Dawn of the Dead (2004) Movie Review

A Fresh Corpse

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With “Batman V Superman: Dawn of the Justice” on the horizon I thought how can I celebrate this occasion?  It’s not a Batman or a Superman movie (it’s both of theirs) so reviewing all the past individual character’s movies doesn’t quite make sense (although I could be swayed).  However whenever you watch the trailers for the upcoming super hero flick it’s clear it has Zack Snyder’s style written all over.  So what better way to lead up to “Batman V Superman” then to go back, watch and review all of Snyder’s works.   For most people their first exposure to Snyder is “300”.  However most tend to overlook his first feature.  The smaller horror remake for the George A. Romero classic “Dawn of the Dead”.

Snyder’s update of the 1980 original (which helped lay the ground work for the modern Zombie genre) came out right in the middle of the era when it seemed like every horror movie was getting remade.  People complain now about horror remakes but the first decade of 2000s was the epidemic of horror remakes.    Everyone here knows I have no problem with remakes but there were some big swing and misses with some of these horror remakes . But “Dawn of the Dead” is in that group of remakes that really did work.  Zack Snyder, armed with a screenplay written by future “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, provide a great update.   This version of “Dawn of the Dead” stays true to its roots but pushes itself forward in many ways.  This isn’t a perfect movie and it’s not on the level of Romeo’s original. But, it doesn’t have to be, it’s just good enough.

 

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As I’ve mentioned this is the same premise as the original 1980 version.  After an outbreak of the zombie apocalypse a group of survivors hold up in a local mall where they meet up with a group of security guards.  Together the group have to overcome their differences in order to survive the increasing and dangerous numbers of zombies at their doorsteps.

While premise is basically the same this doesn’t fall into the same mistake that the 1998 remake of “Psycho”.  Where that film kept the same premise and recreated the entire film shot for shot (or another example is the 2005 “Bad News Bears” remake) this remake changes some things, shifts other events around, writes in a different cast of characters and updates it for the modern times.  The themes of social destruction and power are more relevant to the post 9/11 audience than the 1980’s original. Which is now famous for its social critique on the consumer industry.   While those themes are still there in this version they feel like they are there more out of obligation rather than because the filmmakers had something to say on the subject.

The cast of characters are collective group of solid actors that aren’t big names (at least not at the time).  The movie opens up with Sarah Polley’s character.  Polley makes for a likeable lead even if the script doesn’t always keep a sharp focus on her personal arc.  Ving Rhames of “Mission Impossible” fame is also here as a hardened police officer.  Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer also help round the surprisingly talented cast.  Future “Modern Family” star Ty Burrell is also in this movie.  Burrell plays a massive douche bag…but a fun one at that.  Future “Man of Steel” and “House of Cards” supporting actor Michael Kelly also appears in this movie.   And like I’ve said before anytime Kelly pops up he always does a great job.

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Speaking of “Man of Steel” there are a few lines and names that will remind viewers of Snyder later ventures into the world of Superman.  Just keep your eyes open for that next time you watch it.

The most substantial difference from the original is the update on the zombies.  In the original (like most interpretations of the undead creature) they are slow moving and lumbering creatures.  Here, they were clearly inspired by “28 Days Later” and enhanced the zombies speed and ferocity.  In this they prove to be more terrifying than ever.  I may have a preference to slow moving zombies but these zombies I never want to encounter.  Whereas the slow moving ones I feel like I might still have a chance at surviving.   2004 “Dawn of the Dead” zombies?  I’m the first one dead in the apocalypse.

The action surrounding the zombies is amped up as well to 11.  This is a fast moving and hyper edited film that is high in octane.  We don’t stay on one shot for too long before Snyder cuts around to another piece of the action set piece.  Most of the action works because of how menacing the zombies are but sometimes it does prove to be a bit overbearing.  It’s clear that this movie served as a bit of experimentation for Snyder and some of it does pay off.  This does have a very down, dirty and sometimes grind house feeling to it.  Unlike later films, I didn’t find this movie to have a very strong visual appeal to it.  Some of the larger scale action scenes prove sometimes too big for its budget and comes access as hokey.

dawn-of-the-dead-zombies

The action surrounding the zombies is amped up as well to 11.  This is a fast moving and hyper edited film that is high in octane.  We don’t stay on one shot for too long before Snyder cuts around to another piece of the action set piece.  Most of the action works because of how menacing the zombies are but sometimes it does prove to be a bit overbearing.  It’s clear that this movie served as a bit of experimentation for Snyder and some of it does pay off.  This does have a very down, dirty and sometimes grind house feeling to it.  Unlike later films, I didn’t find this movie to have a very strong visual appeal to it.  Some of the larger scale action scenes prove sometimes too big for its budget and comes access as hokey.

Final Score

7.5/10

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