Film: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Shop 'till you drop. Dead.

"Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills! The people it kills get up and kill!"
Dr. Foster

Dawn of the Dead is the second movie in the Living Dead Series of Zombie Apocalypse films written and directed by George A. Romero. It was first released in 1978, ten years after the original film in the series, Night of the Living Dead (1968).

Followed by Day of the Dead (1985), and loosely remade in 2004.

Dawn of the Dead contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Boom, Headshot: Features an impressive shotgun-blast-to-the-head scene.
  • Brick Joke: The zombie with the gun who steals Peter's other gun at the end.
  • Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore : The characters begin the film believing that a mall is the perfect hiding place, but later discover they cannot stay there forever because eventually they're going to run out of food, and the zombies will get in sooner or later.
  • Catapult Nightmare: When the film opens we see Francine suffering (and waking from) one of these. Unfortunately for her, reality is no less of a nightmare.
  • Comic-Book Time: The film apparently takes place a few weeks after the events of Night, released a decade earlier. This pretty much holds true for all the rest of Romero's Dead films.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: For a while, at least. The montage of the group enjoying their time in the shopping mall comes to mind.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Soundly avoided, with a gory police raid on a zombie-infested tenement coming early in the film.
  • Devoured By The Horde: One of the bikers get's cornered once they enter the mall, and watches his own organs get removed in short order.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted in Peter's case since he decides that he wants to live at the last minute and escapes with Francine.
    • The original script played this straight, with Francine also killing herself by jumping into the rotating blades of the helicopter. They decided to eventually change this, since the preceding movie already had a similar "everybody dies" Downer Ending, and the world in the movie is a total Crapsack World anyway.
  • Enclosed Space: Most of the film takes place inside a shopping mall.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Stephen is choleric, Roger is sanguine, Francine is melancholic and Peter is phlegmatic.
  • Gorn: And how! Not as bad as in Day of the Dead, but still plenty.
  • A House Divided: Part of the reason why Humans Are the Real Monsters. It's strongly shown that the zombies are practically harmless, if you know what you're doing, but so many people are squabbling over what to do that they just get to multiply beyond control.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Most famously, the zombies are an outright satire of mindless consumer culture and "mall drones." Throughout the film, the zombies are handled almost effortlessly; the only danger to humans come when the living humans get stupid or careless — it's just that humans are more concerned with arguing with each other, engaging in mindless behavior (such as the bikers raiding the mall for things like gold rings and money), and otherwise ignoring the problem.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Averted; Stephen misses a lone slow zombie multiple times before Roger steps in to put it down.
  • Incongruously Dressed Zombie: The Hare Krishna and nun zombies.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: Dr. Rausch suggests the use of nukes against the zombies, perhaps forgetting that all the living humans killed by radiation or severe burns will eventually get back up. Fortunately, no one takes this suggestion seriously.
  • The Jaywalking Dead: Several zombies are easily cast aside when Roger and Peter start using trucks to block the doors of the mall. Later, when locking the doors from the inside, more zombies are taken out as they drive the silver coupe through the mall.
  • Jerk Ass: Wooley, one of the men in Roger's SWAT unit. A gigantic racist, to boot: he's eager to kill Blacks, Jews, and Puerto Ricans (though not in those terms) before the raid on the tenement begins, and slaughters tenants indiscriminately in said raid. Peter, a black man, pumps him full of lead.
    • A special mention goes to the WGON station manager who's willing to run a scroll of (by now) inoperative rescue stations because, as he puts it, "every minute that those stations aren't on, people won't watch us. They'll tune us out."
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Just like the other two movies in the Dead trilogy the human antagonist's goals are not too far removed from those of the heroes, and in fact may well be a whole lot smarter. While the Bikers plunder is pretty damn irritating for the heroes, its little different from the protagonists' own earlier ramsacking of the mall (plus they only begin hunting Peter and Steven after the latter idiotically starts shooting at them) and after they are done they get the hell out and move on, which takes the heroes months to bring themselves to do.
  • Just Before the End: Civilization seems to be collapsing during the first half of the film.
  • Kill 'em All: The scripted ending ended with everyone dying, but by the time it came to film it Romero had grown to like the characters and decided it would just be pointlessly depressing.
    • It also would have been WAY too similar to the end of the previous film, 1968's Night of the Living Dead.
  • The Load: Stephen and Francine. Originally all he has going for him is his skills as a helicopter pilot, despite his efforts. Francine starts with nothing. However, as Roger's health fails Stephen is forced to become more proactive and even early on manages to discover the vent system they use to move safely at several points. Francine does very little, though she does learn basic shooting and how to fly the copter.
  • The Mall: Chief setting of the film, used to skewer American consumerism by comparing it to the zombie hordes who "consume" everything in sight.
  • Melee a trois: The film has a climatic 3-way battle with Peter and Stephen vs. the bikers invading the mall vs. The Zombies.
  • Neutral Female: The actress playing Francine famously refused to be just another Screaming Woman. However, during the first confrontation at the airport she just stands there while her boyfriend is fighting with a zombie, neither running nor helping. She does get better though.
  • No Name Given: The character Richard France plays (the TV scientist with the eye patch) is never addressed by name, and is referred to in the credits only as "Scientist." Curiously, he is often identified in reference to the film as "Dr. Milliard Rausch," a name that once used to be on the Internet Movie Database, but has since been changed back to "Scientist."
  • Not Using the Z Word: Averted. In fact, this movie is actually the origin of the use of "zombie" meaning flesh-eating undead.
  • Pie in the Face: The scene where the bikers pelt the zombies with pies and seltzer water.
  • Precision F-Strike: Peter and Stephen are on the roof watching the bikers come down from the hill and into the parking lot. Stephen lets out a long, slow "Holy Shit!"
  • Re Cut: Clocked in at 139 minutes for its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival; this was subsequently trimmed by Romero to 126 minutes for general U.S. release, and there was a 119-minute cut supervised by Dario Argento for the film's European release (as Zombi). In 2004, Anchor Bay released an "Ultimate" DVD box set containing all three cuts.
  • Room Full of Zombies: The film has a SWAT team raid a housing complex that has their basement filled with zombies.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The film kicks off with Francine quitting the WGON crew and Roger and Peter deserting the SWAT team. In fact, this trope applies to large numbers of people in general, with many WGON crew members and even one of their police guards shown quitting the TV station, as well as the deserting policemen at the police dock. It is heavily implied that desertion is becoming rampant, which is one more reason for the deteriorating situation.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: There are numerous scenes of the Zombies in the mall stumbling about to shopping muzak, notably the end credits.
  • Straw Man News Media: In the opening scenes, we see that Francine's bosses at WGON clearly don't give a shit about anything other than continuing to draw as many remaining viewers as they can, by any means necessary. Such as, for instance, deliberately listing rescue stations that are no longer operational.
  • Thematic Series: This film is a loose-knit sequel to Night of the Living Dead as are the sequels that follow.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Several characters. Most of them do in fact die.
    • The most egregious example being the Mexican bandito biker taking his blood pressure while his friends are getting shot at, eaten, or otherwise leaving the mall and zombies are visibly surrounding him. Also serves as a great Brick Joke.
    • Noticeably, Roger's attitude and reckless actions while barricading the mall bring him about to like three bites, which unsurprisingly ends with him turning into a zombie.
      "We got this, man! We got this by the ass!"
    • Stephen could give Roger a run for his money in reckless behavior: He shoots at a zombie with a rifle and misses, nearly hitting Peter. He takes the only handgun and runs off to find Peter and Roger in the mall, leaving Fran defenseless when a zombie wanders up. He shoots at the bike gang after Peter warns him not to and, upon retreating, drops his rifle down the elevator shaft. Finally, when he's bitten and dying, he wastes the last few bullets in his handgun warding off his last few attackers and leaves his brain intact so that when he dies, his zombie self still remembers the hidden nest where Peter and Fran are, and brings an army of flesh-eaters right behind him.
    • Really, this is the only reason why zombies are a danger in this movie. It's shown repeatedly that if you keep your head on straight, you can easily handle zombies — there are multiple scenes of characters running straight through crowds of the undead or fighting their way free of groups. With their bare hands, no less. Because people are more concerned with acting like idiots (for example, the people who refuse to heed government warnings about how all dead bodies need to be instantly cremated/decapitated/decerebrated, thus leading to things like the infested tenement building at the start of the movie, the bikers casually smashing their way in and leaving a huge opening for zombies to pour through — and even then most of the bikers escape alive, if they haven't been shot), the zombies are able to get the drop on them and, from a large-scale perspective, are able to multiply to threatening levels in the first place.
  • Undead Child: Two (running) zombie kids who attack Peter at the airport.
  • Unbuilt Trope: So, you think a Zombie Apocalypse or some other doomsday disaster would be cool, huh? According to Romero, that means you probably hold a grudge against some part of society, fantasize about being a badass, or want to run wild. Also, even if you do manage to find safety, be prepared to spend a good portion of your actual time bored out of your mind.
  • While Rome Burns: The survivors are shown prancing about in the mall as the zombie numbers outside grow bigger.
  • Your Head A Splode: The scene where a SWAT cop breaks down an apartment door in a raid and blows an innocent man's head apart with a single shotgun blast.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Sorta the whole point. It carries on from where Night left off, i.e. the start of the zombie apocalypse.

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