Dawn Of The DeadDawn Of The dead is arguably George A Romeros masterpiece. A slow burn horror film that works on multiple levels, it is rightly regarded as a classic. And not just of horror cinema, but cinema in general. Part of a wave of films that changed the way horror was presented to audiences (begun by Romero himself with Night Of The Living Dead), Dawn is a film that demands a quality 4K release. But have Second Sight managed to achieve this? Well, read on to find out…

Synopsis:

‘When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.’

With the U.S. in the grip of a zombie apocalypse, four desperate survivors find refuge in a shopping mall. But the flesh-eating hordes, still possessed by an instinctive desire to consume, are drawn to the same destination. What follows is a nail-biting fight for survival.

And that really is the film in a brief synopsis. The core story of 4 people trying to outlast an outbreak of zombies in a mall is just that simple. However, the film looks at how humanity breaks down in times of crisis. It also uses the mall setting, and the fact that the zombies are attracted to it as a comment on humanities growing fixation on materialism. And that subtext has only become more relevant in the 42 years since the films release.

Dawn Of The Dead: Analysis:

Where do you begin? As I have already mentioned, the film was part of a wave of horror films released in the wake of 1969s Night Of The Living dead that changed how audiences perceived scary movies. Alongside The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween, Dawn Of The Dead gave us grown up horror. The previously dominant “Gothic” style (as popularised by hammer and Roger Corman) was seen as pass√©, childish even. This new wave of horror films gave us grit, gore, and serious messages about ourselves and society.

The bulk of the film focuses on 4 survivors: a TV anchor woman, her helicopter pilot boyfriend, and 2 AWOL SWAT team members. They steal a helicopter, and hole up inside a vast out of town mall. After clearing the mall of zombies, and securing all the entrance & exit points, they are free to indulge their fantasies. They rob the malls bank, take whatever clothes they desire, play with all the toys & gadgets the late 1970s had to offer. But their existence is increasingly hollow. When you have everything, what is there to live for?

And with one of their number slowly succumbing to a zombie bite, they know it’s only a matter of time before they are faced with the grim spectre of death & resurrection. Oh, and then a massive biker gang shows up, and lets the zombies into the mall. What follows then is a desperate fight for survival, as bikers and zombies alike battle to claim the mall for themselves.

Dawn Of The Dead is a brilliantly performed piece of cinema. Each character, despite fitting to an archetype is still recognisably human, and you genuinely start to care for them. You feel it when they begin to lose hope. You feel it when they begin to be killed. And this is all down to their performances. A true ensemble, none of the cast tries to “stand out”, rather they play off each other, giving their character realistic group dynamics.

And the gore? Well, long time Romero collaborator and make up effects legend Tom Savini does remarkably well here. Despite the films budget being somewhat less that $1m, he works absolute wonders. Yes, everything looks a bit cartoony and over-saturated. But that was what Romero wanted. The bright red 3M stage blood really pops against the blue/grey pallor of the zombies, despite Savinis misgivings about using it.

And it’s pretty well shot. Sure, a few shots look a bit rough, but that’s the nature of quick, low budget film making.

The Discs:

This is a pretty epic set from Second Sight. You get 4 discs in the box: 3 4K UHD discs, and 1 standard Blu Ray. Each of the 4K discs contains a different cut of the film.

Disc 1:

Disc 1 is the “Theatrical Cut”, as preferred by Romero himself. This runs 127mins, and looks absolutely stunning. Colours pop, the film has minimal grain, and is as sharp as it is ever likely to get. this was an entirely new 4K scan from the negative supervised by the film D.O.P.

  • New 4K scan and restoration of the Original Camera Negative by Second Sight at Final Frame New York and London supervised and approved by DoP Michael Gornick.
  • Presented in HDR10+.
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono – New restoration of the original OCN Optical / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
  • Commentary by George A Romero, Tom Savini, Christine Forrest.
  • NEW commentary by Travis Crawford.
  • New optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Disc 2:

Disc 2 features the extended “Cannes” cut. As the name implies, this was a cut prepared for the Cannes Film Festival. It runs an epic 137 minutes, features mostly library music, and fells a bit unfinished. This was taken from the theatrical cut, and the extended cut to provide the best image possible. It is almost as good looking as the Theatrical cut, but seems a bit grainier and softer.

  • Produced using 4K scan of the Theatrical Cut Original Camera Negative and 4K scan of the Extended Cut Colour Reversal Internegative.
  • Presented in HDR10+.
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono.
  • Commentary by Richard P Rubinstein.
  • New optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Disc 3:

Disc 3 is the “Argento Cut”. Created for the European market by the films producer Dario Argento, it runs 120mins, and is edited to be less comic and more scary. This is the worst looking of the set, being quite a bit softer.

  • 4K scan of the Interpositive by Michele De Angelis at Backlight Digital, Rome.
  • Audio: DT-HD Master Audio Mono 1.0 / Surround 5.1 / Stereo 2.0.
  • Commentary by Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, David Emge.
  • New optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Disc 4:

Disc 4 contains the bulk of the extra material:

  • Zombies and Bikers, with John Amplas, Roy Frumkes, Tom Savini, Christine Forrest, Tom Dubensky, Tony Buba, Taso Stavrakis and a whole host of zombies and bikers! (59 mins).
  • Memories of Monroeville: A tour of the mall with Michael Gornick, Tom Savini, Tom Dubensky and Taso Stavrakis (34 mins).
  • Raising the Dead: The Production Logistics with Michael Gornick, Christine Forrest, John Amplas, Tom Dubensky (23 mins).
  • The FX of Dawn with Tom Savini (13 mins).
  • Dummies! Dummies! An interview with Richard France (12 mins).
  • The Lost Romero Dawn Interview: previously unreleased archive interview (20 mins).
  • Super 8 Mall Footage by zombie extra Ralph Langer with option of archive commentary by Robert Langer and new commentary by Ralph Langer (13 mins).
  • Document of the Dead: The Original Cut with optional commentary by Roy Frumkes (66 mins).
  • Document of the Dead: The Definitive Cut (100 mins).
  • The Dead Will Walk 2014 Documentary (80 mins).
  • Trailers, TV, and Radio Spots.

Phew. Got all that? Good.

Dawn of The Dead: The Verdict:

This is easily the best set available for Romero fans today. The film has never looked or sounded better than it does here. And it’s bloody good value. You can also purchase this set as standard 1080p Blu Rays if you need to, although I would urge you to spend the extra on the 4K edition if you have a 4K compatible TV and Blu Ray player.

 

5/5 Fiends. Essential. Absolutely Essential.

Buy Dawn Of The Dead: Amazon.co.uk

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