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Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Reviewed by Alex Strickland

When I first heard of plans to remake George A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead, one word sprung to mind: sacrilege! But after a while, I warmed up to the idea. I figured Tom Savini’s remake of Night Of The Living Dead was well-done, so why not try to keep an open mind? After seeing Zack Snyder’s remake I can say that my receptiveness paid off, but that nothing can top the original. Romero’s story of four survivors who take refuge in a shopping mall to escape the growing legions of the undead is one of my favorite horror films of all time.

But while George took the time to let us get to know the characters and attempted to make some statements about human nature, Snyder and screenwriter James Gunn have exchanged social commentary and character intimacy for a faster-paced, action/adventure mentality. Most of the characters are redundant zombie-fodder, with only a few of them you can really get attached to in any way. Kenneth (Ving Rhames) is pretty much the main character, and his relationship via-whiteboard with Andy (another survivor trapped on the roof of a near-by gunstore) is the only bond really explored in the film. You can feel for Michael (Jake Weber), but I have to admit I’m probably biased ‘cause of his character on American Gothic.

What “Dawn” does well (at least, at first) is create the sense of “things are going to shit.” The first ten minutes give us a hectic escape from suburbia, with fires and explosions and zombies and all hell breaking loose, and it’s done very well (not to mention that the choice of Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” for the opening credits is brilliant).

Once they get to the mall, though, there’s really not any feeling of danger. It sort of creates a logical problem towards the end when they decide to escape, presumably just for the hell of it. There’s no real impetus for them to leave the safety of the mall like there was in the original. It’s just kind of a bonehead move, really.

As for the zombies themselves, they do their job. The running gets to be a bit far-fetched after a while, and they lack any real personality, but at least there’s plenty around for some good ol’ gory deaths. This was one of my main beefs with Resident Evil (besides the fact that it sucked) - they completely wimped out on the gore, which is pretty much essential in a zombie flick.

The cameos from some of the original cast members (Scott Reiniger, Ken Foree, and Tom Savini) are fun, but could have been more. Ken Foree’s recitation of the classic line (“When there’s no more room in Hell. . .”) lacks all the dread and tension it held in the original.

But all in all, if you’re in the mood for a fun zombie movie, this remake will hit the spot. It’s a good time for those not looking to get too involved.

 

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Director
Zack Snyder

Screenplay
James Gunn

Released
March 19, 2004

Cast
Sarah Polley
Ving Rhames
Jake Weber
Mekhi Phifer
Ty Burrell

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray