The story is set just a few weeks ahead of the events of the first film. The unknown force that is raising the recently deceased is still persisting. As more people are being killed and eaten by the walking corpses - only to become flesh-eating zombies themselves - the world has started to fall into a state of disarray. The end is on the horizon.
Four people - a traffic helicopter pilot, his girlfriend from the WGON news studio, and two national guardsman - take off from their responsibilities in the traffic helicopter and take refuge inside a shopping mall that is crowded with the living dead. Through a series of spine-chilling sweeps throughout the shopping mall, as they gather supplies and kill the zombies, the four manage to secure the mall as their own safe haven. A monument to decadent consumerism and a barricaded fortress all in one...
But as time passes, they begin to see that the mall has become their prison, rather than their salvation...
The make-up effects and its dated style are probably the most noticeable attributes of the film (which reportedly only cost $1.5 million dollars to produce).
Even so, with its apocalyptic vision, social commentary on consumerism, bits of dark humor, and its sickening scenes of abundant blood and gore (compliments of make-up effects wizard Tom Savini), Dawn of the Dead was well recieved by audiences of the late 70's (especially in Europe, thanks to distribution efforts by Italian filmmaker Dario Argento).
This cult classic has been hailed as the greatest zombie film ever made. Over the decades, it has been imitated, blatantly ripped-off, even remade (2004's Dawn of the Dead). But with the exception of the first film, nothing has ever come close to achieving the greatness that Dawn has earned.
"...When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth." - Peter, with survivors in the mall
"Every dead body that is not exterminated, becomes one of them. It gets up and kills. The people it kills get up and kill!" - Dr. Foster, appearing on the T.V. news program in the beginning scene