NOTE: This recommendation is based on a cut of the movie about 139 minutes long. At this point I haven’t seen the other cuts, but I want to eventually.
Every Friday I recommend an entertaining, slow-paced movie from no later than 1985 to help you unwind at the end of the week in our fast-paced world.
When I first started to consider this particular film for this week’s recommendation, it took me a very long time to decide whether I wanted to recommend it or not. I’m not usually into movies with a lot of gore, and this film has some incredibly gory moments, but I would say that only a few of them come off as overt shock value, and most of those few are near the end.
Additionally, this movie wrenches you hard back and forth between deeply unsettling and deeply compassionate.
But this movie is definitely worth seeing. It is mostly very entertaining, even for a non-horror movie person like myself, and there is a great deal to think about.
Furthermore, this isn’t most Hollywood—this is a lot more personal. Maybe this week is a good time to give it a shot. No pun intended.
This week’s recommendation is 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead,” the second film in director George A. Romero’s “Dead” series about zombies. No, you don’t need to see the first film, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead,” to appreciate it. But you should check that one out sometime as well if you haven’t already.
“Dawn of the Dead” builds tremendously (and I mean that, tremendously) upon the fascinating themes George A. Romero began to explore in “Night”—borrowed themes, but Romero definitely formed his own out of them—and becomes legitimately outstanding art. It uses its setting to the fullest to explore many incredible themes, albeit at times with George A. Romero’s signature heavy emphasis. But as is also Romero’s custom, he always brings you places you don’t expect, and in “Dawn of the Dead” he takes you on a very large-scale, rich journey across a wide variety of locales, almost like a really good novel—or a really dark Western.
And every single character in this movie has the presence to bring the potential presented by those elements out with flying colors. Everyone is three-dimensional and has their individual journeys, and the actors convey that every moment they are on the screen; and like in all of Romero’s films, this includes the zombies.
Except for the few shocking moments which almost seem to me as though they come from another movie, at the end of the day, you never lose the feeling that this movie really cares about its characters and what is happening. There are stretches of very human and moving scenes between the stretches of horror and suspense. To be sure, most of the movie fills you with immensely profound dread, but there are also moments that just as strongly make you feel almost comfortable and forget the bad stuff and think that maybe things will be all right after all, although you never completely let down your guard.
You are, always, ever hopeful.
The light is just as important as the dark and vice versa (mostly), because this movie is telling a story. And George A. Romero knows the beats, whether through acting or plot, to bring out that story.
You can see why Zack Snyder wanted to remake it.
And that’s a good movie night.
Don’t worry. Next week’s recommendation will be considerably brighter, I promise. But existence has its frightening aspects, and even though “Dawn of the Dead” brings that out very powerfully to think about, it’s just a movie.
After all that, if you still need something retro (or more uplifting!) to satisfy your movie appetite until next week, check out my previous recommendations:
“Alice in Wonderland”
“The Brother from Another Planet”
“Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”
“Planet of the Apes”
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
Let me know what you think of this week’s recommendation and stay tuned!
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