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Film / Dawn of the Dead (1978)

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Shop 'til 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. European audiences might better know this film from when it was distributed as Zombi, which itself would receive an unofficial sequel of sorts in Zombi 2, thereby beginning a headache for horror movie buffs and collectors over film name changes and numbering issues.

Shortly after the start of a Zombie Apocalypse, a news reporter, a helicopter pilot, and two renegade SWAT team members strike out on their own and set up shop in a suburban shopping mall, but they're beset by both a growing horde of zombies and looters.

Officially followed by Day of the Dead, and loosely remade in 2004.

Dawn of the Dead contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Francine gradually becomes one.
  • Actionized Sequel: Compared to the previous film, this film features more scenes of the protagonists fighting and killing zombies. There are even multiple shootouts between human factions that wouldn't look out of place in a traditional action movie.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The main characters use the ventilation ducts located above the mall's stores to move around without being noticed by the zombies (and later, the bikers).
  • All Bikers Are Hell's Angels: A gang invades the mall in the original, letting in the zombies.
  • All There in the Manual: In the Novelization, Tom Savini's knife-wielding biker is named Hatchet (though materials for the movie call him Blades). The book also reveals the last names of many of the main characters. (While the extended version of the film that includes the confrontation with the police officers on the dock includes dialogue where they recognize Stephen as Steve Andrews of WGON Traffic Watch, only the novel reveals that Peter's last name is Washington, while Roger's is DeMarco and Francine's is Parker. Ironically, the scene in the novel where Peter is introduced by Roger to Stephen and Fran is verbatim from the film, it's just that in the novel he introduces him as "Peter Washington," rather than simply Peter as in the film.)
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The zombies have blue skin. This actually was unintentional; the zombies were supposed to have grey skin, but the makeup looked blue on film.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Peter and Francine are the only ones who escape from the mall after it is infested again by zombies while Roger and Stephen are dead, and the helicopter's fuel is half gone, leaving their fates up to the interpretation of the audience.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The army units outside Philadelphia are seen transporting artillery cannons, which are less than useless against a zombie horde. Sure, any zombie who gets hit with an artillery shell will certainly be neutralized, but artillery is far too big and slow to be of any real use, as for the most part, only a direct hit will be effective; any zombie who doesn't receive a brain-destroying shrapnel injury will just keep going.
  • Asshole Victim: Wooley and later the bikers.
  • Ax-Crazy: Wooley, the unhinged racist SWAT cop at the beginning.
    • Played with with Roger. After Peter saves him from getting bitten in the second truck, and Roger gets sprayed in the face with zombie blood, Roger empties his sidearm in the face of a second zombie that breaks the driver's side window of his truck. Then when he's driving to the mall, Roger puts the truck on a collision course with some of the zombies in his path, plowing into them and gleefully laughing as he uses the windshield wipers on the truck to clear blood off the windshield from running them over. After he gets parked, and Peter is waiting for Roger to get into his truck, Roger stops to shoot multiple times at a cluster of zombies between the two cabs instead of getting directly into Peter's truck, over Peter's protests, which almost results in him getting overwhelmed right there. Peter later gives him a strong lecture, which mostly snaps him out of it.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: We're presented with a theory that zombies are here because Hell is full so the dead have to walk the Earth.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Subverted by Peter at the end when he decides to face the zombie horde rather than escape and ensures that he has a gun he can use on himself when they storm his room. However, at the last second he decides to make a break for it and escapes the overrun mall with Francine (this was changed from the original ending, where he really did kill himself).
  • Beware the Living: Present and accounted for with Wooley, the gung-ho yet dumb rednecks and the biker gang, all of which signify the devolution of society.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. The black main character is one of the only ones to survive.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Peter and Francine escape, but with little fuel left in the helicopter, and no clear destination. Also, the zombie apocalypse isn't going anywhere.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Features an impressive shotgun-blast-to-the-head scene, and pretty much every zombie is dispatched this way.
  • Brick Joke: The zombie with Roger's gun who steals Peter's other gun at the end.
  • Call-Back: When they first enter the department store, Roger scares himself by briefly mistaking one of the department store mannequins as a zombie. Later when he, Stephen, and Peter are running to the department store's lower level, a maintenance man who was standing stationary at one of the mannequin displays suddenly pounces on Roger and tackles him to the ground.
  • 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 (or other people) 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.
  • Central Theme: The film focuses on the theme of material consumerism. The movie's most famous social commentary is that the absent-minded zombies used to be shopping mall customers, but it isn't the only one. The protagonists also get a bit too greedy and view the mall as paradise, and the bikers likewise revel in the mall's material goods a little too much. While the protagonists and the bikers fight over the mall, the zombies are able to take advantage and kill off members of both groups.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Steve Niles wrote a three-issue adaptation for IDW Publishing in 2004, the same year as the remake.
  • 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.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Unlike the protagonists of Night, the main characters of this film have no problems fighting off the zombies, especially with two of them being ex-SWAT team members. They also become fast friends with one another, so their internal conflict doesn't come from infighting but from cabin fever.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: For a while, at least. The montage of the group enjoying their time in the shopping mall comes to mind.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Let's say the bikers aren't exactly "there" after about a year of the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Creator Cameo: George Romero appears twice in the film, first as a WGON news director and then as a biker donning a Santa suit.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The rednecks and National Guardsmen show what happens when a large, put-together force with good ground stands their ground against the zombies rather than falling to pieces.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Narrowly averted with Stephen, who routinely gets himself in a trouble by being too curious and impatient for his own good. He almost gets himself killed during the airfield scene and later, when the group just lands in the mall.
  • Crystal Clear Picture: Used for every TV picture, although genuine static appears at the end, after transmissions have stopped coming.
  • Daylight Horror: The scene at the airport gas station, and then later, when Peter and Roger are moving the trucks to seal off the doors. We also get this after Peter plays tennis on the roof. After not seeing zombies for awhile, Peter knocks a tennis ball loose when he leaves, it rolls off the roof, and then bounces to the ground amidst the oh, right  hundreds of zombies that are still milling around outside the mall trying to get in.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: In the earlier segments of the film, these are quite plentiful. Some of them twitch.
  • Death by Materialism: Stephen's death. He easily could've survived if he hadn't started shooting at the bikers, all because they were looting the mall which he considered "his" at this point.
    • Also Roger, who ends up getting bitten while they're trying to seal up the mall and have all of its goods to themselves.
    • And Many of the marauding bikers. Their decision to breach the mall and steal what's inside leads to many of their number being overwhelmed and devoured by zombies, or killed by Peter
  • Decoy Protagonist: While all four of the leads are clearly developed as leading protagonists, Roger in particular stands out as much as Peter. He's just as skilled as Peter with a gun, and the early part of the film sets him up as a cool head and peacekeeper between the bickering Peter, Stephen, and Fran. He acts a bit reckless during the first exploration of the mall, but still, effectively shows that he has the skills to handle the zombie outbreak without breaking a sweat. He's easily one of the characters you expect will make it to the end...And then he has a close encounter with a zombie that causes him to snap in the film's second act, and get bitten. He spends the rest of the second act assisting Peter, Stephen and Fran seal up the mall and kill the zombies trapped inside, before finally succumbing to his wounds and being shot after turning into a zombie by Peter at the beginning of the third act.
  • 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 gets cornered once they enter the mall, and watches his own organs get removed in short order.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Once the mall is secured and cleared, the group finds themselves with a whole lot of time and not a lot of things to do. Especially Francine tries to live a life full of luxuries, but they all quickly find it boring and tedious.
  • Distressed Damsel: Subverted. Francine is more than capable of handling herself (especially for the standards of late 70s) and she's the one that comes to the rescue twice.
  • 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.
    • A minor character does this very early on, overwhelmed by the horror of the world he's in.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Continuing from Night Of The Living Dead, zombies are mostly quiet, only snarling when chasing after prey or eating their victims' flesh. This changes when Stephen becomes a zombie as he begins to make the ghostly moans that zombies in the later films would use.
    • Also continuing from the original film, this movie has the rare Romero zombie that is actually capable of running. However, they don't pose a threat to Peter, mainly because they are Undead Children.
  • Enclosed Space: Most of the film takes place inside a shopping mall.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Berman the TV host throws a lot of verbal abuse at Dr. Foster and is a lot more contrary to him than is warranted, but when a technician sneaks up behind Foster and makes bunny ears above him, Berman angrily yanks the man's hand down.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Accidentally, anyway. Wooley's a racist cop who's indiscriminately shooting living and dead people. However, the apartment he's killed in front of really was full of zombies and shooting through the door like he wanted to would've been a good idea.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Played with, though with zombies instead of aliens. Not only does Roger get groped in the face by three different zombies, when he's trapped in the cab of the second truck he's hot-wiring with the third one, Peter is forced to shoot it while it's right over Roger's face, and the blood from the gunshot wound sprays all over Roger's face and some even gets into his open mouth. While he later gets bitten twice, sealing his fate for sure, it's possible that the blood he got in his mouth from the zombie Peter shot may have also infected and eventually turned him, even if he hadn't been bitten.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The one-legged priest's warning to Peter and Roger at the tenement, about how the police and National Guard taking the building will do nothing to stave off the oncoming apocalypse, foreshadows the coming collapse of society, which manifests in the second half of the movie and also in Day of the Dead.
      "You are stronger than us... But soon, I think they be stronger than you."
    • Stephen hypothesizes that the zombies invade the shopping mall because they remember the mall as an important place in their old lives. When Stephen becomes a zombie, he is able to recall the route to the survivors' hideout.
    • After the peppy music (La Caccia) we heard when Roger and Peter are successfully placing the first truck at the mall entrance, the music drastically shifts to the ominous opening theme (L'alba dei morti viventi) when Roger and Peter move the second truck. This not only signifies Roger's mental breakdown, but also serves as foreshadowing to him eventually being overwhelmed and bitten because he's not operating at his full skill level and becomes heavily focused on getting revenge against the zombie horde, and taking shots at them when it's not necessary.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Stephen is choleric, Roger is sanguine, Francine is melancholic, and Peter is phlegmatic.
  • Gallows Humor: While Roger, and everyone else, knows he's slowly dying from the zombie bites he got while closing up the mall, he still takes advantage of the spoils of the mall after it's sealed off in the time he has remaining, letting the others push him around the department store in the gardening cart, trying on hats, amusing himself with a Viewfinder, playing arcade games, and taking bunches of food from the supermarket that he won't be alive to eat in its entirety. Aside from one sad glance from Fran, the other three largely don't talk about it and have their fun right along with him.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Peter does one of these with Roger, after Roger snaps and begins behaving more and more recklessly, to the point where he becomes so obsessed with shooting zombies in retaliation that he forgets the bag of hot wiring tools in the second truck they place in front of the doors.
  • Gilded Cage: The mall quickly becomes this, despite its relative safety and abundant supplies.
  • Good Shepherd: The one-legged priest who gives last rites to the zombified people in the basement and then steps aside for the SWAT team to deal with them.
  • Gorn: And how! Not as bad as in Day of the Dead, but still plenty.
  • Gun Porn: The scene where Peter and Stephen raid a gun shop inside the mall. Also doubles as sort of a Lock-and-Load Montage.
  • Happy Ending Override: While it certainly wasn't a happy ending for the cast, Night of the Living Dead ended with the zombie horde being cut down relatively easily, with the implication that they were ultimately a manageable threat. This movie, set three weeks later, shows that things are gradually getting worse, and by the end, civilization has collapsed completely.
  • Helicopter Blender: At one point a zombie approaches the still-rotating main rotors of a landed helicopter and gets the top of his head chopped off. This was a Chekhov's Gun for the original Downer Ending, where the heroine commits suicide by sticking her own head in the rotors.
  • Heroic B So D: Roger. After getting nearly bitten by a zombie in one of the trucks, and getting a face full of blood after Peter shoots it, Roger angrily kills a zombie outside the truck himself, and then briefly shuts down babbling about how everything is great until he seemingly snaps back into action. Unfortunately, he comes back from the event a bit wrong, leading to a later Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! from Peter as his behavior gets more and more reckless.
  • Honor Before Reason: One of the reasons zombies are spreading is because some people refuse to give up their dead so their corpses can be destroyed by the military.
  • Hope Spot: After Peter gives Roger a Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! lecture in the truck, Roger seems to calm down drastically and snap out of his psychosis. However, when he goes to retrieve the tools he left behind in the second truck, there ends up being too many zombies around. Roger holds some of them off, but ends up getting bitten twice and doomed to die because he's overwhelmed.
    • Stephen, after arranging for Peter to come help him out of the department store elevator, is getting closer and closer to the roof of the elevator, and safety...And then the zombies outside manage to open the doors to the elevator that open into the store, get ahold of Stephen, and bite him multiple times, dooming him.
  • 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 comes 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 - utterly useless in a post-apocalyptic world), and otherwise ignoring the problem.
    • There's also the running theme, especially during the early scenes, that living people simply use the undead as an excuse to live out their racist and violent fantasies.
  • Human Resources: One of Dr. Rausch's proposed solutions to manage the growing zombie problem is feeding the bodies of the recently deceased, whose brains have been destroyed (so that they in turn can't reanimate), to the zombies so that they won't go after the living. The people in the TV studio are less than enthusiastic about the idea.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In one of the last TV broadcasts, Dr. Rausch suggests that the survivors should utilize the corpses of the non-zombified dead to stretch the food supply of the zombies, much to the disgust of the audience.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: God the people in this movie are unbelievably inept, wasting stupid amounts of ammunition firing wildly or even blindly at targets. Pistols are used to shoot at long range moving targets; machine gun bursts are fired at nonvital body parts, using the ammo but not hurting the zombies. Stephen literally fires his revolver repeatedly at a zombie's shadow, using God knows what logic. Subverted by Roger and Peter. As trained SWAT marksmen, they rarely let bullets go to waste, and Roger intervenes twice at the airfield when Stephen is trying, and failing, to kill zombies, taking both down with a single head shot.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Averted; Stephen misses a lone slow zombie multiple times before Roger steps in to put it down. Also during the sequence to move the trucks. Fran takes multiple shots at one zombie from the roof, and never hits the head, and then takes multiple shots at a second zombie and finally gets a head shot after multiple tries
  • Incongruously-Dressed Zombie: The Hare Krishna and nun zombies.
  • It Can Think:
    • In general, the zombies wander around the shopping mall because they vaguely remember it as an important part of their lives.
    • The Hare Krishna zombie at first joins his fellow zombies in chasing Stephen and Peter but then goes against mob mentality by turning around and walking to the door from which Stephen first appeared. Because of this, the Hare Krishna zombie is able to go upstairs and find Fran.
    • One zombie picks up a tire iron and uses it to break a truck window when attacking Roger.
    • After Stephen becomes a zombie, he can still recall the path to the survivor's hideout.
    • The zombies later show that they can climb multiple ladders without much issue. They even demonstrate some basic etiquette by lining up and going up the ladders one at a time.
    • In addition, zombie intelligence is debated by the characters in-universe. When presented with the argument that zombies are capable of using tools, Dr. Millard Rausch counters that animals are capable of using tools as well. He further states that the living dead have no emotions and operate off instinct rather than actual intelligence. That said, the later sequels, such as Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead, will challenge Rausch's doubt of zombie intelligence.
  • 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 would eventually get back up. Fortunately, no one takes this suggestion seriously. Not to mention a nuke won't actually kill the zombies that aren't outright incinerated in the blast and will just create radioactive zombies as well.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass:
    • 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."
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Just like the other two movies in the Dead trilogy the human antagonists' goals are not too far removed from those of the heroes, and in fact may well be a whole lot smarter. While the bikers' plundering is pretty damn irritating for the heroes, it's little different from the protagonists' own earlier ransacking of the mall (plus they only begin hunting Peter and Stephen 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.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: One of the zombies takes Roger's gun out of his hand while he and Peter are scouting the mall and spends the rest of the movie walking around with said gun, holding the muzzle a few inches from his face.
  • Jump Scare: While in the maintenance room being stalked by the zombie security guard, Stephen stops in the corner to reload his pistol, followed by a sharp musical chord as the zombie grabs him out of nowhere, causing him to drop the box of shells mid-loading and fall into a corner.
    • After Stephen and Peter join Roger in the department store, the trio are running by a seemingly innocuous display of mannequins. Stephen and Peter pass by safely, and then, surprise! As Roger passes by, one of the mannequins suddenly tackles him to the floor and reveals that it's actually a zombie maintenance man. (This surprise zombie behavior was improvised as a continuity fix to explain how Roger lost the windbreaker he tied around his waist when they first enter the department store, as he didn't have it around his waist in later shots of him in the film.
  • Just Before the End: Civilization seems to be collapsing during the first half of the film. By the beginning of the second half, the collapse is implied to be complete, with TV broadcasts having ceased (though it's mentioned the last one was only three days ago) and a roving biker gang instead of the police or military arriving at the mall.
  • Libation for the Dead: Peter pours one out for Roger.
  • Lighter and Softer: Though the film is still dark and very violent, there's a much bigger emphasis on comedy than in Night of the Living Dead, and the ending is far more open-ended and bittersweet when compared to how the previous movie ended.
  • The Load: Stephen, Francine and Roger all take their turns at various points. Roger starts off well, but the pressure of their situation and a hear miss with a zombie lead him to snap when they're moving the trucks. His antics get him bitten, crippled and ultimately bedridden before he dies. It's partially subverted, however, as Roger, off-screen, is still able to hot wire and place the last two trucks at the mall entrances before he can't walk on his leg anymore. Also, even though he's wounded, through the use of the gardening cart, Roger is still able to assist in the sealing of the mall from the inside, and the killing of the zombies now trapped in the mall's interior. Also, even though a zombie reopens the wound from the zombie bite to his leg, he's able to fight through the pain and drive the car around the mall so Peter and Stephen can quickly lock the doors from the inside. Originally, all Stephen 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 teaches herself basic shooting and how to fly the helicopter, but since she's increasingly pregnant as the movie progresses, she doesn't take much of a role until the final escape.
  • Made of Plasticine: Par for the course, considering the genre. Special mention goes to the biker at the blood pressure tester, who seems to get his arm chewed off in just a few seconds.
  • The Mall: Chief setting of the film, used to skewer American consumerism by comparing it to the zombie hordes who "consume" everything in sight.
  • Market-Based Title: It was recut by Dario Argento and released as Zombi in Europe, where it in turn received a slew of unofficial sequels of its own, starting with Zombi 2.
  • Mle Trois: The film has a climatic three-way battle with Peter and Stephen vs. the bikers invading the mall vs. the zombies.
  • Men of Sherwood: The heroes' helicopter passes over a large crowd of national guardsmen and small-town citizens who, rather than being decimated by the zombies, are calmly sitting around, having cookouts, and efficiently shooting the undead down as soon as they show up .
  • Mercy Kill: Done twice by Peter to his newly zombified friends. First to Roger after the midway point of the film, then Stephen at the climax. Roger and Peter also do this to the zombies they find locked up in the basement of the tenement.
  • Morning Sickness: Francine is pregnant throughout the film, noticeably showing by the end. When the group first reaches the mall, Peter notices she looks sick and Stephen reveals her condition. Later, she is puking into a toilet and asks Stephen to leave her alone, not wanting him to see her like that.
  • Neutral Female: Gaylen Ross famously refused to play Francine as 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.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: TV host Sidney Berman seems to mean well, but his bullying, and skeptical treatment of Dr. Foster when he was providing information that could have helped stem the panic and slow the spread of the undead... increases the sense of panic and doesn't slow the spread of the undead.
    • After discovering that the second floor of the mall is zombie-free, and relatively safe, Peter suggests using the mall keys to unlock the department store's door on the second floor (and other stores) so they can traverse both floors of the stores and safely avoid the ground floor zombies. Roger suggests using mall muzak to cover up the noise they make, and Peter instead suggests they turn on power to everything, since it's available. Because of this, the escalators turn on, and the ground floor zombies end up either getting caught on it and carried up to the second floor, or having the ability to actually remember how to use it themselves, which ends up turning the previously-safe and zombie-free second floor into a zombie minefield Roger and Peter have to traverse to get to the department store entrance, and forces them to have to keep going to the ground floor and banging on the doors to draw enough of them down from the second floor so they can move around more safely above.
    • Compounding the escalator issue, due to the sudden influx of zombies on the second floor, not only do Roger and Peter have to commando-style their way to the department store, but Peter has to rush to figure out the complicated locking mechanism of the department store's doors to shut them behind them. Because of this, Roger has to leave his sniping position in order to assist him, they get swarmed, a zombie gets between the doors that prevents Peter from closing them, and Roger ends up losing his valuable M-16 after a zombie latches onto it after he gets distracted trying to pull the other zombie clear of the door so Peter can finally lock it.
    • Stephen gets more and more irritated at the bikers invading "their" mall, and stealing "their" stuff, to the point he opens fire on them. This does nothing but make himself and Peter active targets to the bikers, who initially were just going to loot the mall and leave, and leads to Stephen getting trapped in the department store elevator, wounded, and eventually bitten.
  • No Can Opener: The characters discover a massive stockpile of spam.
    Roger: Did you bring a can opener?
    Francine: No, I guess I didn't.
    Roger: Then don't knock it. It's got its own key.
  • 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." Although some cuts do credit him as Dr. Milliard Rausch, Scientist and the European Cut even has his name said aloud.
  • Non-Residential Residence: Much of the movie has the main characters living in a shopping mall, until a biker gang breaks down their defenses, letting in the zombies.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Averted. In fact, this movie is actually the first to use the word "zombie" to mean flesh-eating undead.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: After Roger takes a bite to the arm, and a serious bite to the back of his calf that heavily limits his mobility, he's able to fight through the pain long enough to successfully move the final two trucks into position with Peter's help before they return to the mall. In some of the cuts, Roger has dialogue that even lampshades the situation, and states that if he stops using his leg, he won't be able to walk on it at all, and they HAVE to finish moving the trucks now, or never. Once they return to the mall, Roger's statement proves true, and he's unable to put his full weight on his wounded leg for the rest of his screen time.
  • Oh, Crap!: Fran's repeated reaction as the Hare Krishna zombie gets into the storeroom, and then attempts to eat her, especially as she's been left alone by the other three and has no gun to defend herself with.
    • Both Peter and Roger's reactions after Roger gets bitten on the arm trying to climb into Peter's truck. Peter even mutters "DAMN."
    • Fran and Stephen's reactions after Peter reveals to them that no matter what they do for Roger's treatment, he's doomed to die.
    • Fran and Stephen again, their reactions after they hear Peter shoot Roger, and know that he turned into a zombie and is now dead.
  • Only Sane Man: Subverted. Roger seems to start out as this. He's as skillful as Peter with a gun, and acts as a peacekeeper between Peter and Stephen, and Peter and Fran, serving as a bridge between the two of them and with Peter and working with the trio through their squabbles, especially as Peter largely views Stephen and Fran as The Load in the beginning. When Fran's pregnancy is revealed, he's the only one, other than Fran, to suggest that maybe the mall isn't the best place for Fran to have a child, and maybe they should get out of there. And while he's a bit reckless after they get to the mall, he keeps it in check in the early goings. But this all gets turned entirely upside down while they're moving the trucks. Roger has a near miss with a zombie and snaps, and after being set up in the earlier part of the film as the coolest and most level-headed of the group, he ends up being the first one to snap, get bitten, and eventually die.
  • Personal Space Invader: Roger gets groped in the face by zombies multiple times. Once in the department store, after being tackled by the maintenance man zombie, once by one of the zombies after he exits the first truck they've parked in front of the mall, and again in the interior of the second truck he's trying to hotwire, when a female zombie manages to pin him to the seat.
  • Pie in the Face: The scene where the bikers pelt the zombies with pies and seltzer water.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Roger takes out the Hare Krishna zombie by smashing his head in with the stock of his rifle.
  • Police Brutality: The scene in the apartment project carries heavy shades of this, with one cop simply using it as an excuse to shoot minorities. It's strongly implied that a legacy of this is why the building's residents are so bitterly resisting orders to turn over their dead; even though logic dictates that they shouldn't be keeping zombies locked up in their building, the trust between them and law enforcement was badly frayed even before the zombies arrived.
  • 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!" In the European cut, and other cuts of the film that combine all three cuts, Roger drops an F-Bomb with the line "Like a charm, man, like a fucking charm," after they successfully move the first truck.
  • Product Placement: A given, as the bulk of the film takes place inside a mall.
  • Railing Kill:
    • Peter kills a zombie by throwing him over a railing.
    • During the climactic Mle Trois, Peter shoots Blades causing him to fall over a railing.
  • 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. There have also been some ultimate edition cuts, especially through Youtube, that feature every cut, as all three versions have scenes that are specific to their particular cut, and aren't included in the other two.
  • The Remnant:
    • During the scene with the rednecks in the country, the local National Guard unit remains intact and confident, supporting them against the zombies.
    • Dr. Rausch provides a form of this, apparently representing some lingering central governmental authority that's trying to educate people on how to deal with the zombies over the TV (albeit ineffectively).
  • Revised Ending: The original ending had both Peter and Frannie committing suicide  the former by shooting himself in the head, the latter by thrusting her head into the spinning chopper blade. Also, the chopper engine would have been shown sputtering and dying after the end credits (thus showing that they wouldn't have survived regardless). Romero changed it after deciding that was just a little too bleak even by his standards.
  • Room Full of Zombies: The film has a SWAT team and the National Guard raid a housing complex that has their basement filled with zombies. One of the apartments also contains three zombies.
  • Rule of Scary: A lot of contrived situations still lead to genuine tension, like struggling to reload a gun or suddenly stumbling into something.
  • Sanity Slippage: Humanity is collectively losing its mind as society crumbles beneath the pressure of the undead apocalypse, even the alleged "expert" Dr. Rausch is unraveling by the time he makes his last appearance on TV. He's sweaty and disheveled, in contrast to the neat and tidy appearance of Dr. Foster earlier in the film, and has begun to advise that the survivors should feed their dead to the zombies and use nukes on urban centers, and calls everyone who protests "irrational."
    • Also, Roger. After nearly getting bitten by a zombie in the truck he's hot wiring, and having the zombie's blood spray in his face after Peter shoots it through the head when it's right above Roger's face, he snaps, and starts overcompensating for letting a zombie get the drop on him so heavily that he's literally taking pot shots at them as they swarm him, almost getting bitten right then. His single-minded focus on making as many zombies pay as possible for the single zombie almost getting the drop on him causes him to leave behind his necessary back of hot wiring tools in the second truck they've moved. While Peter chews him out and mostly snaps Roger out of it, there are too many zombies around the truck when he goes back to recover the bag, and he gets swarmed by them and ends up bitten. Also, some may make a case that Roger's carefree antics when they're first raiding the department store are a coping mechanism for Roger to keep from losing his mind over the situation and he's treating it as a game to prevent sanity slippage. When he's at the mercy of the zombie in the truck, he can no longer treat the situation as a game, and his sanity slips because of it.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: After realizing that Givens is broadcasting outdated information on rescue stations, Francine immediately orders them to be shut down and calls him out on it.
    "Are you willing to murder people by sending them to out to stations that have closed down!?"
  • 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.
  • A Sinister Clue: A strange case; the left-handed Roger and Stephen are the two main characters who die while the right-handed Peter and Fran live.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: There are numerous scenes of the zombies in the mall stumbling about to shopping muzak, notably the end credits.
    • Also, Peter, Roger, and eventually Stephen all take part in an initial raid of the mall's department store, and shoot zombies and engage in commando tactics against the mob of undead while mall muzak cheerfully plays over many of the action sequences.
    • The peppy mall muzak also plays over the sequence where the survivors have the disgusting task of cleaning up the mall of zombie corpses before they all rot completely and begin stinking up the place.
    • It also plays as they go on the shopping spree as a group. While this in itself isn't dissonance, it becomes as such because they're going on their shopping spree while carting Roger around, and he's slowly dying from the infection of the two bites he took earlier. He visibly looks sick, with dark rings forming around his eyes, and clearly acts as though he's a bit delirious in some of his close-ups, particularly when he's playing the race car game in the arcade.
  • Spoiler Cover: The VHS cover of George Romero's original film has a picture on the spine of one of the main characters dead and zombified, an event that occurs about ten minutes from the end.
    • Another VHS cover has the other zombified character on it.
    • The special edition DVD set had two main characters in their zombie state shown on the foldouts. Presumably under the assumption anybody that would buy a special edition re-release would have already seen the film.
  • Stalker Shot: Stephen is teaching Fran how to fly the helicopter atop the roof of the mall, when a Binocular Shot reveals that two bikers are watching them in secret. They make their presence known later that evening right before their gang executes a raid.
  • Strawman 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. When the staff begin to walk off the job, the station manager tries to bribe them with triple pay and yells at a police officer to arrest them.
  • Straw Vulcan: The government experts that appear on the two TV station segments - one during the opening credits and one later on, who labels anybody who tries to be humane in any fashion during this situation a fool (the former expert might be excused due to how much the crowd has been ignoring his attempts at intelligent information but the latter expert spends some time repeatedly screaming "dummies!" at the interviewer who tries to say that it's understandable to be upset when it happens to a loved one) - and advise that people just start killing zombies, destroying any dead bodies that have not turned yet, follow any instructions given by the government unhesitatingly, and overall stop being human.
  • Taught by Experience: Francine isn't a hunter, combat-trained or a pilot. By the end of the film, she has the most versalite set of skills of the entire group, solely by living long enough for that to happen.
  • That's Gotta Hurt: Lots of vicious zombie bites, and a total devour. Also, After Roger has been bitten, and they are attempting to seal off the mall's interior doors, one of the zombies gets a hold of Roger's wounded leg as he's climbing into a car and squeezes his bandaged bite, leading to a gush of blood and a bloodcurdling scream and writhing in pain from Roger. He's visibly affected by the fresh pain as they continue to lock off the doors, practically passing out at the steering wheel every time he stops the car.
  • 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 leads him getting bitten, which unsurprisingly ends with him turning into a zombie. In his defense, he'd nearly been bitten by a zombie and had clearly mentally snapped as a result of it. After the upbeat tune when moving the first truck, the soundtrack shifts to a repeat of the music from the opening credits, thematically demonstrating that Roger's had a mental break and isn't all there.
      "We got this, man! We got this by the ass!"
    • Stephen definitely trumps Roger 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 biker 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. In fact, him dying and forcing Peter and Fran to flee can all be traced back to the fact that, instead of retreating like Peter told him to, he had to actively go after the bikers. Roger's actions before he's bitten are a result of nearly getting bitten. Stephen is just overcome with greed, and is in full control of his actions.
    • 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.
    • The zombies themselves aren't alive, but they also act with little regard to staying undead, walking right at heavily armed people who can take them down easily. The famous "Helicopter Zombie" climbs some boxes to get to Roger, completely ignoring the whirring blades...
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Wooley is initially introduced as an Angry White Man, who refers to minorities by using various racial slurs, but still seems sane at least. Once inside the apartment complex, he goes full Ax-Crazy who clearly enjoys shooting unarmed civilians more than his mission objectives.
  • 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 an excuse to run wild in the streets. 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, when you're not defending your refuge from other survivors, that is. Oh, and good luck to any public authorities trying to enforce orders to execute all Zombie Infectees; those orders just started a riot in the inner city, whose residents are adding "literally putting our loved ones down like rabid dogs" to their list of reasons not to trust the police.
  • We Have Forgotten the Phlebotinum: Roger forgets his bag in the truck.
  • Wham Line: Fran and Stephen are both aware that Roger's zombie bites are serious, but until Peter tells them, neither of them are aware that the bites are actually FATAL. "I've seen half a dozen guys get bitten by those things...None of them lasted more than...Three days."
  • What Have I Become?: To prepare for the biker invasion, Peter ditches the fancy clothes for his SWAT uniform. He removes the expensive rings he stole and disgustedly throws them onto a pile of money and jewelry, signifying his return to form and cessation of being a "thief" and a "bad guy."
  • While Rome Burns:
    • The survivors are shown prancing about in the mall as the zombie numbers outside grow bigger.
    • Even before that, when the main characters are fleeing Philadelphia and pass over the countryside in the helicopter, they see hundreds of gun-toting rednecks drinking and shooting zombies, treating the apocalypse as a game.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Played with. A vault is raided for cash because "you never know." Meaning, yeah, money is worthless now, but that may change after all of this is dealt with. Also, gold and jewels might still be useful for bartering even after a social collapse.
  • 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.
  • Zombie Infectee: Roger gets bitten twice midway through the second act, and we watch him slowly succumb to the effects of the bites while aiding the rest of the group in sealing off the mall completely before he can fight off the infection no longer and he gets euthanized by Peter after turning at the beginning of the third act
    • Also, Stephen. Due to one of the zombie bites being to his neck, he turns into a zombie much more quickly than Roger due to bleeding out, and ends up leading the zombies up to the survivors hideout before he's also euthanized by Peter.

"Where is Flyboy?"


Video Example(s):


Dawn of the Dead

"The Gonk" has gone into the geek reference pool, even being clucked by chickens as the ending theme to Robot Chicken.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / SoundtrackDissonance

Media sources: