Plot: What’s it about?
The world is in a state of chaos, as the dead have risen from the grave to prey upon the living. As the plague spreads, those who remain alive have to seek safe haven, as hard as it is to find. Stephen (David Emge) and his girlfriend Franice (Gaylen Ross) plan to leave the city via helicopter, flying to a safe location in Canada. The two are joined by police officers Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree), who have fought off the living dead to this point. The helicopter makes a stop at a shopping mall, landing on the roof to check out the place. As it turns out, the mall is an almost ideal haven, with few zombies inside and ways to keep new ones from coming in. As the world outside is attacked by legions of the dead, inside the mall things are cleaned up and turned into a makeshift home of sorts. The four seem to have it made, with a safe place to live that is filled with food, luxuries, and even ways to fun, but will their paradise remain undiscovered?
In the realm of horror cinema, few movies are as beloved as Dawn of the Dead. George A. Romero crafted a masterpiece here, a movie that would influence the genre and inspire countless filmmakers in future years. To me, Dawn of the Dead is the definitive zombie movie, it has the humor, the gore, and of course, slow moving zombies. The sheer variety of living dead showcased is quite impressive, with all sorts of memorable zombies around. This is more action driven than Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but there is still tense atmosphere and a palpable sense of dread. This release features the theatrical version, which the one most us know the best, running about 127 minutes. I know fans wanted this to be an all inclusive release with all the different cuts and all the extras, but I am thrilled just to own this movie in high definition. Would I love a definitive collection? Of course, but in the meanwhile, fans will not want to miss Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray.
Video: How does it look?
Dawn of the Dead is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I have seen this movie more times than I could count, but this new transfer is a revelation. While some of the visuals do date the movie, like clothes and such, you wouldn’t know this was made in 1978 based on this presentation. The image is almost pristine here, like brand new and the visuals are so crisp, so sharp, you might not believe your eyes. Of course, detail isn’t as high here as it might be in a more recent, better funded movie, but without question, the detail level is impressive. The colors retain the muted texture, while contrast is accurate and consistent. All in all, a dynamic transfer that will have fans over the moon.
Audio: How does it sound?
The sound is handled by an uncompressed PCM 5.1 option, which sounds great, but is limited by the source. In truth, I would rather have a less dynamic soundtrack in this case, as the audio retains a natural presence. I know some prefer a total overhaul just to have more surround power, but thankfully, that doesn’t happen here. The music gets a nice kick up, so it sounds excellent here and some of the more action oriented elements also get a boost. Even so, the movie’s unique sound effects remain campish in tone, just as we would want and expect. I had no complaints whatsoever here, this track more than does the material justice. This disc also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 option and the original mono soundtrack.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This doesn’t measure up to the awe inspiring Ultimate Edition available on DVD, but some supplements have been ported over. Up first is George A. Romero on commentary, joined by gore wizard Tom Savini and assistant director Chris Romero. George has a lot of insight to share here and doesn’t hold back, so there is a wealth of information. Savini and Chris also contribute, but by and large, this is George’s show, as well it should be. The Dead Will Walk is a seventy-five, comprehensive look back the production. This piece has interviews with just about everyone involved, so if you’re a Dawn fan, you cannot miss this excellent documentary. The hilarious tour of Monroeville Mall with Ken Foree is back, as is the Monroeville Mall commercial. This disc also includes on set home movies, radio spots, television spots, a new fast facts track, and a selection of the film’s theatrical trailers.