Dawn of the Dead is a loose remake of George Romero’s 1978 film of same name, which most serious horror fans consider to be a classic.
This is the first time director Zack Snyder has done something original with his film. He has made a completely watchable and engrossing “reimagination” of an older film that works very well, despite inevitable comparisons to the original version.
Plotwise, only the very basic premise remains in this new version.
A doctor named Ana (Sarah Polley) is driven out of her house when a little girl zombie bites her husband. Not really sure where she is going, she runs into a cop named Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a normal unassuming man named Micheal (Jake Weber), a young criminal named Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his pregnant wife Luda (Inna Korobkina).
They end up holing themselves away in a shopping mall and meeting up with a bunch of other characters, including some mall security guards. They immediately dedicate themselves to trying to keep the zombies out, a pursuit that is obviously doomed to fail.
While some purists may argue this movie did not need to happen, and that it lacks the anti-consumerist subtext of the original, it is hard to argue that Snyder’s film isn’t at least a little bit exciting.
Many of his directorial decisions are right on the money, from the washed-out, grainy post-apocalyptic look of the film, to the decision to start the action before the opening credits roll. Snyder also seems to be looking to please fans of the original film. The new version features cameos by makeup artists Tom Savini and several actors from the original.
The script by James Gunn is also right on the money. The filmmakers seem to know exactly when to let up on the white knuckle intense action parts and throw in a lighthearted scene.
The film contains its fair share of both, most of which are surprisingly effective. For such an intense film, it contains a fair share of laughs; foremost of which is a celebrity look-alike zombie shooting contest.
The dramatic scenes also owe a debt to the above average performances, especially for this movie. Ving Rhames plays his part to tough guy perfection, but is given some touching moments when he builds a long-distance friendship with a man stuck on the roof of a building across the street.
Mekhi Phifer’s performance is also noteworthy. His character does terrible things during the course of the film, but does a good job of making Andre vulnerable and relatable.
This movie is certainly not for anyone. Even for seasoned horror movie veterans, there are some genuinely shocking and unpleasant moments. But this is a well- made movie, several steps above Resident Evil, and a thoroughly more enjoyable remake than, say Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. If horror fans can temporarily put memories of Romero’s original out of their minds, they should be enthralled with what Snyder has to offer.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org