On the Couch #36: Dawn of the Dead

It’s kind of funny how fascinated I am by zombies considering how few zombie movies I’ve actually seen. I love the prospect of new zombie movies, but I rarely watch them. When I was traveling in London a few years ago, I was immediately enthralled by posters for the then upcoming “Shaun of the Dead,” and was upset that we were leaving London the day before its release, especially after finding out I’d have to wait months for its US release. But why would I be excited for a movie parodying Romero’s zombie movies? At that point, the only George Romero zombie movie I ever saw was the original Night of the Living Dead. I hadn’t even seen the movie whose title Shaun of the Dead was parodying. But I was seriously excited for Shaun of the Dead. I even dressed up like Shaun for Halloween that year (total people at the party who knew who I was, excluding me: Julie).

Julie pointed out recently that I don’t really love zombie movies, just zombie comedies. She makes a good point. If you asked me to name my two favorite zombie movies, they’d be Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. Those are both comedies. I think this comes from that I was never really into horror movies. This is because I’m basically a giant wuss. I’m the guy that horror movies affect a little too much, the one who is watching my back after leaving the theater or turning on all the lights in the apartment and checking behind every door and the shower curtain after leaving the couch. The one who is formulating plans for surviving the zombiepocalypse. The one who doesn’t sleep for the next couple of nights. Name a great comedy. I’ve probably seen it. Heck, name a below-average comedy. I’ve probably seen it. But name a horror movie that everyone’s seen and there’s probably a 10% chance I’ve seen it and an even smaller chance I want to see it.

The funniest image in the movie: everyone in fur.

I’m glad I finally watched Dawn of the Dead. Not only because I feel it’s one of those movies I needed to see but never got around to seeing, but also because I’ve been to the Zombie Museum in the Monroeville Mall more times than I’ve seen Dawn of the Dead. That’s still true today, as I’d have to watch Dawn of the Dead once more to tie the number of times I’ve been to the Zombie Museum.

What’s the Zombie Museum, you ask? To me, it’s the number one reason to take a trip to the Monroeville Mall. Though I don’t know how many people agree with me on that last statement, since it was empty both times I’ve been there. Nestled in the back of a store specializing in action figures is a room that serves as a shrine to all things zombie. A wall is filled with zombie-movie posters with a timeline showing the evolution of the genre from the first zombie movie ever to the current crop. On another wall, bloody handprints of actors serve as a zombie version of the Hollywood walk of fame. There are mannequins done up in costumes from zombie movies, including a zombie-Roger from Dawn of the Dead and a zombie-Michael Jackson from Thriller. There’s even a highly-detailed scale model of the Monroeville Mall showing the characters fighting off zombies. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, do yourself a favor and check this place out. Tell them Tuesday Night Movies sent you (they’ll probably give you a confused look if you say that, but I could use the free publicity any way I can get it, so thanks).

The Zombie Museum should be on your list of things to do in Pittsburgh before you die…and come back as a flesh hungry monstrosity.

It was very fun to watch Dawn of the Dead with my girlfriend, a Pittsburgh native who grew up near the Monroeville Mall. She was able to point out places in the movie in terms that I’d recognize them (ex. “Those zombies are where we usually meet up with my mom.”). She could also spot the changes to the mall between then and now. I think the only stores still left from 1978 are JC Penney and Piercing Pagoda. The ice rink is long gone; it’s now the food court.

Hey man, you’ve got something in your hair.

If there’s one thing I don’t understand after watching Dawn of the Dead, it’s why that biker gang member kept insisting on trying to check his blood pressure in one of those sit down blood pressure machines while zombies were swarming around him. Everyone should try to keep their blood pressure down, but he really needs to prioritize the likely ways he’d die after the zombie apocalypse (hint: it’s not going to be from eating too many Big Macs).

Dude, dressing up in gray face? Not cool. 

Out of all the special features on the Blu-Ray, the best is definitely a super-8 film shot by one of the zombies on set. It serves as a kind of Zaruda film for the making of Dawn of the Dead, taking you behind the scenes better than most behind the scenes features do.

Dawn of the Dead has made me excited for two things: 1.) Watching the rest of Romero’s zombie movies and 2.) Acting like a zombie on the up escalator next time I’m at the Monroeville Mall.