Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #4) Dawn of the Dead (1978)

One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.

I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion.  I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed.  There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated.  There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.

Thus far, the list includes:

#20) The Fly (1986) 
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979) 
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
#15) Suspiria (1977) 
#14) Phantasm (1979)
#13) Evil Dead 2 (1985)
#12) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 
#11) The Descent (2005)
#10) Fright Night (1985)
#9) Halloween (1978)
#8) Return of the Living Dead (1985) 
#7) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
#6) Deep Red (1975)
#5) The Shining (1980) 

Two zombie movies have made the list thus far, and now it's time for the third and final entry from that particular sub-genre to rise from the dead.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #4) Dawn of the Dead (1978)

George Romero invented the zombie genre as we know it with Night of the Living Dead, and he perfected this ever-popular sub-genre with his insightful and provocative follow-up.  Seldom has social commentary been so entertaining, and few horror films offer as much in the way of a character study.  Some may complain about the lengthy running time, but Romero made great use of every minute.  Dawn of the Dead is never dull, and the bonds that we forge with the four leads only serve to enhance the emotional undercurrent running through this captivating yarn.  At times, the picture is grim and utterly terrifying, but it also contains moments that are downright hilarious.  Then there are several thrilling sequences that give way to gory mayhem on a massive scale.  Tom Savini's effects work is wicked cool, and Romero clearly got everything that he could get out of this riveting tale.  Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, David Emge, and Scott H. Reiniger are totally invested in their roles, and each player has a nice arc that defines their character as this weary quartet struggles to survive a blood-soaked nightmare.  Dripping with gore, peppered with subversive humor, and exceptionally well-made, I think that declaring Dawn of the Dead to be the best zombie movie of all time is an easy decision.  Yes, I enjoy Return of the Living Dead a bit more, but there can be no doubt that Dawn of the Dead is a far richer movie.  

Fact: Dawn of the Dead is the best zombie movie of them all.
This is the face I make when someone asks me if I thought that the remake was better.

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