Dawn of the Dead (1978)

USA, Italy,
113m 40s (Netherlands video – European Cut), 115m (France), 118m (West Germany), 119m (Italy), 120m (Italy video), 120m 8s (UK video – Entertainment in Video), 120m 14s (UK video – Intervision), 125m 25s (UK – theatrical), 128m (USA), 133m 36s (West Germany video – Director's Cut), 140m (Director's Cut)
35mm film, Technicolor, 1.66:1 [negative ratio], 1.85:1 [intended ratio]
mono, English

An American/Italian horror film by George A. Romero, the second of series his zombie films that began with Night of the Living Dead (1968).

Plot Summary

The world is in chaos as the dead continue to rise from their graves and devour the living. As civilisation crumbles, two officers, a helicopter pilot and his pregnant girlfriend secure themselves in a massive shopping mall and try to create a new life for themselves as the undead mass outside and a gang of rides in looking for kicks…

Credits

Crew
Directed by: George A. Romero
© 1978 Dawn Associates
Herbert R. Steinman and Billy Baxter present a Laurel Group production in association with Claudio Argento & Alfredo Cuomo
Produced by: Richard P. Rubinstein
Written by: George A. Romero, Dario Argento [uncredited]
Dialogue Adaptation [Italian Version]: Alberto Piferi
Script Consultant: Dario Argento
Director of Photography: Michael Gornick
Editor: George A. Romero
Original Sound Track: The Goblins with Dario Argento
Music for Director's Cut: George A. Romero
Sound: Tony Buba
Costume Designer: Josie Caruso
Make Up and Cosmetic Special Effects: Tom Savini
Hair Stylist: Hairtique
Sets: Production Coordinators

Cast
David Emge (Stephen [Andrews])
Ken Foree (Peter [Washington])
Scott H. Reiniger (Roger [DeMarco])
Gaylen Ross (Francine [Parker])
David Crawford (Dr Foster)
David Early (Mr Berman)
Richard France (scientist [Dr Milliard Rausch])
Howard Smith (TV commentator)
Daniel Dietrich (Givens)
Fred Baker (commander)
Jim Baffico (Wooley)
Rod Stouffer (young officer on roof)
Jese Del Gre (old priest)
Clayton McKinnon, John Rice (officers in project apt.)
Ted Bank, Patrick McCloskey, Randy Kovitz, Joe Pilato (officers at police dock)
Pasquale Buba, Tom Savini [biker gang member armed with blades], Tony Buba, Marty Schiff, “Butchie”, Joe Shelby, Dave Hawkins, Taso Stavrakos [biker gang member wielding sledgehammer], Tom Kapusta, Nick Tallo, Rudy Ricci [biker gang member operating radio], Larry Vaira (motorcycle raiders)
Sharon Ceccatti [zombie nurse], Pam Chatfield, Mike Christopher, Clayton Hill [zombie who picks up Roger's machine ], Jay Stover (lead )

Alternative Titles

Dawn of the Living Dead
In de greep van de zombies
– Netherlands
Swit umarlych – Poland
Zombi – Italy
Zombie – Germany
Zombie – Das Original – Germany
Zombie – Dawn of the Dead – Germany
Zombie – Le crépuscule des morts-vivants – France
Zombies – UK
Zombies – Dawn of the Dead – UK
Zombies im Kaufhaus – Germany (video)

Sequel to
Night of the Living Dead (1968)


Day of the Dead (1985)
Land of the Dead (2005)
Diary of the Dead (2007)
Survival of the Dead (2009)

Remake
Dawn of the Dead (2004)

See also
Children of the Living Dead (2001)
Death Walks (2016)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Zombi 2 (1979)

Before his death in July 2017 Romero was said to have been planning a further instalment for television, Empire of the Dead, based on his comic book series of the same name 1http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/george-a-romero-empire-of-the-dead-tv-series-1201502364/ Cannes: George A. Romero's ‘Empire of the Dead' Set for TV Series by Dave McNary, published by Variety‘s website on 21 May 2015]

Production Notes

Censorship
The UK theatrical release was cut by the BBFC, who initially demanded over 10 minutes of cuts to the 199 minute European Cut. The distributors, Target, decided to resubmit the film, but this time they offered the 128 minute US cut and James Ferman, then head of the BBFC, felt that in this version, there was clearer rationale for all the violence and called for just 3 minutes of cuts. The Entertainment in Video release was subjected to a further 12 seconds of cuts. The cuts were:

  • A shot of a head exploding during the SWAT team's raid on the tenement building.
  • A zombie biting a woman's shoulder, also from the tenement building scene.
  • A shot of the zombie eating an arm in the basement.
  • Roger using a screwdriver to kill a zombie in the shopping mall.
  • Roger shooting a zombie hanging from the back of the car.
  • A through-the-rifle-sights shot of a zombie being shot in the head.
  • Tom Savini's character using a machete on the zombie that has knocked him of his motorcycle.
  • Savini again, this time using a knife on a zombie's neck.
  • Two close-ups of the death of the biker on the blood pressure machine
  • 19 shots removed from a scene where a biker has his intestines removed
  • Part of the sequence in which Stephen is killed in the elevator

When this already heavily cut version was submitted again, this time for release on video by Entertainment in Video in the mid-80s, a few more cuts were made to the following scenes:

  • A few frames were trimmed from the shooting of a female zombie in the tenement building
  • A male zombie biting a woman's arm from the same sequence
  • A few frames were snipped from a shot of a female zombie being shot in the shopping mall
  • The close-up of blood spattering over Roger's face in the truck was removed
  • Several shots of zombies being killed during the operation to retrieve the trucks
  • A close-up of a zombie jabbing its fingers into the wound on Roger's leg and the subsequent killing of that same zombie
  • A shot of a zombie being shot in the head as the bikers begin their invasion of the mall

A television broadcast, supposedly of the “Director's Cut”, removed the sequence where Peter shoots the zombie children in the heliport offices, also missing from US R-rated versions.

Press

1979
The Hollywood Reporter vol.255 no.25 (21 February 1979) p.15
Vaguely derived from the earlier, taut low-budgeter, Night of the Living Dead, this glossier version comes up short on any kind of tension of [sic] suspense. The script is puerile, direction flaccid, and the cast flounders in a morass from which their fledgling skills cannot rescue either them or us […] The director's repertoire of chills consists of nothing more than showing us, over and over again, the explosive energy of high powered bullets on decaying flesh. Of the zombies, one of the cast remarks ‘Why do they keep coming back?' Filmgoers may find themselves asking the same question. – from a review by David Wisely

Variety 18 April 1979 p.22
George Romero, the Russ Meyer of the horror-gore genre, has come up with a continuation of his 1968 Night of the Living Dead click [sic] that, while lacking in redeeming esthetic [sic] value, leaps for the viscera at every turn […] While it lacks the genuinely scarifying wallop of Night, Dawn pummels the viewer with a series of ever-more-grisly events […] that make Romero's special effects man, Tom Savini, the real ‘star' of the film. That's fortunate since the actors are as woodenly uninteresting as the characters they play. Romero's strong suit is pacing and technical fluidity. His film has a keen visual sense that tersely extracts the maximum from all the blood-letting. Romero's script, however, is banal when not incoherent – those who haven't seen Night may have some difficulty deciphering exactly what's going on at the outset of Dawn. There's virtually no plot or character development. But the audience for which Dawn is best designed is not likely to dwell on such niceties. To his credit, Romero professes no pretention to “art” on his film's behalf. He declares he set out to make a “straight ahead” horror outing. On that less lofty scale, Dawn of the Dead is for the most part successful. Romero introduces the mayhem at key points when the story line and dialog threaten tedium. His sense of visual balance – which directors of more heralded films could well use – salvages the pic […] Romero uses the shopping centre confinement to make semi-telling points about materialistic drives amidst life-threatening chaos. Point is made indirectly: mayhem is centre stage throughout.” – from a review by Sege

Film Bulletin vol.48 no.3/4 (May/June 1979)
Cartoon-simple story relies on fast-paced action, violence and black humor. Gory, but bizarre humour makes it play much lighter than it sounds, almost a parody of the horror genre. Writer-director-editor Romero's production is abetted by good cinematography and effective (and grisly) make-up and special effects. – from a review by Bartholomew

Films in Review vol.30 no.5 (May 1979) pp.309-310
It is quite possible that Dawn is the bloodiest and goriest motion picture in history and there is no doubt that it excels in violence. However it happens to be marvelously directed, very well photographed, and competently acted. There are occasional difficulties with editing, music and continuity, but overall it should do well at the box office […] Dawn of the Dead is a top-notch horror film that happens to terribly bloody and violent. The occurances [sic], although exaggerated, are semi-plausible, and the players react to them in a fairly believable manner. The greatest deterrent to viewer enjoyment is the length of the story – largely so that they could shock us with a plethora of blood-red special effects. The entry is an open-ended one, and a sequel looks evident. For horror lovers, this one should not be missed. However, easily excitable folk should certainly avoid it. – from a review by Tom Rogers

Take One vol.7 no.6 (May 1979) pp.17-18
Dawn of the Dead goes well beyond the psychological implications of its predecessor to explore the metaphoric reverberations of full-blown cultural satire. It is no less frightening as a result […] Dawn of the Dead looks like the kind of film that could do for our time what Psycho and The Wild Bunch did for theirs; to make moviegoers squirm by confronting, attacking and challenging our basic assumptions until our perceptions of the movies have been altered forever. – from a review by Ed Lowry and Louis Black

US 29 May 1979
Some people think George Romero's Dawn of the Dead is one of the most important films of the year; others say it's one of the most depraved. Oddly enough, both sides may be right. With its roots firmly planted in the horror genre, Dawn, Romero's sequel to his cult classic, Night of the Living Dead, transcends any other horror film I've ever seen. And it does so in a disturbingly commonplace setting […] Dawn is much more than an early morning sequel. While Romero shot Night in a grainy, realistic black-and-white style, Dawn is elegantly photographed in color. Romero has also made chillingly effective use of special effects – grotesque shootings, savage hackings and gruesome dinners of human flesh. It is too early to tell how general audiences will react to the film, but the first returns indicate that it's a “crossover” movie, opening to the usual crowds of horror-flick fans and then attracting more serious moviegoers. The verdict is mixed; Is the film a scathing social satire or a wallowing in violence and depravity ? This debate alone is what makes Dawn of the Dead an extraordinary film – hard to take, impossible to forget.” – from an illustrated review (Movies: ‘Dawn of the Dead': A shocking horror show) by Roger Ebert

The Observer 18 November 1979
Zombies […] simply tricks his own Night of the Living Dead with acres of pointless, excruciatingly repetitive violence, in the process dissipating the stark minatory chill of the earlier film. – from a review by Tom Milne

Movietone News no.62-63 (29 December 1979)
The power of Dawn of the Dead lies in its surrounding its audience utterly with orgiastic violence, so that the viewer, too, is tainted, drawn into the madness that comes inevitably with so complete a change in the moral and physical order of things… Dawn of the Dead has been accused of being nothing more than an irreverent, sensationalistic gorefest; it is certainly that, but it is also a worthy successor to Night of the Living Dead. – from a review by Robert C. Cunbow

1980
Starburst no.18 (1980) pp.10-12
The endless scenes of violence and horror have a cumulative effect that can penetrate the sensibilities of the most blasé of viewers and leave them emotionally drained. That the film manages to do this despite the obvious cynicism with which Romero treats both his material and his audience demonstrates his growing skill as a film maker. This cynicism is evident not only in the exaggerated heapings of blood and gore but also in the heavy-handed satire and humour that permeates the film. The walking dead are obviously meant to stand as a metaphor for the mindless American masses (which presumably includes the film's audience) and as the setting for all this mayhem Romero has significantly chosen a huge, ultra-modern shopping mall […] But though on one level Zombies works as a black comedy (very black) it also works as a true horror film. Romero judges his shocks and horrific set-pieces with all the skill of a veteran, which he is now, and there a number of sequences that are truly memorable […] Looked at on a purely technical level, Zombies, despite a relatively low budget, is quite an achievement. Apart from the added colour it is a much slicker production than Night of the Living Dead which, by comparison, was little more than a feature-length amateur film. Romero's decision to set the film in a giant shopping mall was a stroke of genius – not only does it serve as a disturbingly incongruous setting for a nightmare, which reinforces the nightmare element, but its cavernous halls filled with luxury goods automatically adds to the picture's production values […] Romero has made a successful three-pronged attack on three major American obsessions – guns, gore and goodies – while making a classic horror film at the same time. In a sense, he's made the ultimate ‘American' movie.” – from a review by John Brosnan

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.47 no.553 (February 1980) p.33
Romero has described how his involvement with the ‘living dead' (inspired by Richard Matheson's I Am Legend) was always conceived in terms of a trilogy, an evolving allegory about revolutionary change overtaking society as we know it. In this schema, Night of the Living Dead shows the authorities shaken but apparently able to contain the threat; Dawn of the Dead depicts a stage of breakdown when the outcome is in doubt […] Romero […] not only [makes] too much of a good thing out of the parallel between consumerism and zombie-ism, but finally to force his characters to fight to the death with a marauding motorcycle gang for this temple of capitalism. Since the narrative reins (and the budget restraints) of Night of the Living Dead were loosened, as it were, Romero's films have increasingly veered between ill-defined ambition and some extraordinary passages of film-making. Dawn of the Dead never convinces for a moment that its socio-political speculations have any teeth, but like The Crazies and Martin, it is filled with individual scenes and details which do. The attack on the Puerto Rican ghetto at the beginning, for example, is staged and cut in exemplary fashion. But even more, the relationships between the four survivors, as they go about setting up house in the mall, retain an edge of the unpredictable, of half-expressed resentments and fears, that is not entirely dependent on the danger from without. Despite Romero's declared sympathy for his zombies – representatives of the underprivileged everywhere, about to get their own back – it is the human characterisations which hold this shambling, over-long film together. In the event, it is hard to imagine what Romero could make of a world in which the zombies completely hold sway” – from a review by Richard Combs

Now 7 March 1980
This lengthy, ramshackle account of the living-dead overturning American institutions – being shown to strong-nerved Midlanders before coming to London – is his most spectacularly effective film so far. […] [I]t becomes apparent, as our quartet barricades itself off in the hypermarket and begins to live in some luxury, that Romero's real preoccupation is with the consumer society. The zombies consume the living – even a bite from one of them turns the recipient into another ghoul – just as society devours its members. The very unwieldiness of the story's structure unbalances it all into too-simplistic a sermon; the climactic invasion of wild motor-bikers shows a social commentator flailing around in all directions, looking for images to express concern. It is here, too, that Romero's humour about it all reaches almost self-destructive proportions. The final battle is between the bikers and the zombies – and with custard pies. Out of control? Of course. But there are still some extraordinary sequences in this remarkable film which entirely fulfil Romero's intentions. They are concerned not so much with his bravura effects, stunting as they are, but with details of human relationships – the nervy atmosphere between the quartet; the appalling, pathetic moment when one man realises that his best friend is becoming a zombie. It is that peculiar brand of melancholy which Romero may find it artistically profitable to tap. – from a review by Tom Hutchinson

The Times Literary Supplement 13 June 1980
Zombies makes no bones about being pulp cinema: “These movies were fun to do, and that's what they are,” declares Romero, who acknowledges the horror comics of the 1950s as one of his chief inspirations. But there are at least two things which make Zombies a film worth looking at more closely. The first is that it realizes – metaphorically – the nightmare of the nuclear age: the end comes. To watch the first half of Zombies is to experience something about terminal existence, partly through a sense of the gradual elimination of all hope, but mainly through the extraordinary power of some of Romero's scenes: the grotesque nest of zombies uncovered in a tenement basement near the start, some writhing ineffectually in an attempt to get out of their makeshift shrouds, others slumped against the walls gnawing bits of people; or the very ordinary appearance of the undead – children, long-haired youths, a nun, a saffron-robed Buddhist convert, a grotesquely fat man in shorts – who wander aimlessly through the shopping centre which used to be “a very important place in their lives.” The second major quality of the film is Romero's apparently casual but in fact assured juggling of stylistic elements. A number of “deeper meanings” haunt the movie: the shopping mall where most of the action takes place somehow implicates materialism in the crisis: a television commentator describes the zombies as being “like us”; a scientist proposes the nuking of major cities as a way of stopping them; the feeling gradually dawns on the viewer that the dead are a lot less unpleasant than the living. Romero negotiates these reefs with a cartoonist's assurance. Having established the horror, he treats the second half of the film in a register at times close to farce, as the zombies shamble around and the living engage in flamboyant heroics to the jaunty sound of the shopping mall's muzak. The movie becomes an animated comic book, with ketchup blood, two-dimensional heroes, and monsters with Vault-of-Horror faces. – from a review by Nick Roddick

Evening News 26 June 1980
Four people barricade themselves in a shopping centre – exciting but would have been better if they had been more interesting. – from a review by Felix Barker

Evening Standard 26 June 1980
It's a disappointment when a horror-master of proven subtlety like George A. Romero comes up with a movie as crude in title and substance as Zombies: Dawn of the Dead […] Romero works best by indirect possibilities, planting the shadow of a doubt, tugging the thread of a supposition, letting us imagine the greater area of horror from the lesser. His recent thriller, Martin, left one in delicious doubt whether you were watching a modern Dracula or a pathological killer, a legend or a casebook. This film is far too incessantly crude and obvious. […] With their shirt-tails outside their pants, white make-up on their faces, and limbs moving like clockwork, they just look like ill-dressed dummies, not zombies. Awful to say it, but it gets boring watching them having bits shot out of them by high-velocity rifles and still coming on. Actually, as one can brush them off one's sleve [sic] with one hand – why waste ammunition? The best features of the movie are the witty ways in which people habitually return after death to the supermarket that's dominated their lives. A lot of shopping marts I've seen in America look like well-lighted morgues. Full marks for ambience: a failure for menace. – from a review (Shadow of a doubt) by Alexander Walker

The Guardian 26 June 1980
[A] kind of sequel to Night of the Living Dead, only pop fantasy rather than brooding nightmare. […] [At the shopping mall], the ghoulish representatives of the ultimate consumer society are attracted as if by instinct, thus giving Romero a splendid allegory upon which to base his mayhem. Unfortunately he mulls over it for much too long, running out of ideas well before the end. He also has a B-movie cast and chooses a deliberately jokey style which, if you are not inclined to laugh at it, just sledgehammers away. It looks like a film made by a true professional standing about a mile and a half away from his material. This may be the trick in the horror genre but, whatever the box-office figures, it bores me rigid. The third part of the trilogy is said to be Zombies in the White House. Ah, back to good old realism again… – from a review by Derek Malcolm

The Daily Mail 27 June 1980
I recommend George A. Romero's latest and highly inventive horror movie. […] Romero makes splendid use of his setting, achieving a weird kind of cinematic poetry in this affluent, antiseptic world of piped music, playing fountains and consumer displays. In the end the film doesn't really have anywhere to go. But it takes a novel and salutary route not getting there, reminding us that the crunch, when it comes, brings out the beast in the best of us. – from a review by Margaret Hinxman

The Financial Times 27 June 1980
If we must have celluloid lunacy, let it be soaring pulp rather than nose-diving pretension. […] Zombies – Dawn of the Dead belongs firmly in the first category […] Romero here plays a punk variation on his cult classic of twelve years ago Night of the Living Dead. Where that was sombrely [sic] spine-chilling in Gothic black-and-white, this is garishly ghoulish in glorious Technicolor. It's a rude joke at horror movies with a slapstick ferocity all its own. One moment you giggle nervously as the massed zombies break into an impromptu dance spurred on by a surge of supermarket muzak, the next you gasp and wince as a hapless human, dodging through the consumer maze, has a stray limb caught by a straying ghoul. It's a Sunday Painter's horror film, dilettante but diamond-sharp. Its brightest merit is the jokes it plays with the everyday: a car's windscreen-wipers suddenly smearing blood not water, an ex-Hari Krishna zombie with shaven head and pebble glasses and that enduring look of rapt other-worldliness. For all its violence and plentiful spraying of ketchup, Romero's film is never dumbly catchpenny. It spins us on a corkscrew ride through comedy, satire, tension and horror, it's wit always two strides ahead of its bloodlust. – from a review by Nigel Andrews

The New Statesman 27 June 1980
George A. Romero has his adherents, of whom I am not one. Zombies – Dawn of the Dead has Pennsylvania swarming with flesh-eating corpses, only Mr Romero knows why. […] There are a few goodish jokes about consumerism, but I have supped full enough of the other sort of consumer horrors, which anyway go on for far too long. If one really needed a parallel for all those zombies, one might do worse than look at the cinema queues already forming: sorry. – from a review by John Coleman

The Times 27 June 1980
The conventions of the first film have been abandoned in favour of a joshing tone and what Romero has called “fantasy violence”, relentlessly graphic, essentially unreal Technicolor gore to which one can only react with knowing rather than nervous laughter. […] [T]he zombies […] are not so much infernal aliens – cousins to the pod people of Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers – as dark reflections of their human originals. (This, at least, is Romero's stated view of his simulacra.) Apart from a bravura opening sequence, in which the police attempt to make some head-way in a ghetto building alive with zombies, and the odd moment of lugubrious humour, Zombies remains a notably routine entertainment, a monument less to Romero himself than to Tom Savini, the cosmetics special-effects man. The director's 1977 film Martin, released in Britain last, year seems – in retrospect, with its haunting theme of a “vampirish” adolescent youth, disconsolately wandering in the bleak environs of Romero's Pittsburgh, unsure of his identity and boxed by the weight of a bloody family tradition, a far more resonant commentary on the psychological state of the nation than this repetitive exercise in horrors. – from a review by John Pym

Daily Express 28 June 1980
[O]ne of the most intriguing, terrifying horror films I've seen in years. […] There is enough nerve-racking horror in the film to make the squeamish wince as the monsters in human shape lunch off the living. But the story also serve as a metaphor for the desperate, soulless nature of the acquisitive society. […] George A Romero strikes a nice balance between violence, terror and humour, directing the proceedings with never a wasted frame. I recommend it unreservedly. – from a review by Ian Christie

News of the World 29 June 1980
It's the chiller of the year. – from a review by John Pym

The Observer 29 June 1980
Cinematically speaking at least, George Romero's Zombies – Dawn of the Dead […] trips along more gracefully than Nijinsky, while spinning a tale of terror that spreads more gore than you would see in a week spent working in a blood-doning centre by day and moonlighting at an abattoir. […] There's some black humour; here, an attempt at social satire, and Romero certainly knows how to elicit a gut response of an exhilarating or emetic kind. But the film is too long, wearily repetitive, and lacks the sad ambiguities he worked into his last movie, Martin. The relatively wide release of Zombies is explicable, if not very encouraging. Romero is an interesting moviemaker with a cult following. – from a review by Philip French

Films and Filming vol.26 no.9 (June 1980) pp.26, 27
George Romero has done it again… As Swift was merciless with his pen in exposing in close up all the madness, greed and corruption of the people of his own times, Romero uses his camera to explore what he sees as the fatal flaws in common humanity – only it's not human any more… It's a horrifying picture in every sense, with the power to perpetuate through the eye of the camera far more physically revolting scenes of decay, violence and mayhem than Swift with his written word, and as Romero has elected to tell his story along the lines of the horror comic it has an added dimension of nausea with which to belabour the mind of the beholder… Romero has, indeed, done it again – more than ever, and quite brilliantly, but believing as I do that too much explicit violence in the cinema degrades and carries its own dangers when it goes far beyond the effects that bring catharsis, I can only plead for mercy in the future and hope that the third – The Day – in the zombie trilogy may carry some kind of constructive hope. Nihilism can be an awfully depressing bedfellow – always supposing one can face sleep after this movie. – from a review by Eric Braun

The Listener vol.104 no.2668 (3 July 1980) p.30
It is put together […] with such stunning skill that I began to not care that I at first thought it disgusting, nor that I felt at the start that it was feeding that appetite it pretended to deplore. Whether you think of Romero as pretentious or exploitative, the story of the dead, reanimated but unsentient, walking the earth and feeding off the living has a certain resonance. – from a review by Gavin Millar

The Spectator 5 July 1980
George Romero's Zombies: Dawn of the Dead continues that director's tradition of implausible but entertaining horror. Romero specialises in panic and obsession, in orchestrating a general mayhem which pushes everyone to the edge of hysteria. Night of the Living Dead became something of a ‘cult film', principally because it was shot on a low budget, employed exotic camera angles and an apparently amateur cast; it captivated campus audiences with its picture of an America held fast in the grip of corpses who refused to die. It was, you might say, a metaphor of its time. In Zombies, the dead walk again; but, on this occasion, Romero has a larger budget and has transformed the bare formula into a
slick, fast and often very funny picture. […] It is a mixture of cheap gore and some interesting sidelights on the American psyche. But nothing here is to be taken very seriously; Romero hardly even bothers to frighten his audience. – from a review by Peter Ackroyd

Sunday Express 29 June 1980
[U]ltimately […] a tedious allegory of American hysteria in the face of crisis. – from a review by Richard Barkley

Sunday Telegraph 29 June 1980
Some will say that Mr Romero is here making a plangent statement about the zombie-like state into which the opinion-makers of the consumer society would like to lull us. Some will report that what Mr Romero is really up to is the making of a quick and bloody buck. – from a review (Blood money) by David Castell

The Sunday Times 29 June 1980
George Romero's Zombies – Dawn of the Dead […] will seem to some a callous celebration of the killer instinct […] But it is not necessary to swallow uncritically the hints dropped by the director that he is mounting a satirical allegory about consumer society to respond to the sheer brilliance of his thriller technique and recognise this as one of the most gut-gripping fantasies of apocalyptic horror in recent years. The central situation, as the quarter barricade themselves in a luxury shopping centre, multi-millionaire Crusoes, or perhaps Prosperos, castaway on a suburban isle of Arabian Nights delights, revives a childhood dream of almost all of us. And Romero craftily paces the action, alternating idyllic sessions of high-life indulgence with commando raids into the besieging hordes, climaxing in a pitched battle with a marauding army of Hells Angels, so that we too never quite relax. Zombies is open to a variety of interpretations but in the end the eyes have it. It is a picture which keeps the pupils popping. – from a review by Alan Brien

Catholic Herald 11 July 1980
[A] plausible notion of Hell as an over-crowded supermarket. – from a review by Freda Bruce Lockhart

The Western Mail 6 December 1980
It is never clear why these events are happening, and the director shows no interest in the logic of how: the Zombies' culinary habits, if actually carried out would deprive them of new recruits. […] This being American mainstream cinema, the woman needs rescuing a couple of times before she is allowed any independence or say. She is also pregnant, but this stops neither her nor her shop assistants from trying to smoke themselves to death with cigarettes before the Zombies get them. Perhaps that is an example of Romero's veiled, satirical humour, which peeps out above the gore, as when a Zombified Hari Krishna pursues the living with all the persistent zeal of his real-life counterparts. With some inspired sequences of directing and editing, and by provoking intelligent questions, Romero lifts Zombies out of the rut of the unimaginative and incompetent lone-maniac-wielding-knife movies which have recently been swamping the screens in the name of horror. – from an illustrated review by Paul Jackson

1981
Film Directions vol.4 no.15 (1981)
Romero has the ability to shun unessential dialogue in favour of action and shock sequences. The resultant flow effectively sustains audience attention and miraculously disguises over two hours of film as a much shorter period of time. This, and editing, prepare us for each shock sequence so effectively that we arrive like the proverbial ‘flowers ready for picking…' Romero proves time and time again (that he has) a talent well refined and clinically executed by a master surgeon who likes to quicken your pulse rate. – from a review by Leslie Stannage

1989
New Musical Express 30 September 1989 p.38
George Romero's follow-up to Night of the Living Dead has been called a sustained critique of modern day consumer culture. Which makes it more vital than ever, a flesh creeping treat for those who like a lot of thought to spice their gore. – from a review (Video reviews by Stuart Maconie)

1997
Time Out 29 January-5 February 1997
There aren't many films which constitute an entire genre in their own right, but George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1979), the second of his zombie trilogy which began with Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and culminated with Day of the Dead in 1985, has a fair claim as the first and (thus far) only shopping-and-slaughter movie. […] The unexpected pathos and humour apart, Dawn of the Dead is just as bloody as you'd expect a 1970s zombie film to be. There is a certain grim logic to the way the living dead have colonised the world. […] Certainly not for the squeamish, Dawn of the Dead is nonetheless a wonderfully exuberant, carnivalesque satire. It even features a bizarre, western-style shootout at the end, when a gang of marauding hell's angels invade the mall on their bikes. (Bizarrely, most viewers end up siding with the zombies against them.) Are you likely to be offended or warped by the violence? Romero thinks not. As he told a journalist on the movie's release, it is ‘fantasy, just a texture. You come to accept it like the violence in “San Antonio” with Errol Flynn, where the gun battles go on for 30 minutes. It doesn't have the effect of the violence in, say, “Taxi Driver“, where we're watching a real person getting his hands on a gun and we go through the whole range of emotions of what it means to have that power and think about killing someone. That's where I draw the difference.' – from an illustrated review (Cinefile: Shop till you drop dead) by Geoffrey Macnab)

1999
Empire no.126 (December 1999) p.160
Surmounting with consummate ease that “Difficult second walking dead movie” problem, George A. Romero here equals, maybe surpasses, Night of the Living Dead with a bleak, pessimistic allegory of modern consumer society. Oh, and oodles of the red stuff […] Grim, gruelling but beautifully shot, this is intelligent, sophisticated horror. – from a review by Adam Smith

References

Periodicals

  • Cinefantastique vol.8 no.1 (Winter 1978) pp.32-33 – illustrated production notes (Coming Dawn of the Dead by David Bartholomew)
  • Cinefantastique vol.8 no.4 (Summer 1979) pp.21-22 – review (by Mark Lambert)
  • The Dark Side no.47 (July 1995) pp.23-25 – illustrated article (by Brad Stevens)
  • Empire no.126 (December 1999) p.160 – DVD review (by Adam Smith)
  • Empire no.168 (June 2003) p.143 – DVD review
  • Fangoria no.185 (August 1999) p.57 – DVD review (by Michael Gingold)
  • Film and Philosophy vol.3 (1996) pp.138-144 – article (From Night to Day – Nihilism and the Walking Dead by John A. Marmysz)
  • Film Bulletin vol.48 no.3/4 (May/June 1979) – review (by Bartholomew)
  • Film Directions vol.4 no.15 (1981) pp.29-30 – review (by Leslie Stannage)
  • Film Review May 1997 p.60 – illustrated short article (Film Fax Your Questions Answered by James Cameron Wilson)
  • Films and Filming vol.26 no.9 (June 1980) pp.26-27 – illustrated review (by Eric Braun)
  • Films in Review vol.30 no.5 (May 1979) pp.309-310 – review (by Tom Rogers)
  • Films in Review no.36 no.12 (December 1985) pp.600-601 – article (The Movie's the Thing Good Acting in Horror Films) by Jeff Smith
  • Films in Review vol.41 no.10 (October 1990) pp.469-476 – illustrated article (Document of the Dead by Roy Frumkes)
  • Flesh and Blood no.9 p.59 – credits, review
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.255 no.25 (21 February 1979) p.15 – review (by Donald Wisely)
  • The Listener vol.104 no.2668 (3 July 1980) p.30 – review (by Gavin Millar)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.47 no.553 (February 1980) p.33 – credits, synopsis, review (by Richard Combs)
  • Movietone News no.62-63 (29 December 1979) pp.33-34 – review (by Robert C. Cunbow)
  • New Musical Express 30 September 1989 p.38 – review (Video reviews by Stuart Maconie)
  • The New Statesman 27 June 1980 – review (by John Coleman)
  • Now 7 March 1980 – illustrated review (by Tom Hutchinson)
  • Rivista del Cinematografo vol.8 no.1 (Winter 1978) p.465 – credits
  • Rolling Stone 23 March 1978 – illustrated article (When there's no more room in Hell… The Dead Will Walk the Earth by Chet Flippo)
  • Scream no.51 (November/December 2018) pp.6-12 – illustrated article (Dawn of the Dead: 40 years of Romero's zombies! by Jon Towlson
  • Screen International no.226 (2-9 February 1980) p.4 – note (Films for registration)
  • Screen International no.232 (15 March 1980) pp.14; 16 – credits, review (The new films by Marjorie Bilbow); illustrated note (UK provincial box office by Chris Brown)
  • Screen International no.248 (5-12 July 1980) p.2 – note (London box office: ‘Zombies' on the loose)
  • Screen International no.249 (12-19 July 1980) p.1 – note (London's top ten)
  • Screen International no.251 (26 July-2 August 1980) p.16 – note (UK provincial box office: A taste of horror by Chris Brown)
  • Screen International no.252 (2-9 August 1980) p.20 – note (UK provincial box office: Reissues in favour by Chris Brown)
  • Sight & Sound vol.3 no.4 (April 1993) pp.30-31 – illustrated article (No particular place to go by Steve Beard)
  • The Spectator 5 July 1980 – review (by Peter Ackroyd)
  • The Spectator vol.22 no.2 (Autumn 2002) pp.69-77 – illustrated article (Reviving the dead in Southwestern PA Zombie capitalism by Shannon Mader)
  • Starburst no.18 (1980) pp.10-12 – illustrated review (by John Brosnan)
  • Starburst no.68 (April 1984) p.46 – credits
  • Take One vol.7 no.6 (May 1979) pp.17-18 – illustrated article (Cinema of Apocalypse by Ed Lowry and Louis Black)
  • Time Out 29 January-5 February 1997 – illustrated review (Cinefile: Shop till you drop dead by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Total Film no.108 (November 2005) pp.90-94, 96-98, 100 – illustrated article (The 50 Greatest Horror Movies of All Time by Jonathan Crocker, Jonathan Dean, Mark Dinning, Kevin Harley, Philip Kemp, Matthew Leyland, Andy Lowe, Nev Pierce, Mark Salisbury, Neil Smith and Ceri Thomas, edited by Jamie Graham)
  • US 29 May 1979 – illustrated review (Movies: ‘Dawn of the Dead': A shocking horror show by Roger Ebert)
  • Variety 20 September 1978 p.37 – note (‘Zombie' holds B.O. Lead in Italy; ‘Swarm', ‘Fever', ‘Heidi' strong)
  • Variety 28 March 1979 p.43 – note (‘Zombie' $265,103 Tops Tokyo B.O.)
  • Variety 18 April 1979 p.22 – credits, review (by Sege)
  • Variety 29 November 1979 p.40 – article (Creative Co-Prod/ Test Pays Off For Filmmakers Romero, Argento by Hank Werba)
  • Video Watchdog no.54 (1999) pp.22-34 – illustrated DVD and video review
  • Village Voice 23 April 1979 pp.1, 44-46 – illustrated article (Knight of the Living Dead: George Romero's Breakthrough Sequel by Tom Allen)

Newspapers

  • Catholic Herald 11 July 1980 – review (by Freda Bruce Lockhart)
  • Daily Express 28 June 1980 – review (by Ian Christie)
  • The Daily Mail 27 June 1980 – review (by Margaret Hinxman)
  • Evening News 26 June 1980 – review (by Felix Barker)
  • Evening Standard 26 June 1980 – review (Shadow of a doubt by Alexander Walker)
  • The Financial Times 27 June 1980 – review (by Nigel Andrews)
  • The Guardian 26 June 1980 – review (by Derek Malcolm)
  • New York Times 20 April 1979 Section III p.14 – review (by Janet Maslin)
  • News of the World 29 June 1980 – review (by John Pym)
  • The Observer 18 November 1979 – review (by Tom Milne)
  • The Observer 29 June 1980 – review (by Philip French)
  • Sunday Express 29 June 1980 – review (by Richard Barkley)
  • Sunday Telegraph 29 June 1980 – review (Blood money by David Castell)
  • The Sunday Times 29 June 1980 – review (by Alan Brien)
  • The Times 27 June 1980 – review (by John Pym)
  • The Times Literary Supplement 13 June 1980 – review (by Nick Roddick)
  • The Western Mail 6 December 1980 – illustrated review (On a spree – with zombies by Paul Jackson)

Books

  • Art of Darkness pp. 290; 299 – credits; video data
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.335
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) pp.340; 341
  • Back from the Dead: Remakes of the Romero Zombie Films a Markers of Their Times by Kevin J. Wetmore Jr pp.121-135 – article
  • The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Living Dead by Tony Williams pp.90-104; 273 – article; credits
  • Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Back by John Stanley p.95 – credits, short review
  • A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series by Ken Hanke pp.239-241; 242-243
  • Educational Institutions in Horror Film: A History of Mad Professors, Student Bodies, and Final Exams by Andrew L. Grunzke pp.94, 130
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.286, 299, 301, 302, 306,
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.366, 368
  • Film Review 1981-1982 by F. Maurice Speed p.171
  • Grande Illusions by Tom Savini – illustrated article
  • Hoffman's Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.91 – credits, short review
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis pp.81-82
  • Horror Films by Subgenre: A Viewer's Guide by Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay pp.116-117
  • Horror Films of the 1970s by John Kenneth Muir pp.590-595  – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Introduction to Japanese Horror Film by Colette Balmain pp.114-116, 120-121
  • Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.85
  • The Pocket Essential: George A. Romero by Tom Fallows and Curtis Owen pp.51-58 – article
  • Science Fiction Films of the Seventies by Craig W. Anderson pp.211-216
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester pp.348-349
  • Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed.) pp.97, 134, 187
  • The World of Fantasy Films by Richard Myers p.32
  • Zombie by Allan Bryce (ed) pp.28-39; 41-47 – illustrated article (‘Shoot 'em in the head!: George A. Romero – the Dead movies by Allan Bryce); illustrated article (Tom Savini – Sultan of splatter by Allan Bryce)
  • The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia by Peter Dendle pp.42-44