I didn’t see Night of the Living Dead until the remake came out in 1990. My parents didn’t watch black and white movies, so the first zombie movie I watched was Dawn of the Dead (1978). The first time I watched it I was probably 7 or 8 years old (1984 or so). I was probably too young to be watching it, but I was raised on slasher flicks. My parents had a membership to one of the first video stores in the county and every weekend we drove 30 minutes to get a couple movies, just to return the next day to return them. They copied hundreds of movies over the years, meaning that growing up, on top of all the movies we rented from video stores, I had a cabinet of ~200 VHS tapes at home, each with 2-3 movies on them.
The copy of Dawn of the Dead I grew up watching was one of these, it was recorded on EP so the quality, which was not great to start with, was very dark. The generator room scene, where Stephen (flyboy) empties a pistol trying to kill one zombie was completely black, and I remember trying to decipher the scene by sound alone.
What made the movie so memorable to me was that I grew up in shopping malls, in the 80s, most of us did. Seeing the stores we all walked by and went through nearly every weekend, lent a sense of realism that the re-make, as well-conceived and executed as it was, couldn’t match. Most malls back then were similar in design, and though, mine didn’t have a gun store or a skating rink in it, there was a sense of familiarity there, and I never went into the Orange Plaza again without thinking about Dawn of the Dead.
Once they had secured the mall, before the bikers sweep through, there is a scene where the group is collecting supplies and comforts from all the stores in the mall, as if they are on a shopping spree. In a sense, they were re-creating their world out of the husk of the old, a theme that I often find myself daydreaming about to this day.
Overall I give this film: 8.2/10
This might very well be my favorite zombie film of all time.
film quality: 8.5
Lasting appeal: 9