The second of George A. Romero’s zombie movies, Dawn of the Dead, is where my obsession with the undead began. Not a direct sequel to the earlier Night of the Living Dead it works as a companion piece, another story from the same world. Just as dawn follows night, the film takes place a little further along down the zombie apocalypse. I saw it first and as much as I love Night, I probably prefer Dawn. This makes it even more annoying that I haven’t seen the movie in years. It’s never on telly, I can’t find it on Netflix and tracking down a DVD is proving tricky too.
My old copy, taped off BBC2, is long gone now. And yet a lot of the movie is still fresh in my head, whole scenes are clear to me and I remember the tone well, a mix of dark comedy, grim tension and subtle satire of our commercialised world. Driven by instinct the living dead are drawn to places that were important to them, in this case a mall.
The novelisation of the movie caught my eye on the shelf in a book shop, and I had to grab it.
And I am so glad I did. As Simon Pegg states in his introduction a book provides a different perspective to a film, and here we get to see more of the inner lives of our four survivors as they hole up at the Monroeville Mall. Fran, who works for a Philadelphia television studio is watching the world go to hell and decides to flee in the station’s traffic chopper with her boyfriend Stephen. Joining them is Stephen’s friend a SWAT tropper named Roger and his comrade in arms, Peter, who he meets during a disastrous raid.
The mall, despite having plenty of zombies around, makes an attractive proposition and despite originally having planned to load up before moving on to Canada, the group linger there, enjoying all the cool stuff they find there. But is it as safe as they think it is?
I really dug this book because like the movie it captures a sense of constantly simmering tension, even when the guys are living it up, there’s an artificial joviality to things, and the dead are never far away. The characters are more fleshed out here, particularly Peter, who is developed slightly more than the tough badass he is in the movie and the tensions between him and Stephen are better explained. Similarly, Fran and Stephen’s relationship makes a bit more sense.
The action is written in a fast paced, engaging way and Romero, with co-writer Sparrow succeeds in making it incredibly tense in places. The story is simple but involving, and it moves along at a good speed, while still letting the story breathe in places. I really loved this book, but it’s just made me want to rewatch the original movie again.
Verdict: A gripping and entertaining story, much like the movie it is based off. The characters are slightly more detailed here, and it captures the vibe of the survivors fraying under the pressure of the civilised world ending. A must for zombie fans. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.