Emma and Ron hash it out over Romero’s classic 1978 zombie opus…
Sometimes, you get lucky. You share something with your child – something that shaped you, that defined your world-view – and they get it. And there are other times where they look at you like you’ve sprouted a second head and started speaking in Esperanto. This was one of those times.
Dawn of the Dead was THE film that shaped my early years as a horror fan. It was the total package – the violence, the social commentary, the sly humour. This film disturbed and entertained me in equal measure. I love it with all my heart, and felt now was the time to share this classic with my young apprentice. The results…were not what I expected at all. (Note: the reason for the slight delay in this review is that this was our third attempt to get Emma to sit through a full viewing of the film, and not for the reasons one would expect.)
Ron: Here we are – round three with Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. The first time, you made it a whole twenty minutes. The second, we got 35. The final go took us three painful hours filled with delays and distractions. Care to explain?
Emma: I was bored. I’m sorry, I was just really bored by it. It took FOREVER for anything interesting to happen.
Ron: You know that Dawn has a reputation as one of the greatest horror films of all time, easily one of the most popular films in Romero’s Dead cycle, as well as the film that’s inspired many of the other zombie films out there… and you were bored?
Ron: Thank you.
Emma: – but I thought there was waaay too much dialogue and not enough action stuff. It wasn’t even that gory.
Ron: Really? So with all the headshots, flesh-biting, vehicular manslaughter and decapitations going on, you’re telling me there wasn’t enough gore? There’s some choice gore here, kiddo. A zombie getting “denogginated” by the rotor blades of a chopper? Come on, that’s gold.
Emma: It was alright, but his head was so weird looking, I knew that something was going to happen. That, and he looked like Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall as a zombie! I couldn’t stop laughing because of that. I did like the scene where the zombies are ripping into the guy’s stomach, though. That was really gross and pretty cool. The blood looks too much like the red watercolour paint I use at home. The zombie make-up for Roger and Flyboy was the best zombie make-up, but everybody else was the same blue colour. ALL of them! They looked like hungry, lazy Smurfs!
Ron: Alright, but getting back to the story itself. You were saying there was way too much dialogue, but a big part of Dawn’s longevity IS its story and the characters…
Emma: …and I didn’t like them, either.
Ron: What? Really?
Emma: I hated Flyboy. Hated him so much. He kept trying to be such a macho man and he always screwed things up. He couldn’t even hit a zombie with a hammer without falling on his ass. He drops keys, he wastes bullets, he nearly got his girlfriend killed by leaving her alone so that Buddhist zombie –
Ron: Hare Krishna.
Emma: Hare Krishna zombie… he nearly gets her when she’s alone upstairs. He’s stupid. Roger also does some stupid stuff and it finally gets him killed. I know if I was surrounded by zombies who wanted to eat me, I wouldn’t be making it like a game. I don’t hate him as much as Flyboy, though.
Ron: Well, Stephen was supposed to be ineffectual and kinda wimpy. He’s trying to step up and be a man for Francine, but he just doesn’t have the strength. He’s supposed to be that way.
Emma: He’s a loser. Even at the end, he’s the one that starts the shootout with the biker gang even when Peter tells him not to and when he turns into a zombie, he’s the one that leads the other zombies back to the hideout. Loser.
Ron: But it wasn’t all unpleasantness and boredom, though. There were things you did like about it.
Emma: Yes. I got more interested about three-quarters in, right when Roger and Peter started moving the trucks to block the doors. The stuff at the end was good, too, when the biker gang attacked. I smiled when I saw Tom Savini’s biker. I remember seeing him in Land of the Dead as a zombie, so that was really cool. I also liked the parts where the guys finally get the mall to themselves and they get to do whatever they want.
Ron: But then, they realize that none of the stuff in the mall means anything, that they’re still prisoners there. You did catch that, right?
Emma: Yeah, I guess. I guess I wouldn’t need all that stuff. I’d still be happy to grab myself an iPad.
Ron: And we did agree on one thing in particular: Ken Foree as Peter is “The Man.”
Emma: Yeah, Peter was bad-ass!
Ron: Now, as always, I have to ask: do you think this movie is suitable for a younger audience, especially in your age group?
Emma: No, and not because of the violence but how long it is. I wasn’t kidding! I liked it, but it went on waaay too long and I got bored. Land of the Dead is still my favourite Romero zombie film.
Ron: We’ll get around to watching Day of the Dead sometime.
Emma: Yeah, we’ll see about that.
While the opinions of a certain 11-year old do not reflect those of Rue Morgue or its contributors – or fans of zombie films in general – I know there’s a lesson to be learned here. I’m still trying to figure out what it is, though. Until next time…