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“That's Real! That's What You Want!”: Producing Fear in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) vs Zack Snyder's remake (2004)

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Abstract:

This article examines traditional oppositions between terror and horror in Dawn of the Dead (1978) and its recent remake (2004), by focusing on one of the major changes made by the producers of the remake: the use of running zombies, which emphasizes the danger the creatures represent to the characters, and enables the film-makers to resort to the kind of cheap startle effects that abound in contemporary slasher and action movies. That the living dead of 1978 were slow-moving allowed for contemplation of their pathetic state and questioned the border between living and dead. The 1978 film underlined how incompatible the living dead were with such techniques that rely on the use of the off-camera, for the horror they inspire (as well as their political significance) is intimately linked to their excessive on-screen presence. The 2004 remake even contradicts its own terms by returning to the imagery of the 1978 film, while its politics also turn out to be very much antithetical to those of the 1978 film. The film-makers seem to display a tendency, which may be fairly typical in contemporary Hollywood cinema, towards nurturing contradictory desires for verisimilitude and artifice in film.

Keywords: DAWN OF THE DEAD; FILM AESTHETICS; GEORGE A. ROMERO; HORROR; LIVING DEAD; REMAKE; TERROR; ZOMBIE MOVIES

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/host.2.1.75_1

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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