"If we don't stop killing, we'll lose this war."
Last night I saw "Dawn of the Dead" for the first time, and it is now also among my all-time Top 5 (this has been a week full of changes for that Top 5, see "Colonel Blimp" review below). "Dawn" is one of the most poignant social commentaries I have ever seen, and it's funny and suspenseful as hell to boot. Early on in the film, a priest counsels two of the film's protagonists that, though they have been trained to defend their country with violence, "We've got to stop killing or we lose the war." That got me to thinking about the connection between the current situation in the Middle East and the basic problem faced by heros in zombie horror films: The more killing we do, the more enemies we create.
The most obvious and poignant social commentary offered up by the film is on consumerism. The heros barricade themselves inside of a mall (even though it's filled with zombies), just because it is a kind of candyland for them. There are jewelry stores, appliance stores, food stores, and gun stores. At one point while gathering things for the "home" they create inside the mall, the usually-wise leader of the group shouts: "Just get things we absolutely need! I'm gonna get a TV!"
These kinds of lines, delivered with a straight face, make the movie wonderful, as do any number of scenes of zombies riding escalators, zombies sitting in wishing wells, zombie maintenance men sitting at their desks, unsure of what to do. One of the heros asks the other why the zombies seem drawn to the mall, and if he believes that the zombies can smell them inside. The other hero answers no, he just believes that some faint glimmer inside the zombies' brains recognizes the mall as a place that brings happiness and fulfillment. Seriously, I wanted to stand up and clap when this movie ended. It was wonderful.
Now I'm wanting to see the European cut of the film, which was apparently edited by none other than Dario Argento (pardon any spelling errors, I write these entries w/o Googling). A member of The Wrists, Daniel, came by last night while I was watching the U.S. Theatrical cut and recommended the European version due to its "more bleak" ending.
I live in Shreveport, LA, so I'm not sure "more bleak" is always a good idea when it comes to what I put into my head. But in this case, I'll make an exception. And I highly recommend "Dawn of the Dead," even to non-horror fans, and especially to the more political-minded fans of satire.