clothes, heat and running water. All they need to do is clear out the zombies inside, and stop any more getting in.
Where the film really stands out, is in the aftermath of their victory. With the mall empty, and all modern life has to offer at their fingertips, they go on shopping sprees, play arcade games, take all the money they can find. But as time passes, they slowly realise that they need more, they’re not fulfilled, and so they plan for the day they can leave, just as a gang of bikers plan to take the mall from them.
Often seen as a satire on the modern consumer society, with zombies stumbling through the mall, and the mall itself offering no real solace to the humans, the film is also simply a great horror movie, with gore pouring forth, heads exploding and zombies haunting the shadows.
Dawn of the Dead (1978), directed by George A. Romero, is available on Blu-ray and DVD, from Arrow Films, Certificate 18.