George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead has been one of my all-time favorite movies since 1984. The previous Christmas, my big brother Dean bought me Bizarro! (originally titled Grand Illusions), a book about the makeup effects of Tom Savini. I was really interested in makeup at the time, and when I wasn’t shabbily recreating Planet of the Apes chimps or zombies or Leatherface, I would spend hours poring over the book’s photos, reading Savini’s stories of how his now-infamous splatter effects were achieved in films like Deathdream, Martin, The Prowler, and of course, Dawn of the Dead.
A year or so later, when our household got its first VCR, I ran out to rent as many of Savini’s films as I could, devouring them, thinking they were awesome. Many of them were not. But Dawn of the Dead hit me in a different way than The Burning or Eyes Of A Stranger. It quickly became one of only a few films in Savini’s repertoire that I found myself revisiting for reasons besides the gore. Dawn (and to a lesser degree, Romero’s Martin) was one of the first horror films to make me appreciate filmmaking beyond the level of teenage gorehound. I fell in love with the broad social satire, with the characters, and with the score, a funky mixtape of 70s stock music and the distinctive sounds of Dario Argento’s house band Goblin. Most of all I was taken with Romero’s editing, which moved the film at a brisk clip (though some friends argue the “brisk” part these days) from a frantic TV broadcast, to the Philadelphia projects, to the rural hills of Pennsyltucky, to the film’s central shopping mall setting, giving the action a scale that belied its tiny budget. Romero created a big, real world for Dawn – something I didn’t see happening in most other horror films of the time.
27 years later, Dawn of the Dead has kept its hooks in me. I’ve purchased it on VHS probably four or five times, on DVD once or twice, and recently on Blu-Ray. I’ve been to the Monroeville Mall, and the nearby Harold W Brown Memorial Airfield, where my favorite scene of the film was shot. I’ve met the Hare Krishna zombie. The film lives in that blind spot of my mind where I’ll never see the flaws or the shortcomings, only the things that I loved and still love about it. Remakes won’t change that, horrible zombie movies from Mr. Romero won’t change that. The film is burned into my brain, forever.
So like any good, obsessed horror fan, I’ve fetishized the most trivial details of the film, and I’m obviously a sucker for Dawn-related merchandise. So when I saw this offering from Last Exit To Nowhere, I pounced. Featuring the logo of the traffic helicopter stolen from the TV station at the beginning of the film, it’s about the nerdiest horror t-shirt I’ve ever seen, and only a select few would even understand it, but those who do are in good company:
In fact, I’d keep it myself, but the problem is it’s a medium, and it’s cut way too small (I’m not trying to be vain here; I have mediums and smalls of shirts that fit me fine; this medium is TINY. I still fit into medium, I swear!), and I’m not sending it back to England for an exchange. Additionally, Last Exit has opted for a really thick fabric for their shirts, which I don’t love. Also, I should probably start dressing like a grown-up. But if you’re a scrawny sonofabitch and you love Dawn of the Dead the way I do and you don’t care who knows it or, more importantly, doesn’t know it, this one’s for you. I tried it on once and took it off; I washed it; it’s yours. When there’s no more room in my t-shirt drawer, etc., etc.
Want it? Tweet a link to this article with the hashtag #uncollecting and I’ll choose a winner at random. US residents only for now (unless you want to pay postage, then have at it!)
Last week’s winner of the Flash Gordon animation cel is @denwax!