The best horror either subconsciously, or intentionally, has something to say about our times. George A Romero knows this more than most. 1968’s Night Of The Living Dead was powerful, not just for its groundbreaking using of gore and documentary film shooting style, but also using black actor Duane Jones as its central lead.
By 1977’s Dawn of The Dead, Director George A Romero had created the template for the zombie movie and placed a heavy layer of consumerist satire over the top.
For the third his series of “dead” films, he had originally intended a grand 80s action movie on an island. In his own words “theGone with the Wind of zombie films”. But budget constraints, and the wish to get the film released without a US rating, meant that the movie had to be scaled back. To read the original script look here
Romero, influenced with the frustrations of the cold war, stuck a mix of scientists and soldiers in a bunker and created a story about the problems when anger and fear overtake rational thought.
Always loving the goofy sides of horror (this is his film after the comic Creepshow) he also ramped up the satire with Bub. Bub, an intelligent zombie who remembers elements of his old life aggressively nods to those soldiers that follow orders blindly and can, therefore, accidentally lead to the downfall of others.
The film struggled at the US Box Office but was a success internationally and found a wider audience on VHS. It’s popularity was not just down to the Romero name and fun action but the way special effects expert Tom Savini managed to ramp up the gore to new heights. By skipping the US R certificate the film was able to be a machete-wielding, stomach tearing bloody fest of horror, far exceeding Dawn’s impact.
Savini used far more mechanical effects in his work, which led to problems on set. They also give the film some of its most memorable moments. Zombies are no longer just actors in grey make-up but able to reach out to try and catch people with their guts hanging out.
The film also manages to perfect the human villain. Captain Rhodes is the perfect mix of malicious rage and stupidity. Again with Savini’s effects some of his scenes are best.
Romero’s films frequently find an audience after time. Day, and Night were both seen as hugely relevant after mixed reviews and a stint in the wilderness. Most will have only seen it on the the small screen with VHS. So take the chance to see it as it was meant to be seen, in all its gory glory.