The quintessential zombie survival movie of the last 10 years, Dawn of the Dead 2004 has a lot of things going for it. Alas, the survival of its characters is not one of them. Although I love Dawn of the Dead as an action film and as a cult classic, I feel it lacks in effective survival techniques and realistic reactions – something which I hold dear, and as such I have analyzed the film and devised several ways which, though perhaps more boring to the viewer, would have allowed our main characters to remain unbitten, un-dead and un-undead.
1) LOCK YOUR HOUSE! – Our heroin would still have a living husband where it not for their poor house-safety. Not only do they not seem to lock their house door, but they also don’t shut their bedroom door either – allowing creepy-zombied-up-dead-girl to wander right in, nom on the husband and cause a hell of a lot of problems. If our heroin had but locked her house, she and her hubby would have heard the chaos outside, had time to react and think up a sensible course of action, and may well have survived.
2) Don’t go to the Mall, The film establishes that when zombies are without something to chase, they swarm to places that they used to inhabit – aka – the mall. Although our heroes did not know this at the time, it is a reasonable assumption that less populated areas are more likely to be infestation free. After our main heroin crashes her car and is left on foot, rather than heading to the mall, and eventual doom, she would have done well to acquire a bicycle or other form of transport and head for the countryside: lots of open spaces where you can spot roaming zombies from a distance, hopefully a bit of food, even if it is only trapped squirrels, and somewhere safe and zombie-free to hole up. On the assumption that the main roads are pretty crammed with fleeing cars, a bicycle would allow for transport both on and off roads, while allowing the rider to out-cycle running zombies. The chances are you might also find other survivors there – if you live in the middle of nowhere then you are unlikely to have been bitten and zombiefied.
3) Safety in numbers. Expecting our characters to have thought thoroughly about the situation considering they have been chased, mauled and scared witless may be a bit much, and thus their improvised plan to hide at the mall is a pretty good one compared with many others, so we’ll let them off not having fled for the countryside. That said they still fail at basic survival and they were lucky to not get eaten far earlier on in the film. Two rooky mistakes we see at the beginning of the film include lone zombie hunting and swapping a crowbar for a croquet mallet! Even the most pathetic, horror-phobic individual knows not to split up from the group – there is safety in numbers. Yet two of our stronger male characters both think it sensible to split from the group to scope out our possibly zombie-filled mall. Idiots. This mistake is nearly fatal for one of our characters and is most certainly not aided by his moronic decision to swap a crowbar for a croquet mallet. Common sense would suggest that something sturdy, metal, pointy and swingable is far better for zombie killing than a wooden, breakable and blunt mallet. Yes you might get badass points for a mallet, but seeing as you are alone and would like to remain un-et, stick with the crowbar, moron.
Luckily our characters survive their rooky mistakes, yet they still fail to think through their own decisions and put themselves at needless risk. Once the infighting has subsided, our characters are left alone and zombie free in a mall – a pretty good place to be in: lots of food, lots of supplies of raw materials, clothing, toiletries (even if no hot showers) and comfy places to sleep. Our characters complain that they are unhappy sitting there ‘waiting to die’ but really, isn’t that life anyway? Our characters should have stopped bringing trouble upon themselves and stayed put in the comfort of the mall. Read a book or steal a Gameboy you losers! As such they take stupid risks and begin to bring about their own destruction.
4) Shooting zombies off the top of buildings. As fun a distraction as shooting zombies in the head is, it is hardly the sensible option. For every zombie our heroes dispose of, the noise of the gun shots will bring along 10-20 more. Sound travels, and now that our brain-eating villains have eaten most of the remaining population, they will be drawn to any noises they hear and will swarm. If our characters had but resisted the temptation to have shouting matches at each other on roofs and shoot things, they would have been faced with a much smaller horde of the undead and could quite possibly have survived the mess they brought upon themselves.
5) Not keeping a better eye on suspicious characters. Several of our characters end up dead due to them not keeping close enough notice of each other. Our father-to-be sneaks off with his preggers, infected wife and allows her to turn and spawn a zombie baby. This all goes on without a single character regularly checking on them – despite one of them being a nurse! Finally, when someone does go to check on them they go alone – see point 3 – and get themselves shot, along with father-to-zombie-baby. Later they also manage to lose grieving-teenage-girl because no one was keeping an eye on her and if SOMEONE had thought it sensible to stay with unreliable-gay-bloke, then our uncomfortable ending could have easily been prevented.
6) Think decisions through. Our characters never fully think through ideas before implementing them. They begin by saying the only way to deliver food to our starving gun store owner is via the dog, but then quickly devise a way of getting to him via the sewers. What would have worked better would have been to think it through a little longer, left someone on the roof or at the base to distract the zombies while remaining safe, and to have snuck down in the sewers, collected gun-man along with ammo and escorted him safely back to the mall without any of the nasty consequences of their original plan. Zombies aren’t that smart, but somehow they manage to remain smarter than out still living characters.
7) Don’t go after the stupid must-save-my-dog girl. The girl has been proven as unreliable, and although the compassionate person would say ‘go after her’ we all see how well that works out. If our characters had just left her to her fate and not mounted a rescue attempt, pretty much all of our characters might have survived. Instead they go after her, losing a valuable member of the team in the process (one that is far more likely to be of use than a whimpering girl) and allow the zombie horde to break into their mall. Compassion kills.
8) The entire ‘kick-ass zombie-killing truck’ idea. I think we can fairly comprehensively say that that idea failed. They would have done better to sneak into the sewer system and make their escape that way.
9) Heading for the Marina and unreliable-gay-bloke’s boat. Stupidest idea ever. ‘I know, lets head for a boat we have no idea how to drive, surround ourselves with salty, unclean water, with no food and just HOPE we find an island with provisions and no zombies.’ It is very unlikely, considering all the chaos, that the road systems would be clear enough to drive around anyway, and even if they are, and you miraculously get to the marina, how are you going to spot the right boat before getting mauled to death? IF you manage to board the boat, you are then left on an unstocked, possibly unfueled boat, with no drinkable water, no food and no clue where you are going. I refer you back to point 2. Our characters, on deciding to leave the mall, should have headed for the countryside – found a diner somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and formed a new base. Even better, head for a remote forest –with a lake nearby, set up traps in case a stray zombie comes wandering around and learn to live off the land. Make tree-houses somewhere the zombies can’t reach and send out raiding parties to remote stores and houses.
All this said, if I were faced with the zombie apocalypse I would probably end up as fodder, I am fat, unfit and poorly assembled, meaning anything remotely physical would leave me dead and then un-dead. My only hope is that I end up holed up somewhere safeish and that my quick thinking and hefty fat reserves mean that I can survive a long time with little food and finally flee to safety. Always remember – if they can’t see you, smell you or hear you then you are probably safe. Make sure you have decent food reserves, something to camouflage your scent lay low and don’t take stupid risks.