Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (1978), written and directed by George A. Romero.

The last time I saw this must have been on VHS with a small boxy TV. That may have made it more effective; I remember it as an raw, edgy look at the end of the world, with wry social commentary thrown in. Now, on Blu-ray and a larger screen, the shoestring budget and semi-pro production values show. Mind you: cheap can be good in a horror film, but it wasn't doing it for me this time.

What struck me most from the very first scene was how closely Romero must have been studying Dario Argento. The camera work and colors are very much like his 1970s films, particularly The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970) and Deep Red (1975). Looking up the influences I found that Argento helped arrange financing, invited Romero to Rome while he was writing the screenplay, and has several credits on the film in the IMDB. His favorite 1970s soundtrack group, "Goblin", provides some of the music.

This is nothing like Night of the Living Dead (1968), which is the foundation of my zombie apocalypse nightmares: always black-and-white, in isolated locations, outnumbered and with no chance of survival. The zombies are only intermittently horrific here; most often they are objects of contempt, which does add sadness to the scenario. I think the comic addition of the biker gang -- a terrible apocalyptic cliche -- is unfortunate.

A worthy addition to the horror is the recognition that not all of our survivors have a proper survivalist attitude. Poor manic Roger. Once he started going crazy and getting careless: they didn't have a chance.

Available on Blu-ray.