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DAWN OF THE DEAD (R) (2004)

Universal

Official Site

Director: Zack Snyder

Producers: Eric Newman, Marc Abraham, Richard Rubinstein

Written by: James Gunn

Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kim Poirier

Rating:

George Romero made the low-budget classic Night Of The Living Dead in 1968, and thus created a new genre of horror cinema, the zombie flick. Owing to legal complications, Romero was never able to establish the ownership of his creation and so the property fell into the public domain and the millions generated were lost to him. From that bitter, un-reaped success, Romero would plan a sequel of sorts that would expand upon the frightening world glimpsed in Night Of The Living Dead. That film was Dawn Of The Dead, a classic in its own right. Imaginative story, great acting; who can forget the scenes of zombies stumbling around a suburban mall to the sounds of muzak—good times. There was a third after that called Day Of The Dead, an ambitious attempt to mix horror with science fiction, but really the less said about that one the better.

If there was a major complaint about the old Dawn Of The Dead it was that the zombies themselves were none too scary; they moved around like wind-up penguins. I always wondered how the dead were taking over when anyone with half a brain and two legs would seem to be untouchable to these lurching, cannibalized leftovers. This aspect of the genre was improved upon by director Danny Boyle in last year’s brilliant 28 Days Later. There the undead were like running kamikazes, chasing their prey with single-minded determination. This Dawn Of The Dead seems to have borrowed those zombies.

And the film starts off well enough, with our heroine Ana (Polley, a poor man’s Scarlett Johanssen) and her husband awakened by their newly dead daughter. From there we get an escape through the widening chaos of hell on earth that culminates in a crash and close encounter with a cop named Kenneth (Rhames). They meet up with a few more survivors and take refuge in a seemingly empty mall. From there the group expands to take on more of the town’s remaining survivors, an eclectic bunch who all spend their time complaining, flirting, and exchanging what passes for witty dialogue. Really the middle part drags, but it does boast a delivery scene that makes the miracle of childbirth seem even more disturbing than it naturally would be.

All is not well though, as the group realizes they can’t make it there forever and decide to make for greener pastures. To do so they soup up some shuttle buses, Road Warrior-style, and make their way through an army of the undead. It’s interesting how a bigger budget can turn a horror film into an action film. Much like Aliens was to Alien, this new Dawn Of The Dead is a bigger, louder film, with lots of gunfights and explosions. Unfortunately these frills hardly make up for what’s lacking from the original. Satire is sacrificed for one-liners, story and character development no longer attainable with Snyder’s kind of slick ADD-addled directing. It also fails to make us care whether any one of these people live or die. You’ll be rooting for the zombies to break up the romantic subplot involving Polley’s Ana and Jake Weber’s Michael.

Oh well, even though there was potential, I guess you should never mess with a classic. And instead of shelling out the cash for this lackluster remake I suggest staying in and renting the original.

—Edward Rholes

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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