Tag Archives: zombie

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead

Format: Cinema

Screening as part of The Colour of Money

Screening date:
14 September 2015

Venue: Barbican

Director: George A. Romero

Writer: George A. Romero

Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger

USA 1978

127 mins

As of writing, George A. Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead is just three years shy of its 40th birthday, and its influence on the zombie sub-genre of horror movies is still as keenly felt now as it was back in 1978. A seminal entry into the horror canon and a hugely important release in terms of independent film distribution, Dawn of the Dead has been pored over, analysed and celebrated so often down the years that any new attempt at a re-evaluation could be considered a fruitless exercise. The middle part of Romero’s original Dead trilogy, preceded by the equally influential Night of the Living Dead (1968) and completed by the sorely under-appreciated Day of the Dead in 1985, Dawn is the trilogy’s Boys Own adventure when compared to Night‘s claustrophobic terror and Day‘s unflinching nihilism. A satirical romp about contemporary life in the era of conspicuous consumption, Dawn uses sledgehammer visual metaphors, a perfect location and countless exploding blood squibs to take potshots at a justly perceived political and spiritual malaise in 70s American society.

Despite being a little creaky in places and boasting some make-up work that hasn’t aged all that well, Dawn is still one of the great film visions of societal breakdown. The media is presented as being beholden to ratings even as the ship is visibly sinking, the general populace fractures off into an every-man-for-himself mentality, and authority figures abandon their posts and head for the hills or, in the case of the film’s quartet of lead characters, the sky in a helicopter. On a relatively small budget and with a star-free cast, Romero’s movie has a palpable sense of the everyday being torn apart by the most fantastical of events. The familiar clashes with the bizarre as tenement blocks, rural gas stations and shopping malls are overrun by the shuffling, flesh-hungry walking dead. The simultaneously creepy and comically absurd nature of the situation is never more apparent than in the hordes of zombies mindlessly stumbling their way around the gigantic Monroeville Mall, a sight as eerie as it is imbued with the potential for slapstick. Romero eventually exploits the latter quality to the hilt, as custard pies are splattered into undead faces along with bullets and machetes.

Putting metaphors and socio-political commentary to one side, Dawn of the Dead is enjoyable simply as a visual spectacle, thanks to the memorably gory and inventive FX work of Tom Savini. The highlight of Savini’s work for Romero may have come seven years later in Day of the Dead, but Dawn is still a gruesome delight for those enamoured with such things as heads explode, flesh is chomped and blood spurts with gleeful, anarchic abandon. Although Romero’s later zombie films – Land, Diary and Survival – have unfortunately been severely lacking in quality, his original trilogy changed the face of the horror genre forever, with Dawn its most accessible centrepiece.

Neil Mitchell

The Battery

The Battery
The Battery

Format: DVD

Release date: 21 July 2014

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Jeremy Gardner

Writer: Jeremy Gardner

Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim

USA 2012

101 mins

It’s not easy to explore genre films nowadays without running into the zombie apocalypse sub-genre: a popular topic for both studio and independent films, the scenario has been explored from almost every angle imaginable. However, Jeremy Gardner’s genuine gem of a movie The Battery manages to inject it with some much needed adrenaline, using its low-budget roots to intelligently revisit the tropes of the sub-genre.

The Battery concerns two ex-baseball players, Ben and Mickey, who find themselves forced to survive together despite their clear character differences. While Ben accepts the apocalypse and tries to adapt, Mickey is adamant in holding on to his old lifestyle – needless to say the two are constantly at odds.

As the two men make their way through a desolate landscape, we learn more about their past as well as the world in which they exist. The Battery is a subtle exploration of the aftermath of a tragedy, and a film inhabited by characters with more than just two dimensions.
To reveal more of the story would be unfair to those venturing into this land for the first time; instead let us say that this clever, exciting film uses the limitations of its budget and production to create a convincing world within which real people commit some very desperate acts.
The music, and the lack of it, play an important part. The film uses its soundtrack cleverly, involving the audience emotionally in ways they might have otherwise missed. The cinematography also deserves applause. Through clever framing and extensive use of natural light the filmmakers are able to conjure up a wholly believable apocalypse without ever resorting to the sort of post-production work that can prove distracting.

The Battery represents independent, low-budget filmmaking at its absolute best. It’s a film made with care and thought, bringing a hitherto unseen intelligence to a genre fast decaying into familiarity.

Evrim Ersoy

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