With The Walking Dead soon to return from its midseason break, I figured it’s fitting to tackle the zombie hordes. George Romero’s timeless classic Dawn of the Dead, sequel to the classic Night of the Living Dead, is considered one of, if not the, greatest zombie and horror movies ever made. With it’s gruesome violence, subtle humor, and social commentary, this movie’s popularity led to several sequels, a remake, and a video game knock-off. So why is this blockbuster due for a little re-imagining? Because, like all sequels, its greatness falls short of its predecessor. Let’s take a bite out of this.
The Plot in a Nutshell (spoilers!)
As the entire city of Pittsburgh is in zombie chaos, two cops, Peter and Roger, and two reporters, Stephen and Francine, take off in a news helicopter. As they witness more destruction and avoid danger, they take refuge at a mall. They clear out the zombies and fortify the mall but Roger is bitten in the process. After Peter kills Roger and Francine’s pregnancy develops, the trio crumbles under the isolation. Then a biker gang raids the mall and allows the zombie horde to enter. In the chaos Stephen is killed by the zombies and Peter and Francine take off in the helicopter, unsure of their future.
The great Night of the Living Dead takes place in real time with constant danger facing the protagonists; every moment and decision is crucial. Dawn of the Dead starts the same but then slows down in the middle. The plot, action, social commentary, and protagonists are superb but the shopping scenes and the biker gang could be cut. A large portion of the movie is montages of the protagonists shopping and goofing around the mall. Although these scenes are crucial, they’re a little too cheerful and go on for a while, thus taking away from the suspense of the situation. Simply cutting down the length of these scenes will still allow for the social commentary and give the audience a short break from all the violence, but also move the plot along.
As for the biker gang, they show up randomly in the end, cause havoc, then leave. Although Stephen is killed and the mall is overrun, the biker gang changes the focus of the movie from a zombie apocalypse to a low-budget action movie. Instead the ending would be foreshadowed. In the movie, while observing the zombies, Francine asks, “What are they doing? Why do they come here?” Stephen replies, “Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.” That scene should foreshadow our new ending!
I would have a zombified security guard, with whatever memory he still has, enter the back of mall through an employee entrance the protagonists overlooked. As the group relaxes and shops, unbeknownst to them the zombies would swarm other parts of the mall. In the climax Stephen, who ironically predicted the ending, would wonder off to that part of the mall, get trapped in the elevator, and get killed. Francine and Peter would fight the horde on their own until the zombified Stephen leads the horde to them. Like in the original ending Francine and Peter would be forced to take flight, unsure of their future.
In conclusion, with this new dramatic irony every scene is now heightened with suspense since we would watch the protagonists completely unaware of the danger that awaits them. It creates an intense atmosphere that’s closer to the original Night of the Living Dead; death is everywhere and every decision is crucial. Plus, by having a zombified security guard open a back door it pushes the social commentary that even in death we can’t escape our routines; it’s like we’ve always been zombies. Plus, security guards are usually the ones who open the doors on Black Friday, which further pushes the social commentary.
Thank you all for reading and I look forward to re-imagining another movie with you next week.