And so begins an incoherent note taking session…
Director: Zach Snyder
Plot Location: Wisconsin (Milwaukee area)
When the film begins everything is normal as it appears to the viewer. Remarkably it takes less than a full day for the zombie infestation to spread like wild fire. Unlike most zombie movies this one differs because of the speed of the zombies. Normally they are very slow moving creatures, but in Dawn of the Dead they move with super-human speed, especially when attacking. It is also important to note that the transformation from dead to undead is immediate in this film. There is literally no grace period between the time the person dies to when they change. It is close to a 30 second transformation.
I don’t know why, but I drew several conclusions about vampires and zombies during this sit down. Both are: creatures of the night, dead/undead, biters that sire their victims, and demons that survive off of human flesh. Vampires and zombies can also both survive under water and do not need to breath.
One thing that I am still very unclear on is the point at which zombies went from solely needing to eat human brains to survive and transitioned into being able to sustain existence on human flesh in general. The level of intelligence of vampires appears to be much higher than that of zombies who have minimal and basic human functions. I mean do zombies eat only fresh flesh with blood pumping through it? Because if they would eat just any old flesh wouldn’t they eat each other?
The day after the outbreak has begun there is instant pandemonium which is to be expected. In the early scenes of the film a helicopter is flying overhead and it reminded me a lot of the game Dead Rising in which you play a photo-journalist in a helicopter that catches a zombie invasion as it is happening. In particular it was similar because there was a bus that was being overrun by zombies in both the movie and the game. The game and the film also both end up with people seeking shelter in a local mall.
At one point Anna, one of the main characters struggles to get away from a bus driver and ends up driving off the road and down into the brush and hits a tree. This reminded me a lot of Night of the Living Dead when Barbara drives off the road into a similar area when she is attempting to escape the zombies at the cemetery. Both scenes involved women driving down hill to escape peril and they both hit trees. Who knows, maybe they are just trying to say women are terrible drivers? Somehow I feel like the replication of certain scenes is done in an attempt to pay homage to classic zombie flicks.
The line “we are going to the mall” proves to be very interesting because it provides the survivors with comfort and shelter much like shopping is sometimes a way to make people feel better about their problems. There is comfort in shopping much like there is comfort in the mall for those running from the zombies at this point. Those who go to the mall will prevail is the way in which I was reading this scene.
Commercialization + Money = Longer Life + Protection + Happiness
Hence spending money makes up happy and happy people live longer lives. We go to the mall to spend money and become happy which may in fact lead to the prolonging of life. In this case going to the mall is a matter of life and death because of its purpose in the literal sense as a shelter rather than simply theoretical comfort zone.
Infestation Theories: government, accidental leakage from a buried barrel, infestation of a virus, chemical warfare gone bad, hell is overflowing and when it has no more room the dead will walk the earth.
I found the statement “we start letting people in here and we are going to start letting the wrong ones in” to be a very powerful one. Even though it was made in reference to letting people into the mall it had some other meanings as well. It made me think a lot about society and specifically issues surrounding gated communities as well as immigration into the United States. This same kind of issue is touched upon a little more heavily in Romero’s Land of the Dead which I will discuss in a future blog entry.
An ethical issue that is raised in these movies is often whether it is ok to kill those who have been bitten before they truly take on their zombie forms. Most of the time there is no hesitation from what I have observed thus far. I suppose a point could be argued that the reason we are so detached about killing these creatures is because as a liberal society we are viewed as being in favor of euthanasia and abortion.
As I mentioned in my preliminary entry there is often some type of social issue that undercuts the zombie issue. In the case of Dawn of the Dead it can be argued that one of these issues is interracial relationships and the production of biracial children. An African American character and a Caucasian character of Russian background have a baby together and not only is it biracial, but it also becomes a zombie. These characters are coming from several very diverse areas and the use of the zombie transformation could be related to the feeling of alienation that some biracial individuals experience in life. As the story progresses all three of these characters are killed without hesitation, especially the baby.
On a different note I can say that a crisis like a zombie invasion does tend to bring people together from all walks of life. I guess you also have to consider that an outbreak like a zombie attack is non-discriminative in choosing its victims. In thinking of the outbreak as a disease I can compare its spread to that of AIDS and cancer around the world which we know do not discriminate either. The only ones immune to the zombie attacks in Dawn of the Dead were in fact animals, and most specifically dogs.
In theory the attempted escape of the characters at the end of the movie had no plausible chance because of what we see in both Resident Evil and Land of the Dead as far as water and zombies are concerned. In both of these films zombies function in and under water and can travel under water to land. Escaping via a boat would not really work at all and the only thing I can think of would be to start a colony on the moon to get away completely.