George Romero's 1978 follow-up to his classic Night of the Living Dead is quite terrifying and gory (those zombies do like the taste of living flesh). But in its own way, it is just as comically satiric as the first film in its take on contemporary values. This time, we follow the fortunes of four people who lock themselves inside a shopping mall to get away from the marauding dead and who then immerse themselves in unabashed consumerism, taking what they want from an array of clothing and jewelry shops, making gourmet meals, etc. It is Romero's take on Louis XVI in the modern world: keep the starving masses at bay and crank up the insulated indulgence. Still, this is a horror film when all is said and done, and even some of Romero's best visual jokes (a Hare Krishna turned blue-skinned zombie) can make you sweat. --Tom Keogh
I have to admit: I only recently just saw this film a couple weeks ago. I never bothered to watch it because I saw the 2005 remake upon release and felt that was sufficient. Well, don't make the same mistake I did! Romero's 1978 version is far superior to the 2005 version. Sure, the special fx (the blood looks like red melted crayons!) and the acting isn't quite as good as the 2005 movie. I will freely admit this. But this film is much more creative in its use of the mall as a setting than the remake.
The remake used the shopping mall as a claustrophobic space most of the time, the survivors locked away, stuck, under the security gates. In this version they really utilize the space of the mall. They're on the roof, the air ducts, all the stores, the basement/broiler area, the parking lot. There's even an epic fight against other humans for control of the mall, complete with motorcycles and cars racing down the lanes of the food court. The survivors even create their own apartment--a zombie-free shangri-la--in an office near the roof and live there comfortably for months on end.
I'll leave you with a little quote from Roger Ebert, who gave the film 4 stars:
"If you can see beyond the immediate impact of Romero's imagery, if you can experience the film as being more than just its violent extremes, a most unsettling thought may occur to you: The zombies in "Dawn of the Dead" are not the ones who are depraved. They are only acting according to their natures, and, gore dripping from their jaws, are blameless. The depravity is in the healthy survivors, and the true immorality comes as two bands of human survivors fight each other for the shopping center: Now look who's fighting over the bones! But "Dawn" is even more complicated than that, because the survivors have courage, too, and a certain nobility at times, and a sense of humor, and loneliness and dread, and are not altogether unlike ourselves. A-ha."