Thursday, 19 November 2020

DAWN OF THE DEAD - LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY review

Ten years after the release of George A. Romero's seminal zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, he decided to cement his reputation as the king of the zombie genre with Dawn of the Dead. Building on the racial and social allegories of the first film, Dawn added rampant consumerism to the mix, setting itself largely in the confines of a deserted shopping mall with an unconventional family unit of survivors who take on the undead as well as a violent biker gang.

For many horror fans, Dawn is the true gem in Romero's zombie filmography, expanding the universe and lore of the genre massively after the more subtle aspects of his black and white original. Here, the gore, the effects and the violence is ramped up hugely, in no small part thanks to the efforts of Romero's fellow Pittsburghian, special make-up effects legend Tom Savini (also on board as a stunt man, plus one of the lead biker invaders). Sure, the zombies all have a strange grey complexion that's unique to this film and the blood is an almost eye-scorching red giving the film a colour palette like no other, but the sheer ingenuity and complete disregard for health and safety employed in the zombie kills is the stuff of legend.  Take for example, Savini blowing the head off a zombie mannequin with a shotgun to get the explosive desired effect, all plain to see here (depending on what version of the film you watch).

I could bang on about how great and truly essential a film Dawn of the Dead is for any lover of horror, but to be honest, if you've gone looking for a review of this boxset, chances are you've already seen the film countless times and just want to see if it's worth upgrading from whatever version you have and investing in this new edition. Well, to cut a long story short, yes it is. It really is, and here's why.

The boxset, available in blu-ray and 4K UHD formats, houses 4 blu-rays and 3 audio discs and is packed full of things to sink your teeth into. There's three different cuts of the film (the theatrical cut, the Cannes cut and executive producer Dario Argento's slightly different European cut), the soundtrack by Goblin and two additional music discs, and a 160 page hardback book and a novelisation too, collecting various essays about the film. For me though, the meatiest morsel of the collection is disc 4, with a ton of NEW special features and films that cover the making of the film from all angles. You want a new hour long documentary that speaks to the actors (more accurately, Pittsburgh students and friends of Tom Savini) from most of the memorable zombie kills, plus another short documentary where Savini tells us how he did the effects behind those kills? You got it. Also included on this disc is Roy Frumkes' beloved Document of the Dead film, now with an extended cut that adds half an hour of content.

UK fans of this film have long been forced to traverse the minefield of importing foreign boxsets and owning a multi-region player, and that was just for DVDs (Anchor Bay put out a superb boxset over a decade ago, but this improves upon even that). Now on blu-ray and 4K UHD, with love, care and attention to detail, Second Sight have compiled what is undoubtedly the definitive compendium of Dawn of the Dead, all inside what must be one of the greatest looking boxset of all time with the original artwork put to great use. This is a collection that will inspire serious shelf envy.

At a time when the world seems a bit apocalyptic-esque and life in lockdown isn't too dissimilar to what this film's main characters are going through, let's either take comfort that we don't quite have it as bad as these guys do and/or sit and take notes in case survival skills become necessary. Enough to set the pulse racing of any true Romero fan, for a film that's recently passed its 40th anniversary, Dawn of the Dead has never looked as good as this.

Available to buy now from all good retailers, but buying directly from Second Sight will bag you some additional art cards.

Verdict

5/5


Special Features

- Zombies and Bikers - new documentary packed with interviews with the undead cast

- Memories of Monroeville - a fun tour of the Monroeville Mall how it is today

- Raising the Dead - The production logistics

- The FX of Dawn with Tom Savini

- Dummies! Dummies! - A New interview with the eye-patch wearing scientist on TV.

- The Lost Romero Dawn Interview - a newly discovered archive interview

- Super 8 Mall Footage - Behind the scenes footage by documentarian Ralph Langer

- Document of the Dead - Roy Frumkes' classic making of documentary, with optional extended cut

- The Dead Will Walk - Romero profile from 2004

- Trailers, TV & Radio Spots

- Commentaries on all versions of the film

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