Dawn of the Dead (1978 film)
1978 American horror film by George A. Romero
- Many have died, last week, on these streets. In the basement of this building, you will find them. I have given them the last rites, now, you do what you will. You are stronger than us... But soon, I think they be stronger than you. When the dead walk, señores, we must stop the killing... or lose the war.
- Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills! The people it kills get up and kill!
- You're not running a talk show here, Mr. Berman! You can forget pitching an audience the moral bullshit they want to hear!
Dr. Millard RauschEdit
- The normal question, the first question is always, "Are these cannibals?" No, they are not cannibals. Cannibalism in the true sense of the word implies an intraspecies activity. These creatures cannot be considered human. They prey on humans. They do not prey on each other; that's the difference. They attack and they feed only on warm human flesh. Intelligence? Seemingly little or no reasoning ability, but basic skills remain a more... remembered behaviours of ah, normal life. There are reports of these creatures using tools. But even these actions are the most primitive; the use of tools as bludgeons and so forth. I might point out that even animals will adopt the use of tools in this manner. These creatures are nothing but pure, motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept that these are our family members or our friends. They are not. They will not respond to such emotions.
- They MUST be destroyed ON SIGHT!
- We are down to the line, people. DOWN TO THE LINE!
- Dummies. Dummies.
- [after shooting a zombie that almost bit him] You bastards, you bastards! [turning to Peter] We got 'em, didn't we? We got this, man! We got this by the ass!
- Wooley's gone apeshit, man!
- I've seen half-a-dozen guys in my unit get bitten by those things. None of them lasted more than... three days.
- How the Hell come we stick these low-life bastards in these big-ass fancy hotels anyway? Shit, man! This is better than I got!
- We're still pretty close to Johnstown. Those rednecks are probably enjoying this whole thing.
- [sarcastically] I would have made you all coffee and breakfast but I don't have my pots and pans.
- [on a TV set, Dr. Millard Rausch argues with a TV reporter about doomsday scenarios] It's really all over...isn't it?
- [to Peter] I see you, chocolate man!
- Say goodbye, creep!
- [over the truck radios]
- Peter: You look my size when you're sitting in the truck.
- Roger: What I wanna know is how we ended up in the same force, what with you being so tall and all.
- Peter: They told me it was a midget force. They needed somebody to look up to!
- [looking at the zombies in the mall]
- Francine: What are they doing? Why do they come here?
- Stephen: Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.
- [hearing the zombies pounding against the shopping mall's glass doors]
- Francine: They're still here.
- Stephen: They're after us. They know we're still in here.
- Peter: They're after the place. They don't know why, they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.
- Francine: What the hell are they?
- Peter: They're us, that's all, when there's no more room in hell.
- Stephen: What?
- Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Voodoo. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."
- [Roger is in bed, slowly dying from a zombie bite]
- Roger: You'll take care of me when I go, won't you, Peter?
- Peter: Rest, man. Save your strength.
- Roger: I don't want to be walkin' around... like THAT!... Peter...
- [Peter is turning away, not ready to cope with the death of his friend]
- Roger: PETER?
- Peter: I'm here, man!
- Roger: Don't do it until you are sure I am coming back! I'm gonna try... not to... I'm gonna try... not to... come back. I'm gonna try... not to...
- [Peter handles a scoped Savage Model 99 rifle]
- Peter: Ain't it a crime.
- Stephen: What?
- Peter: The only person who could miss with this gun is the sucker with the bread to buy it.
- Roger: We've just got to wait a little longer before we move.
- Peter: No, there's always a chance of some of them stayin' up on the balcony.
- Roger: We can handle that; we can break through.
- Peter: If any of them see us, or hear us, they'll just follow us on up. It's no good.
- Roger: We sure as hell can outrun 'em. We can load up what we can and get the hell out.
- Peter: I'm thinkin'...Maybe we've got a good thing going here. Maybe we shouldn't be in such a hurry to leave.
- Roger: Oh, man...
- Peter: If we could get back up there without them catchin' on, we could hole up for a while, at least long enough to catch a breath, check out the radio, see what's happening.
- [while flying in the helicopter]
- Stephen: We've got to find more fuel. Maybe closer to Cleveland.
- Roger: No. We've got to stay out of the big cities. If they're anything like Philly, We may never get out alive.
- Peter: We may never get out of anyplace alive. We almost didn't get out of here.
- Roger: We're gettin' out of here fine. As long as there's not to many of those things around, we can handle them easy.
- Peter: Yeah, well it wasn't one of those things that nearly blew me away.
- Roger: We gotta stay in the sticks! There's bound to be more of those little private airports upstate.
- Stephen: There's the locks along the Allgheny. There's fuel stations there, state and private owned.
- Roger: No, those are probably still manned. We don't need those hassles either.
- Stephen: They're just out after scavengers and looters.
- Peter: Oh, you got papers for this limousine?
- Stephen: I've got GON I.D., and so does Fran.
- Peter: Right, and we're up here doin' traffic reports? Wake up, sucker! We're thieves and we're bad guys. That's exactly what we are. We gotta find our own way.
- Roger: Come on, Martinez.
- Wooley: Yeah, Martinez! Show your greasy little Puerto Rican ass so I can blow it right off!
- [Cocks his gun]
- Wooley: Blow ALL their asses off! Low-life bastards! Blow ALL their low-life Puerto Rican and Nigger asses right off!
- Roger: Aww God! Oh, Jesus Christ!
- Peter: What is it?
- Roger: My bag! I left my goddamn bag in the other truck!
- Peter: [stops driving the truck] All right trooper, you better screw your head on.
- Roger: [hyped tone] Yeah, yeah, yeah, c'mon, c'mon c'mon, let's go!
- Peter: [grabbing him by the collar] I mean it! Now you're not just playin' with your life, you're playin' with mine! Now... are you straight?
- Roger: [subdued tone] Yeah.
- Roger: Peter, where are you?
- Peter: I'm right here, man.
- Roger: Hey, we did it, didn't we? We whipped 'em, didn't we?
- Peter: That's right, man.
- Roger: Didn't we... Didn't we whip 'em?
- Peter: We sure did, buddy. We whipped 'em. We whipped 'em good!
- Roger: [shouting triumphantly] We whipped 'em and we got it ALL!
- [discovering a collection of zombies in the basement of a tenement building]
- Roger: Why did these people keep them here?
- Peter: 'Cause they still believe there's respect in dying.
- [about to run a gauntlet of zombies]
- Roger: Whad'ya think? Bag it or try for it?
- Peter: You game?
- Roger: I need lighter fluid.
- Peter: You got it.
- [removing a can from a Civil Defense carton]
- Francine Parker [dejectedly]: Spam!
- Roger: You bring a can opener?
- Francine: No, I guess I didn't.
- Roger: Then don't knock it, it's got its own key.
- [running through a department store after evading a horde of zombies]
- Roger: Well, we're in, but how the hell are we gonna get back?
- Peter: Who the hell cares! Let's go shopping!
- Roger [looking in a display case]: Watches! Watches!
- Peter: Wait a minute man, let's just get the stuff we need! I'll get a television and a radio.
- Roger: Ooohh, ooohh, lighter fluid! And chocolate! Chocolate!
- [he runs down a clothing aisle]
- Roger: Hey, how about a mink coat!
- Peter: Why not?
- [bikers are looting the mall. One of them grabs a TV set. Another remembers that even the Emergency Broadcast Service has ceased airing.]
- Biker: Hey man, what are you going to watch on that thing?
- Sledge: Aw, rats, man, you're right!
- [Sledge drops TV set and bashes it with a sledgehammer]
- [Police Commander is talking to people holding out in a tenement building via a megaphone. Roger is on the adjacent roof with other SWAT troopers, anticipating the Commander's speech]
- Police Commander: Martinez! The people in this project are your responsibility! We don't want any of them hurt, and neither do you!
- Roger [under his breath]: I'm giving you three minutes, Martinez.
- Police Commander: I'm giving you three minutes, Martinez! Turn over your weapons and surrender!
- Roger: There's no charges against you.
- Police Commander: There are no charges against you or any of your people!
- Roger: Yet.
- Dawn of the Dead is one of the most prophetic and disturbing films you’ll see, and I challenge you to find anyone who can find another film from that era which provides the same level of social commentary.
- A film critic at the New York Times walked out of "Dawn of the Dead" (1979) after the first 15 minutes, complaining of a pet peeve" against zombies.
A film critic at the Dallas Times Herald described the film as "without any doubt the most horrific, brutal, nightmarish descent into Hell ever put on the screen."
A film critic at the Village Voice thinks it's one of the most important films of the year.
They all have a point. "Dawn of the Dead," which opens here Friday, is an ultimate horror film, one that takes traditional images of zombies and ghouls, makes them uncomfortably real, and treats them with a certain poignant humor.
- "Dawn" is a carefully crafted work that shouldn't be confused with run-of-the-mill horror exploitation films. If we can survive the gruesome imagery and see beyond the obligatory scenes of the horror genre, Romero gives us a savagely satiric vision of America that's not easy to forget. This is both a very difficult film and a very good one.
- Some audience members at Dallas complained that the film never offers any rational explanation for the sudden plague of zombies. But of course not. No explanation would be rational, and any explanation would undercut the creepiness of the danger. What the film does do is raise sneaky questions in our minds. It's impossible, for example, to watch the zombies marching through a shopping mall, accompanied by Muzak, and not find a satiric statement on the mildly trance-like state Muzak is supposed to inspire in shoppers. It's disturbing to see images of horror juxtaposed with the gaudy artifacts of a lawn furniture display.
And it's difficult to make up our minds about the endless violence inflicted on the zombies. They are shotgunned, run over, hacked to bits, decapitated by helicopter blades . . . and after a while we notice that our reaction to this mayhem is curiously complex. On the one hand, the violence isn't as disturbing as it would be against "real" human beings: Since the victims are without intelligence or personalities (and, for that matter, are already dead), their fates are less compelling. And yet, at the same time, we feel a sympathy for them: It is not their fault that they're zombies, and their activities aren't deliberately anti-social. It's just in their nature to eat human flesh.
- "With 'Dawn,' I wanted the slick look, I wanted to bring out the nature of the shopping center, the retail displays, the mannequins. There are times when maybe you reflect that the mannequins are more attractive but less real - less sympathetic, even - than the zombies. Put those kinds of images side by side, and you raise all sorts of questions."
- Hill was carrying a Thompson submachine gun as we walked. A retired Air Force officer, he’s the ﬁlm’s weapons coordinator, but he really likes being a zombie.
“This is supposed to be a horror movie,” he said, “but it’s also an action thriller It’s a whiz-bang. We’ve ﬁred thousands of rounds of blanks; every type of weapon available.
“Now, let me tell you about being a zombie, When you go into your zomb, you’re in a fantasy. I go into the role feeling I am the living dead, I can’t focus on things, I can’t get it together. I researched it in books – the wide-open eyes, the clutching hands, the slow movements. Then I made my own zombie. I asked George and he said, ‘Be your own zombie.’ I intend to be the best zombie there ever was. I want people to come away from this movie saying, ‘Wow, he was a good zombie.’ Sharon, the nurse zombie, got into her zomb so heavily the other night, she made herself sick. We’ve got some good zombies. When we were shooting the exteriors and it was zero degrees, there was this 300-pound guy showed up every night in a bathing suit. He said, ‘I’m not cold. I love it.'”
- “Maybe the bad guys win here,” he said, “and I like the switch – but I’m not sure the zombies are the bad guys because we can’t help being zombies. I love zombies.”
- As I listened to the dialogue in the scene in front of Penney’s, I caught one line that began to offer an explanation. The four heroes are trying to figure out what’s going on, and one of them says, “It’s something my granddaddy, who used to practice macumba in Trinidad, told me: ‘When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.'”
“George,” I asked, “where did you get that line?”
He laughed: “I just made that up. Truly. On a drunken night when I was really crashing to ﬁnish the script and I thought that was kind of nice. It was from something Dario Argento [the Italian director of Suspiria, who’s doing the sound effects and score for Dawn] told me. My family is Cuban and Dario said, ‘Well you have a Caribbean background and that’s why you’re into the zombie thing; zombies originated in Haiti.’ I said, well, all right, and I just ﬁgured that’s something a voodoo priest might say. Whee! I’m just having fun, man.”
- I stationed myself in the Pup-A-Go-Go stand and the minute Romero yelled “action” something remarkable happened: my eyes went out of focus, my hands clenched grotesquely, and I developed a lurching gait as I went after that motorcycle. I wanted that food and I almost got it. By the time the scene was shot twice – once with a mannequin that is beheaded – I was our of breath and my pulse was pounding.
- Sharon Ceccatti, the nurse zombie, came up to congratulate me as I caught my breath. “Is it always like this?” I asked. “You bet,” she said. “Most mornings I go home and I shake. I can’t sleep.”
- “This is beginning to feel like Dachau,” a man beside me was saying later as we watched a zombie get his hand – very bloodily – cut off in a door. “This is far beyond Sam Peckinpah.” The man speaking was Gary Zellet, who supplied the weapons for the ﬁlm and handled explosives and breakaway special effects. Among many other projects, he worked on both Godfather ﬁlms. He is one of the few crew members not acting in the ﬁlm. “I didn’t want to,” he said, “this is getting depressing. Twenty gallons of blood used, animal intestines for the zombies to eat – this morning I was eating a corned barf sandwich and somebody said, ‘Hey that’s a prop.’ We use corned beef in some of the artiﬁcial arms. Real amputees volunteered, makes it look real. I’ve rigged over 500 bullet squibs. We kill ’em every possible way, burn ’em, shoot ’em blow their heads off. It’s good there’s some comic relief now and then because this movie runs like a machine gun.
- I mentioned to him that I liked the mall better at night, that the zombies seemed to have more purpose than the shoppers.
“That’s how I got the idea!” he said. “I know the people who own it and I went through the mall, empty, one time and I said, ‘Holy shit! That’s the perfect place for the fulcral episode where we can show the false security of the whole consumer America trip. That’s why this is in color – Night was black and white – because of the mall. So I wrote a little sketch about it and then put it in a drawer while I did some other things I’m really surprised no one else picked up on the idea, because now there are these shopping developments where you can live on top and work and shop down below and never have to leave the building. That’s a trip. In this ﬁlm, the mall becomes the cause. The four heroes get in there to get some Civil Defense water and food and then they rack out and this consumerism, it’s too tempting for them to resist. They arm themselves heavily, they become banditos fighting for all that stuff.”
Are the bikers then supposed to be an antidote for them or are they actually an exaggeration of that; racing through the mall at l00 miles an hour and scooping up color TVs?
“I think they’re the ultimate of what the heroes are becoming, ﬁghting for control of the Mothership. In fact, when they ﬁrst see the raiders, the bikers coming over the hill, Peter takes off his new watch and all his other shit and that’s a ﬂash toward realization. The raiders are consumerism at its extreme and they just storm in there and go bananas and then of course that causes the downfall. But the heroes, even though Roger is dying at that point, he still has his candies and radios and shit … and that’s why they’re so extreme in their garb during the attack scenes, all the crossed gun belts, fighting over microwave ovens, I mean…”
He doubled over with laughter. Romero has a weird slant on the world, to say the least. With Night and Dawn he has filmed some of the most explicit violence imaginable and yet he can argue, convincingly, that it’s detached violence because it’s directed at things rather than people; that the zombies become merely so many insects to be swatted aside. At the same time, he’s starting to make the zombies smarter and more sympathetic because he genuinely likes them. On a set, he resembles a giant, bearded shepherd with his poor dead flock shuffling after him. Sometimes he refers to his zombies as “sharks,” which is a startling but dead-on comparison.
- Despite Romero’s avowal that he’s just making “comic books,” I reminded him, he gets very close to a message when he talks about “human sellouts” and “operatives” versus the “alternate society.”
- “The sellouts,” he ﬁnally continued, “the scientific community is saying, ‘Let’s feed ’em. They’re wasteful. They eat only five percent of a body and then the body’s intact enough to revive and it comes back as a zombie. The government says we should feed them and control that pattern – which seems probably what those cats would do. So if someone has died in your family, cut them into meal-size bits.”
He was roaring with laughter and the businessmen at breakfast around us began throwing odd looks toward our table. George wiped tears of laughter from his eyes and went on: “That’s probably the way it would go. My idea to take it further is to actually have human operatives that are trying to preserve their own kind of operative situation and in fact using the zombies initially, training them to serve their own needs. There are beginnings of that in Dawn. I show a few ﬂashes of intelligence or at least a learning capability in the zombies. If there are human sellouts that first start teaching them to do things so that they become really operative, then it’s over. But that is also what’s happening to us, those kinds of monsters, our corporate monsters that prey on us more as we fear them less. I mean, that’s this whole false security concept of the mall, being funneled into it, the temple to consumerism, the mall. And being perfectly happy, you know, absolutely lulled by it and yet eaten by it like that.”
- A few weeks later, George ﬁnally decided which ending to use (we’re keeping it a secret) and he had worked up a beginning, which had worried him greatly. He was criticized in Night for having a deux ex machina – in that case a radioactive satellite – activate the zombies. Dawn will begin with a TV newscast – with the ﬁlm’s credits over – just announcing that the zombies are out and about. I called him up to suggest that recombinant DNA would be a good cause, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “I want it to be unexplained because the zombies really just come out of to rather than a third party. It just happens.”
- Chet Flippo, "When There’s No Room in Hell: The Dead Will Walk the Earth", Rolling Stone, (March 23, 1978).
- I found that this film actually did something a lot of modern zombie movies fail to do - surprise me; The characters had been so well established that I found myself saying "They won't kill him, he's too important." I felt this emphasized the point Romero himself says he tries to make in most of these films, which is that they are films about people and how they cope in tough situations, not zombies.
- Tom Latham, "Remakes Vs. Originals: Dawn Of The Dead", Tom Latham, Den of Geek, (Sep 15, 2009).