Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead

Sorry for the lack of film stuff—super, super busy for next couple of weeks. Grad school + work = less movies and even less time to write about the ones I do see.

A couple of weeks ago we showed George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and the original Dawn of the Dead at the Circle. Yes, it was a Halloween weekend zombie double feature and it was great. I hadn’t seen either film in years so it was both fun and interesting to watch them back-to-back to see how different they are as films.

I’d never seen Night of the Living Dead in a theatre before and the experience greatly enhances its overall impact and tension. I was kind of surprised just how claustrophobic Romero made the interior action in NOTLD. If you don’t know the story of the 1968 film—a group of people retreat to a remote farmhouse and attempt to stave off the walking dead who are outside.

Romero’s film is chock full of atmospheric (black and white photography never hurts upping the atmosphere) tension as he utilizes tight, composed frames that adds to the enclosed, impossible to escape feeling the film has. NOTLD is pretty gore free—the horror is mostly an internal level of fear as the terror comes from the confusion in the situation and the fact these people might not ever make it out of this house. The level of dread is palpable throughout the film. Classic.

Dawn of the Dead, released 10 years after Night, is a completely different film. Rather than enclose a group of people in a tiny space, Romero sticks them in a much bigger location: a shopping mall. He then unleashes a tremendous amount of zombie killing and hammers home an anti-consumerist message (too much of this at 2 in the morning) at the same time the bright red/orange fake blood is flowing from the wounds of dead zombies.

Dawn of the Dead has so many zombies shot in the head moments it reaches a point when it’s very cartoon like, with the violence being not realistic, frightening or jarring. You have to kill these damn zombies or they will kill you and that’s exactly what the people in the shopping mall do—kill some zombies!

I like both the films for different reasons—one is full of inner psychology and drama and the other is just a torrent of fake blood and killing zombies. But how can you go wrong with either of these films if you like zombies as these are two that I’ll keep coming back to and I’ll love them every time.

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