Monday, October 26, 2009

Where are they now? Dawn of the Dead

In 1978 a zombie movie broke through onto the screen that would redefine zombie movies forever. Sure Night of the Living Dead is the beginning, but Dawn of the Dead was the epic, the character study, a true unveiling of everything Romero wished to present in representation of society. Not all that action packed, Dawn of the Dead centered on four characters trying to live through the zombie crisis, taking refuge in a mall. The four characters are asked to carry the film's entire 2+ hour runtime, and do so with great strength in character. Yet for all their talent they never really made it "big," some huge in cult status, some leaving the film world all together, I have to say, I find it rather unfortunate.

David Emge, who starred as the helicopter pilot, and boyfriend to female lead, Fran (Gaylen Ross) has one of the film's more distant roles. Always present, but never the "good" guy, he took the blunt force of the anger from the other characters, and ultimately held strong. After Dawn of the Dead he left film for theater work, something I find certainly understandable, but never really gaining grand exposure. Since the 1978 breakthrough film David Emge has only returned to acting in films twice. Once as "Half Moon" in the 1990 horror movie Basket Case 2 (there was a 1?), and again two years later as Robert in the film Hellmaster... both of which I can't think of 2 people I know who saw.

Scott H. Reiniger's Roger was arguably the films comic relief. A bit of a wild goofball, and not the brightest of the bunch, Roger was lovable, and memorable. Much like Emge Reiniger never really became the star who could have been. Romero liked him enough to pick him up 3 years later for a role in Knightriders, but that would prove to just about be the end of his film career. Reiniger appeared in the made for TV movie The Other Victim, and a guest spot on the tv show Falcon Crest, but it wouldn't be until the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead that he would return to film, but only in a cameo role. Beyond that he is now a teacher at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, and has found out he is the great, great, great grandson of Josiah Holan, the first American in Afghanistan, and is a Prince of Ghor (the irony here is perfect, though I'm sure my pronunciation is way wrong).

Gaylen Ross was unarguably the star of Dawn of the Dead. She was the moral and emotional center, counter to the free spirited attempts of the other men, and a mother figure to them as well. Ross was pitch perfect in the role, and a standout for emotional range. Alas it would be 4 years before Ross would return to the big screen with a leading role in the 1982 horror film Madman. Ross also had a part in one of the segments of Romero's 1982 film Creepshow, but that would be the end of her run in film. Instead Ross opted to become a Documentary filmmaker, and has so since 1989 with the TV documentary Out of Solidarity. Currently on her 8th documentary, Ross has found a nice little niche group of fans, and of course still has the hearts of horror fans everywhere.

Ken Foree was possibly the only real breakout star of Dawn of the Dead. Peter was the powerhouse of the film, much like Ross a morally centered individual, and easily put the leader of the group. Following Dawn of the Dead Foree became a film powerhouse among the B-horror and cult films having done just about every TV show you'd ever want to think of. With the 2004 reboot of Dawn of the Dead Foree's cameo was apparently enough to knock him back into the world of film, with a series of horror films, including the 2007 remake of Halloween. Out of this group, Foree has probably maintained the most popularity, and in return, has become the face bridging old school horror to modern day. It's no surprise that Foree has become the face, despite have never done another huge success, his imposing figure, likable personality, and understanding of what made him famous, he's certainly become a feature in the horror world.

Alas though, despite the massive success of Dawn of the Dead, none of these feature stars ever achieved the fame I think they should have. Then again, they all managed to be apart of a film that will forever be linked with the genre it helped create. Something many "famous" actors throughout history could never say, and that's something worth saying.

1 better thoughts:

Dave u said...

One of my favorite zombie movies(that remake was rediculous) Hey George how about a movie based on the book Return of the Living Dead
(can I play a zombie)thanks again George

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