Remembering Romero: George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1979)


1428 Elm’s week long celebration of the life and career of George Romero continues with 1979’s ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ Zombies, it’s time to go shopping.

The dead are walking among the living. A director needs to change the world. Horror is about to witness a new dawn.


In the late ’70s, George Romero’s future in filmmaking is in trouble. With his last four pictures failing to generate solid buzz, including the vampire opus, Martin, the filmmaker needs a hit badly. Romero needs to generate profits if he hopes to continue in film. Enter Richard Rubinstein.

First partnering with the “zombie godfather” on Martin, the duo are about to change the face of horror. Along with horror legend Dario Argento, who convinced Romero to make a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, the three embark on a journey leading to greatness. Three men. Two masters. One masterpiece.


George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ — Courtesy of Laurel Group

The film is Dawn of the Dead. With scripting and directing from Romero, the experience is unlike any picture before and since. Starring David EmgeKen Foree and Gaylen Ross, the film continues the digression of Night’s society. As the dead return to kill the living, four survivors find one of those big, indoor malls for protection. But like Romero’s original undead film, humans who are the real threat. Zombie are predictable. But humans? Not so much.

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Telling a cautionary tale of blind consumerism, only with zombies, Dawn is a work of pure genius. While the ghouls are terror personified, they’re a tool for Romero to do stronger storytelling –theme is Dawn of the Dead’s greatest export.

Shockingly, Romero’s script foreshadows the problem with corruptible consumerism. Beginning in ’80s Americana, the idea of buying happiness through material goods still rings today, louder than ever. It blows me away thinking Romero’s brain thought this deeply, naturally. To see malls becoming more prevalent and interpreting them as selling an empty idea, is insane. I’m in awe of Romero and I love him more for it.

Those who question the thematic nature of Dawn of the Dead, I hear you, but the proof is in the cinematic pudding. How Romero shoots the gleeful montage of them enjoying the mall, then cuts to the undead, shows his intentions. Hell, even the way the four talk about the mall and how that moment’s shot says mass consumerism is something to be feared.


The cultural reach of Dawn of the Dead can never fully be quantified. Hundreds of films, comics and TV shows a mirror it’s brilliance. From Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead to AMC’s The Walking Dead, the 1979 classic can be found in modern media. So much so, in fact, the film was remade in by Zack Snyder. Stunningly, the remake is great.

On top of flattery and imitation, Dawn of the Dead is that rare film showing movies are more than passing-time endeavors. The film displays the medium’s true potential, not only in its execution, but in message. It’s a brilliant classic, informing viewers of the hell to come and the dangers of purchasing false happiness. Then again, maybe it’s about Wal-Mart. I mean, have you been in that place lately?

Next: RIP George A. Romero: Remembering the Prince of Pittsburgh

George Romero, may you rest in piece. Thanks for adding depth to horror and causing millions to think while grabbing covers to block the screen. It’s something the horror community can never fully repay.

Love George Romero? Missing the filmmaking legend? Let the rest of the Undead know what you think in the comment section below.