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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Opening Shots: 'Dawn of the Dead'

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Waking into a nightmare.

From Brad Damare, New Orleans, LA:

"Dawn of the Dead" (1979) opens with an close-up of one of the lead characters, asleep against a blood-red carpeted wall. She seems both alone and surrounded by the red -- an echo of what will be the film's finale, in which she has to escape the mall rooftop alone, possibly alone in the world. But Romero jump-cuts with something of a joke: She's only dreaming, and she's actually in a room full of people. But that room full of people is in full-panic mode: She's awakened from one nightmare into another.

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JE: Thanks, Brad, for mentioning one of my all-time favorite horror movies. It's like she's in a red-shag womb, about to be born into a world that's worse than anything she could have dreamed. That jump-cut happens as she cries out, waking herself up -- and at the same instant a man pops into the frame and grabs her: "Are you alright? The shit's really hitting the fan." And the zombie head is really hitting the helicopter blades... A TV station colleage, watching a debate on a monitor ("We don't know that," says a man on the screen. "We gotta operate on what we do know!"), observes: "Still dreaming..."

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