authors index

books index



Dawn of the Dead

click to enlarge

Sphere, London, 1979
(price: 85p; 220 pages)

The blurb on the back:

Monsters do exist - in us and among us, they walk in our shadow. They can prey on us more as we fear them less. We should know. We created them. Now we try to tell them to go away. Our new and knowledgeable ways provide a certain freedom the dark creatures ...

George Romero's 1968 debut movie Night of the Living Dead is rightly hailed as a breakthrough horror film - it's credited with taking the genre away from its fear of the aristocratic vampire into a fear of the proletarian masses - but, at this distance, it suffers from the low budget and the absence of story. You can admire it and you can study it, but you're unlikely to be swept away by it.

The first sequel, Dawn of the Dead, on the other hand, is wonderful stuff. The story is perhaps equally thin, but the setting is much better: a handful of the living are holed up in a shopping mall as wave after wave of zombies come after them, echoing Zulu as much as Assault on Precinct 13, and the location suggests all sorts of allegorical interpretations. And just when you think Romero's wrung every twist out of the zombie, he introduces a biker gang. God knows why, but it works. The Radio Times Film Guide describes it as 'the Citizen Kane of gore', but don't let that put you off: it's hugely entertaining as well. On the page, of course, as I've said so often on this site, it suffers somewhat:

Chickie pulled the van to the side doors where the men shovelled in the booty. Another woman had joined her in the front seat, and they guarded the material with giant pistols. Zombies tried to pound their way into the vehicle, but the women remained steadfast, plugging a few here and there through cracks in the window.
In the mall, another biker was brought down by a pack of lunatic zombies to the amusement of his friends. They simply laughed and pointed as the creatures devoured the still screaming man. (p.208)

You've got to be a damn fine writer to be convincing on action like this. Sadly Romero and his co-author, Susanna Sparrow, aren't (presumably Romero's contribution came with the story and screenplay, with Sparrow actually turning it into prose), but it's not as bad as some.

a zombie yesterday