Published on March 22nd, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Dawn of the Dead
With the recent trend in Hollywood to recreate and remake old movies, many holding a significant nostalgic experience for moviegoers, it seems that maybe studios have run out of new ideas for movies. So far this year we are already being treated to a re-envisioning of Dawn of the Dead and a remake of Walking Tall, and we aren’t even out of March yet. Yet, while New Line’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre update disappointed many fans of the original film, fans of Dawn of the Dead should be very happy with Universal’s update to the cult classic.
For those who have never seen the original film, you will be treated to an energetic, fast-paced zombie infested ride that never seems to let you go. Those that have seen the original will see an energetic, fast-paced update to the zombie infested classic that builds upon the strong points of George A. Romero’s classic, while adding a few of its own. Taking a cue from 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead brings in zombies who are not the stumbling, mindless bodies of our neighbors reanimated for an unknown reason; zombies now have super-human strength and the ability to run our heroes down.
Even before the opening credits flash on screen in smears of blood you know this film isn’t going to dilly around, something that hampered the original film with lots of downtime in between bouts of action. When Ana’s (Sarah Polley) husband is attacked by a neighbor girl in their bedroom, he is only down for less than a minute before he stands back up and has a thirst for blood and a hunger for flesh. Ana is able to escape and meets up with Kenneth (Ving Rhames). Together, with a few other survivors they seek refuge in a shopping mall. Whereas the original took nearly half the film to reach the mall, our updated characters reach it in nearly 15 minutes and then the fun begins.
Romero’s original version of the film was a stab against consumerism, but the updated version of the film drops this not-too-subtle metaphor in place of raw emotion and action. Adding into the mix is the feeling that humans worst enemy is other humans, something already established with the aforementioned 28 Days Later. Even without the deep meaning to the piece, Dawn of the Dead excels in every aspect of film making. It gives us characters that aren’t fully realized, but not completely 2D, it gives us internal and external conflicts, it gives us gore, it gives us love, and it gives us sacrifice and redemption. Everything you are looking for in a non-award-fishing film is presented wholly in this movie.
Fans of the original will find nods to the classic. The chopper, used as the primary mode of transportation in the original, makes a cameo appearance in the beginning of the film. Several of the stores at the shopping mall have been renamed for members of the original cast. For instance, during the first wide-angle shot of the mall a department store called Gaylen Ross can be seen, she is the actress who played Fran. The B.P. Trucking Company is back in the update as well as actors Ken Foree and Scott H. Reiniger in cameos along with the original’s make-up artist, Tom Savini. Luckily, the motorcycle gang does not return this time.
There are some problems here and there with the film. In the beginning the beginnings of a storyline are presented when a character suffers an injury and then falls into contaminated water, but the affects of this happenstance never come to fruition in the film. Also, while the film does contain a very high body count, the extreme gore of the original is not present here. Those looking for a screwdriver in the ear will have to look elsewhere.
Dawn of the Dead is one of the few films that can boast they are just as good, if not better, than the original film they were crafted from. Fans of the original may be a bit disenchanted by the thematic liberty taken by new comer Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, but as different as the film is from the cult classic that spawned it, Dawn of the Dead rises to the occasion.