Dawn of the Dead (1978/2004): Consumerism Is Death, or Something – Peacock Review (Day 14)

I reviewed the classic zombie film and its excellent remake.

SUMMARY 

Both films have similar general plots, but different details. However, the premise is that something has happened. The dead are rising from their graves and are now craving the flesh of the living. Anyone who is bitten becomes a zombie. The world quickly descends into chaos as the dead form hordes. While rural areas seem to be surviving against the onslaught, cities are overrun quickly. 

Traffic is still a nightmare, but in a different way.

1978: Television Studio staff members Stephen Andrews and Francine Parker (David Emge and Gaylen Ross) plan to steal a helicopter to escape Philadelphia. SWAT members Peter Washington (Ken Foree) and Roger DiMarco (Scott Reiniger) join them, having survived a bloody firefight with the members of a housing project and a group of zombies. The four eventually arrive at a shopping mall, which they use as a base to hide in. They manage to secure the mall, but Roger nearly dies in the process and starts to lose his mind. He ends up getting bitten by zombies. 

Ken Foree is, and I cannot stress this enough, the f*cking man.

The four start to enjoy living a life of luxury, with Peter killing Roger when he reanimates. After several months, a now very pregnant Francine wants to leave the mall. It appears that the US Government has collapsed in the interim, but the trio loads the helicopter with supplies. A biker gang (including Tom Savini, the make-up wizard) show up to take the helicopter, which ends up destroying the anti-zombie barriers and filling the mall with walkers. Stephen tries to fend off the bikers, but is shot and then eaten by zombies. Zombie Stephen then leads the horde to attack Francine and Peter, but they manage to make it up to the roof and take off, heading into uncertainty.

If you’re bit, you gotta tap yourself out. That’s the rule.

2004: Ana (Sarah Polley), a nurse, survives the initial zombie outbreak and meets up with Policeman Kenneth (Ving Rhames), salesman Michael (Jake Weber), and married couple Andre and Luda (Mekhi Phifer and Inna Korobkina). The group heads to a mall where three guards, CJ, Bart, and Terry (Michael Kelly, Michael Barry, and Kevin Zegers), force them to surrender their weapons. A pregnant Luda is wounded by a small zombie bite. They secure the mall and find that another survivor, Andy (Bruce Bohne), is stranded in a gun store across the parking lot. The next day another group of survivors arrives: Norma (Jayne Eastwood), Steve (Ty Burrell), Tucker (Boyd Banks), Monica (Kim Poirier), Glen (R.D. Reid), and a bitten man named Frank (Matt Frewer), who is killed after he turns. His daughter, Nicole (Lindy Booth), stays with the group.

Ving Rhames is, and I cannot stress this enough, the f*cking man.

The group quickly start to find companionship, with Kenneth and Andy engaging in games from across the parking lot, several survivors hooking up, and Nicole adopting a dog. When the power goes out, some of the group go to activate the generator, only to find zombies in the parking garage. Luda dies and reanimates, but then gives birth to a zombie baby. Andre goes insane and kills Norma but gets shot in return. The group decides to create an armored convoy to carry them to a yacht so they can escape to an island. Unfortunately, Andy gets bitten when they try to get supplies to him and the team gets ambushed by zombies. They end up losing the mall to the horde and fleeing on buses. Many of the survivors die in the attempt, but Ana, Kenneth, Nicole, and Terry reach the yacht. They run out of supplies, only to find zombies on the island they reach. 

END SUMMARY

So, the audience vote for “A Film Sequel That Doesn’t Have a Number in the Title” ended up being Dawn of the Dead, which was the only nominee to win that wasn’t the most-nominated film in the category. I was then stuck with a conundrum: only the original film is really a “sequel” to a movie, but only the remake is available to stream anywhere. As I own the original, that’s not much of a problem for me, but I try to give my audience the opportunity to participate whenever possible, so I just figured I’d review both. This is the rare movie where the original and remake are both excellent, with the former being perhaps the best film by George Romero and the latter being the feature film debut of Zack Snyder and written by James Gunn. 

They did get some cameos from the original cast in the remake.

Romero’s original version capitalized heavily on the mall setting. In the 1970s, shopping malls were a sign of economic growth and the changing state of how Americans shopped. People now commonly made “circuits” at the mall as a leisure activity, a literal cathedral to consumerism. As such, Romero associates the mindless consumption of shopping with the mindless consumption of the zombies. It’s this association that actually draws the zombie horde to the mall, according to Romero. In the remake, this association is played down a little, but in exchange the film focuses on the mall as a location in which the normal humans can consume and live. 

If you have seen Best Buy the day after Thanksgiving, you’ve seen this before.

One of the biggest differences between the two films is the zombies. In the original Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the zombies mindlessly shamble towards their targets. They aren’t much of a threat individually, but when they’re a massive group, they’re nearly unstoppable. This makes them a great metaphor for consumers, because a single mindless individual compelled to buy doesn’t make much of an impact, but a mass of them quickly becomes a Black Friday stampede. In the remake, however, the zombies apparently were heavily influenced by the then-recent film 28 Days Later and suddenly were fast and could hurdle obstacles like they’d been mainlining whatever steroid makes you good at parkour. This makes them a much bigger immediate threat. While Romero didn’t like the change, I remember when this came out and the audiences really weren’t looking for a slow character study that builds suspense over the inevitable. We were in the mood for a faster, grittier, more action-based film, and that’s what this movie was. In the years post-9/11 the world kept feeling like it was spinning out of control, and the movie appropriately adapted that fear.

THE McRIB IS BACK!!!

The main characters, though, are much better in the original. Since we see essentially only three characters for a long period, we get a feeling for who they really are and how they’re dealing with the apocalypse. While they have their sanctuary, they still have a long period to work out their feelings about the relative hopelessness of the world and go out of their way to try to avoid it. Then, when their sanctuary is finally broken, it’s not by the zombies, it’s by other humans, because if there’s one thing Romero is consistent about, it’s that people are the real monster. The remake has too many characters for us to get a real picture of how they are handling it and the timeline is shorter, so we don’t get a huge amount of time with any of them. In fact, most of the time passes in a single montage which, while a good montage, still doesn’t give us much about any of them. 

This is after like half of the cast is dead and it’s still too full.

However, the montage brings us to a thing that both movies have in common: A great soundtrack. Interestingly, the original had two separate soundtracks depending on if it was the US or international version and the international is much better. The international version had the score done by Dario Argento and the Italian Prog-Rock group “Goblin,” who did Argento’s amazing horror film Suspiria. It’s haunting, it’s intense, and it manages to constantly put you in a subtle state of unease throughout the film. While the US version mostly used stock music, it does include the song “Cause I’m a Man” by Pretty Things and the song played in the mall sequence and the end credits is the instrumental “The Gonk,” which I guarantee you’ve heard a ton since this film. The remake, on the other hand, uses more contemporary music more prominently and all of it is used well, from “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash as the world ends to two different versions of “Down with the Sickness,” by both Disturbed and Richard Cheese. Honestly, it’s a hell of a soundtrack. 

Overall, these films are both amazing. If you’re a fan of horror, they’re must-sees.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Greatest Valentine’s Day Episodes

Okay, so, I’m going to die alone, but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a list of some of the best Valentine’s Day episodes of TV. Or, really, just the first 5 episodes I could think of that were good. I didn’t think of this until Monday, so cut me a break.

Runner Up: Galentine’s Day (Parks and Rec)

Why is this a runner up? Because it’s not a V-day episode…  and although most of it takes place at a Valentine’s Dance, it’s mostly about breakups.

ValentinesParksAndRec

Galentine’s Day is the 13th of February, and it’s a holiday made up by Pawnee, Indiana resident Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to celebrate strong, independent women. Leslie’s widowed mother, Marlene (Pamela Reed), a guest at the Galentine’s celebration, tells the story of her first love, a lifeguard she met years before she met Leslie’s father, with whom she had a passionate affair before her parents made her break it off.

ValentinesGalentinesLeslie, with encouragement from Justin (Justin Theroux), a man she’s been dating, goes to find the lifeguard and reunite the lovers after all these years. Unfortunately, while Marlene grew up to be a civic leader, the lifeguard, Frank (John Larroquette), is just a barrel full of problems. He’s immature, unsophisticated, unemployed, and just generally is the worst. Marlene understandably wants nothing to do with him.

This leads Leslie to realize she doesn’t really like Justin. Meanwhile, her co-workers’ relationships are similarly dissolving. Tom (Aziz Ansari) is rejected by his ex-wife. April (Aubrey Plaza) breaks up with her boyfriend and his boyfriend. Ann (Rashida Jones) and Mark (Paul Schneider) are still together, but it’s clear Ann is looking to get out of the relationship… which leads Mark to get out of the show.

Message received: Love is a lie and everyone dies alone. Happy Galentine’s Day!!!

5) Operation Ann (Parks and Rec)

Okay, I had to make it up to Parks and Rec, both for lambasting Galentine’s Day and for not ever finding an episode of the show quite remarkable enough to get onto this list, despite how much I like the show.

Here’s the thing about Parks and Rec: Every single couple at the end of the show is basically perfect.

April and Andy (Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt), Leslie and Ben (Amy Poehler and Adam Scott), Ann and Chris (Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe), Tom and Lucy (Aziz Ansari and Natalie Morales), Donna and Joe (Retta and Keegan-Michael Key), Garry and Gayle (Jim O’Heir and Christie Brinkley), Ron and Diane (Nick Offerman and Lucy Lawless), even Craig and Typhoon (Billy Eichner and Rodney To). All of them are amazing. Which is why it’s so great to see where some of these relationships start to develop.

ValentinesBenLeslie.gifThis episode starts with Leslie having her first V-Day with a serious boyfriend, Ben. She makes an overly-elaborate series of puzzles involving multiple riddles that range from “weird” to “punishingly difficult.” Even Leslie admits, at one point, that it’s probably impossible for Ben to actually solve them all. In desperation, Ben asks Ron and Andy for help. Along the way, Ben finds out that Ron actually loves puzzles and riddles, despite his earlier objections to them. In the end, Ron intuits the final solution to Leslie’s riddle, saving Ben.

valentinesanntom.jpgMeanwhile, Leslie asks the office to help find a boyfriend for Ann, who is somehow single despite being sweet, smart, and looking like Rashida Jones (it actually gets explained later that she has some issues). At the same time, Chris, the perpetual optimist, is depressed because he has been dumped by his most recent girlfriend. At the end of the episode, Ann ends up hanging out with Tom, which proves to be a horrible mistake, and Chris realizes that he’s only single because he broke up with Ann for basically no reason aside from location. This leaves both of them in the position to get back together in the future, after they both grow a little bit.

Also, April and Andy are together, and they’re perfect, and I love them.ValentinesAprilAndy.jpg

 4) Anna Howard Shaw Day (30 Rock)

Much like Parks and Rec, even though I love this show it never made it onto the list. Only 2 episodes got nominated, and this is… not one of them, but it’s a natural fit to put it here. Too bad I don’t have a Leap Day list.

Valentines30Rock.jpg30 Rock is a show about putting on an SNL-like show called “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” which is filmed at NBC headquarters located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

30 Rock doesn’t have the perfect ending for everyone, but it has a solid happy ending for most of the characters. It also points out that, even if you don’t find love in another person, you can find it in your friends and family.

ValentinesLizLemon.gifAt the beginning of this episode, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has set a root canal on Valentine’s Day, which she calls “Anna Howard Shaw Day” after the female civil rights leader born on Feb. 14, but discovers that everyone else has plans and thus she has no one who can drive her home while she’s under anesthesia. At the same time, her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), meets Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), the ultra-conservative woman of his dreams. Jack tries to woo her, including planning a celebrity party where he invites Jon Bon Jovi (Music Guy), but ends up snubbing him because he’s interested in what she’s saying. Naturally, they bang, and agree to go out again on V-day. On Valentine’s Day, Liz gets her root canal, telling the dental staff that she’ll be fine to go home. On the way out, however, Liz hallucinates that the nurses are her ex-boyfriends, leading the staff to call Jack to help. Jack agrees, but Avery assumes that it’s just an excuse to dump her after they’ve had sex. Jack counters by offering to have her come along, which impresses Avery even more with his kindness. Liz passes out, but at least she knows she has a friend.

At the same time, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is depressed because her stalker appears to have lost interest in her. Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer) is confused as to why she’s upset that her stalker has moved on, only for Jenna to tell Kenneth that her stalker is her longest relationship. Kenneth proceeds to send her threatening letters to show that he cares.

Basically, this episode reminds us that friendship is a kind of love, too.

ValentinesAnnaHowardShaw

 3) My Funky Valentine (Modern Family)

Modern Family was a show about how there are different, viable models of family structure than just the traditional Nuclear Family. It covered one family in three households.

Household 1 is the Dunphy family. Goofy dad Phil (Ty Burrell), his wife Claire (Julie Bowen), and their kids Haley, Alex, and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, and Nolan Gould). Household 2 is the Pritchetts: Claire’s dad Jay (Ed O’Neill), his younger, hotter wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara), Gloria’s son Manny (Rico Rodriguez), and their baby Joe (Jeremy McGuire). Household 3 is the Pritchett-Tuckers: Claire’s brother Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his husband Cam (Eric Stonestreet), and their daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

valentinesmodernfamily-e1518492492912.jpg

This episode’s main focus is Phil and Claire. Phil has taken Claire to the same restaurant for most of their history together, so this year he decides to rent a hotel and have the two of them roleplay for the evening instead. Phil is Clive, a businessman, and Claire is Julianna, a housewife. As they flirt at the bar, Claire goes to the bathroom and removes all of her clothes, returning wearing just a coat. As they make their way up to the room, however, the coat gets caught in the escalator. Claire cannot get out of the coat withouthaving to run to the room naked, and multiple acquaintances keep showing up… all of whom just tell her to get out of the coat.

ValentinesClairePhil.jpg

Jay and Gloria go to a comedy club at the same hotel, which is fun until the comedian starts making fun of Jay’s age. They leave and run into Claire… who Gloria quickly helps, having realized the situation immediately, since apparently it had happened to her before. Claire and Phil go to their room… where it’s later revealed Phil screwed up the entire evening somehow by mis-using oil.

Meanwhile, Mitchell is depressed because he broke up his and Cam’s Valentine’s plans due to needing to work on a case, only for the client to settle, preventing Mitchell from delivering the best speech he’d ever written. Manny, who they’re watching while Jay and Gloria are out, is also depressed because he wrote a Valentine’s Day poem for a girl in his class, and another boy took credit for it. Manny and the couple go to the restaurant and confront the boy, with Mitch delivering a version of the speech he’d written. Unfortunately, the girl actually likes the other guy more, so Manny’s still single.

I love this episode because it emphasizes the show’s message of “every couple is different.”

2) Three Valentines (Frasier)

Already wrote this one, not doing it again. Still hilarious.

1) I Love Lisa (The Simpsons)

It probably says a lot that my number one pick is an episode about a girl taking pity on a boy, him taking it the wrong way, her having to break his heart, and them ending up friends… but, that’s for my therapist. Here’s the winner:

This episode is one of the best episodes of the Simpsons, and that’s saying something.

It’s Valentine’s Day in Springfield and Lisa’s class (Yeardley Smith) is giving Valentine’s ValentinesChooChooCards to each other. Unfortunately, Ralph Wiggum (Nancy Cartwright), who is not the brightest kid in the class… nor the most sanitary, doesn’t get a single card. Seeing him heartbroken, Lisa feels pity for him and gives him a card saying “I choo-choo-choose you.” This leads Ralph to fall in love with Lisa, who does not reciprocate. At all. This is made worse when Ralph and Lisa are picked to play George and Martha Washington in the school play.

Ralph’s father, Chief Wiggum (Hank Azaria), gets them tickets to a Krusty the Clown Live show, which Lisa desperately wants to go to. Unfortunately, Krusty starts talking to the audience, leading Ralph to proclaim his love for Lisa on live TV… which Lisa responds to by telling him that “I don’t like you! I never liked you and the only reason I gave you that stupid valentine is because nobody else would!” Bart (Cartwright) later uses a recording of this to show Lisa the exact moment Ralph’s heart rips in half.ValentinesRalph

Ultimately, Lisa tries to apologize to Ralph for being cruel, but Ralph focuses on his role as George Washington, leading him to give a stellar performance and the interest of multiple new women. Lisa finally gives him an apology card with a bee on it, saying “Let’s Bee Friends.”ValentinesBeeFriends

This is an amazing episode, even if it’s a bit heartbreaking, because that’s really just how it is sometimes. The girl you like doesn’t like you back. The thing you thought was caring was just friendship. And that’s okay.