Unpopped, the new column in which I, Mel Dale, will be sifting through the unpopped kernels of cinema (aka films I haven’t seen). I’ll watch one of these movies that has eluded me and comment on it here. I may or may not like the film I watch, but I’ll be sure to provide my honest and fair opinion. One of our goals for this site is to avoid negativity as best as possible while fostering a community for film lovers to connect with one another. With that in mind, I want to encourage all of you to suggest new films for me to watch in the comments section every week or hit me up on Twitter (@mel_dale) and suggest a movie title to me using the hashtag #unpopped. I’ll do my best to pick from your suggestions and look forward to all the new stories and worlds I’ll get to enjoy because of it.
For several years now I’ve owned an unopened DVD copy of George Romero’s beloved Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition. Back in 2010 I received said copy of Dawn of the Dead as a Christmas present from my good friend Ben, the main contributor to this site and one of my closest friends. I intentionally left it preserved in its plastic wrapper as a means to tease Ben over giving me what would seem to be an intentionally selfish present. See, Ben loves horror movies, and I hate them. It’s one of our outstanding differences as friends. But something we do as good friends is challenge each other to try new things, and for him I did just that tonight. After years of sitting on my shelf unopened, I at long last opened and watched George Romero’s zombie classic. Here are some of my thoughts on it.
Despite the characters’ motivations often being pretty questionable, George Romero did a pretty good job establishing a realistic tone and world for his zombie story to exist in. Throughout the film, we see characters struggling with real problems like loading guns, ammunition supplies and a poor sense of aim. As silly as it seems to have to point out details as minute and obvious to us in the real world as those, we often see characters on film effortlessly overcoming the transition into gun wielding survivalists. I really appreciate Romero’s attention to detail in that regard. The characters of Dawn of the Dead feel much more vulnerable than I’m accustomed to with films of this genre, making it easy to empathize with a lot of their struggles.
I also really enjoyed the many sequences in the film focused on members of the press and science communities trying in vain to understand the horror that surrounded them. Those scenes showed seemingly realistic responses to a horrible situation and fleshed out the world while anchoring it to a reality I could relate to. Often feeling like commentary on our society, those scenes and many others throughout the film, added a welcomed layer to what could have just been a simple zombie film.
What Doesn’t Work:
Although I enjoyed the realistic tone of the film, the pace of the story and action felt way too slow. The characters at several times in the film go through repetitive actions on screen that feel superfluous to the main story. I could see that repetition was one of the main details of the life of a zombie crisis survivor that Romero wanted to address with his film, but tighter editing might have allowed for the same message to have come across just as well and without slowing the story to near boring levels.
All in all, I can’t say that I enjoyed watching Dawn of the Dead, or that I’d ever watch it again. Not because it’s a poorly made film, but rather because it’s just not a story that appeals to my sensibilities. I can see how a film like Dawn of the Dead could be enjoyable to watch, but sadly for me those types of movies just leave me feeling depressed. As someone who tends to see the world around him as glass-half-empty, I often turn to stories that reinforce my hope that people can rise above their innate selfishness and create a better world for us all to enjoy. Zombie movies in particular seem to really stifle my hope of a better world, so long as other people as equally flawed as I am really are all I have to lean on in times of crisis. Let’s hope they’re not. But, if you’re not the type to get bummed out by the sight of the undead munching on characterizations of the flaws of humanity, then Dawn of the Dead is a film you might want to check out. George Romero certainly says a lot of interesting things about our society, and people in general, with his film, and it’s even got a laugh or two in it just for fun.
Let me know what you thought of Dawn of the Dead in the comment section, and don’t forget to suggest new films you’d like me to watch.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey guys, Ben here. I just wanted to give an extra special thanks to Mel for being a good sport and watching a film in the genre he likes the least. I wanted a Halloweeny/horror movie for this week’s Unpopped column and he was happy to oblige. I love Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, it is my favorite zombie film of all time, and while I hoped to have Mel fall in love with the film as much as I love it, I’m glad he took a chance on it. So thanks Mel!]
by Mel Dale (@mel_dale)