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Dawn of the Dead
I'm not sure I can recall witnessing an opening sequence quite like the one I saw in Zack Snyder's remake of the classic horror film 'Dawn of the Dead.' Besides being rather lengthy (it's over ten minutes before we see the opening credits), it has a bizarre creepiness about it. There's something about the cinematography employed to show us 'the beginning of the end' that I really liked: that extra long image of the little girl skating away, the skyview of Sarah Polly's car as she rides home from her shift as a nurse, the picture of perfect serenity, and those intimate scenes we see of her and her husband 'the day before.' It all makes it more tragic, when, quite unexpectedly, morning comes, and with it, the end of all that is sane. The pure chaos of the scenario, an outbreak of a dangerous break of a virus that turns those infected into ghouls, comes so suddenly that it grips us by the throat.
This is one hell of a horror movie. Even for someone as jaded as myself, who has become totally jaded to any real horror thrills, I was taken aback by how uncomfortable the movie made me feel. Our heroes, holed up at the now abandoned local mall, join small groups of survivors and find themselves fighting each other as well as the zombies when the plague starts creeping ever close to bringing them all to the brink of annihilation. The zombies have an easy-to-spot weakness: one shot to the head takes them out, but they're extremely fast, and a single bite from them leads to hopeless infection and mindlessness. Although some of the story makes little sense (for instance, if the zombies can only transmit the virus by bite and the heroes are in a mall, couldn't they don the heaviest attire imaginable rather than skimpy t-shirts?), there are lots of great twists and snappy dialogue along with the required creep-outs, gore, and slaughter.
And there's some surprisingly great humor. Easily the most memorable of the light-hearted, break-the-nerves moments is when our heroes are situated atop a roof and challenge a local gun shop owner to take out look-alike zombie celebrities, which he does with ease. It's a much needed laugh to relieve the audience of a lot of built-up jitters.
Overall, this is a remake that actually works. The characters, for all their strength and weaknesses, are decently fleshed out for a horror movie. There a few unexpected surprises that even the most attentive viewer will take pleasure in. And the action moves along at a clean, fast pace. The few holes that exist in the plot and the somewhat unsatisfying conclusion are the only real problem areas, but these are to be expected in the genre. Overall, I definitely recommend it, even to the squeamish. It's messy fun for everyone. And make sure you stay until AFTER the credits roll. You'll be glad you did.
I've been to thousands of movies in my lifetime and own hundreds of videos
and DVDs, so I am a fan but not a bona fide film critic. This is my first
My wife and I saw the original Dawn of the Dead 25 years ago at a midnight show and left wired enough to talk each other down till the morning. Perhaps a quarter of a century has inured us to the violence a bit since we just watched it again (rental video) last week prior to yesterday's venture to the local multiplex to see the remake/"reimagining" and were mostly unperturbed by the revisit.
For some reason, I was hooked on the new Dawn months ago from the teaser and, subsequently, the actual trailer. The Sparklehorse song in the former fit perfectly and the suburban shot followed by killer Vivian and closing with the burned projector film of the latter was intriguing in its own way. So I was primed to see the movie, usually a recipe for disaster since preview expectations are rarely fulfilled by the finished product. This time, however, they were.
The cast was uniformly believable and, more important, empathizable (at least with the good guys who got sorted out along the way). Even the playboy jerk had several relevant lines. Polley was a good, strong female lead (with another great rebuttal -- "No, I'm a * nurse" to a query about her medical skills) and Rhames a cheerable, if reluctant, hero. The camaraderie, such as it was, worked, and visceral me-first survival gave way more often to self-sacrifice.
So, what's not to like? The fundamental premise that a classic got remade? Doesn't wash. These are two different movies with the same name and similar premises but very different attitudes. (Better special effects didn't hurt, either, although this new version was oddly less disturbing sans zombies munching on dismembered body parts.) Speedy zombies (except for the "twitchers")? No problem; hey, they're hungry and, as always, persistent. My attention was held for the better part of two hours; the story was interesting; the outcome ambivalent; the characters arisen to the task at hand, becoming coldly rational to the divisions between life and death and zombiedom; the music weirdly appropriate; the black humor welcome respite. No, Dawn of the Dead isn't Citizen Kane nor is it a sacrilegious assault on the horror genre. It's solid filmmaking that's entertaining and thought-provoking. Otherwise, I suspect Romero would never have put his imprimatur on the remake.
If you haven't guessed already, I can't sing the praises of this movie
enough - at last, a zombie flick that is two very important
1) Not a B-Movie; 2) An absolutely cracking A-Movie.
Having just got back from the cinema still amazed with the quality of this film I don't know where to begin. The good acting, the spot on cast, the refreshingly unbearable scares, the "Paul Verhovenesque" completely unnecessary but compellingly disgusting gore, the almost uniquely un-Hollywood ending... It's all there.
What is even more amazing about this movie is that it's [re]creators have also managed to tap into what will surely be the unanimous expectations of the target audience. There are no unwanted and unnecessary messages of family values, cheese, cuddles, and love will conquer all, which is fabulous because it leaves far more room for classic lines like, "Tell him to shoot Burt Reynolds" and then the ketchup-tastic head shot that follows. Now you have to admit, that line really can't fit perfectly in to many movies but in the ever consistent mood of Dawn of the Dead, it's right at home.
Ving Rhames is easily the second best thing in the movie (second only to the fast moving, constantly hungry and occasionally limbless zombies) once he actually starts speaking, and it is welcoming that Sarah Polley's Ana is as composed as she is subtle which is great for the audience because for a change the lead female character is not screaming every 30 seconds because, oh my god, someone is trying to bite me whilst drooling oodles of blood and saliva all over my nice white t-shirt. again!
Her character is only clichéd and therefore flawed once throughout the campaign. As the genius of the group, she is the first to work out that when people are bitten they become very ugly, very quickly and develop a penchant for biting others. However she is still inexplicably opposed to killing the aforementioned soon-to-be cannibals. I don't know about you but whilst she was still talking through the morale dilemma of killing would-be zombies before they turned, I'd already be choosing which sponge I was going to use to clean my shoes after removing my trusty shot gun from a red blob that used to be somebody's face. Maybe that's just me though. us Sagittarians are very impulsive.
Since we all have limited attention spans and I'm mindful of not giving too much away about what happens in the move, I'll wrap up by saying that those of you out there who enjoyed this film's original version and have gone on to enjoy films like Starship Troopers, Robocop, Resident Evil etc., then this is definitely the film for you. And even if the above are not representatives of your particular favourite genre, consider this. I went to the cinema with four friends tonight, one of whom stated before paying his money for the ticket, `I don't know why I'm bothering, I hate [rubbish] like this'. He was the one laughing the loudest and coming closest to vomiting throughout the film, and all of us came out saying, `how many Oscars has this been nominated for'..? Sarcastically - yes, but if it was nominated, it'd get my vote. The only thing that could have made it better was Steven Segal instead of Burt Reynolds but you can't have everything.
I reviewed this film back in March 2004, and said, "Wow! I just got
home from seeing dotd-2004 and can't wait to add it to my collection."
Well, I just added it - the Unrated Director's Cut in widescreen
edition. After watching it this weekend, I just had to add a footnote
about this version of the film.
IT MAKES A GREAT FILM EVEN BETTER.
Comments from other reviewers have sometimes made reference to a lack of character development in the film. The UDC version restores this kind of content, and is one way that the UDC version improves on the theatrical release. I see better character development in this version of dotd-2004 then in the (1978) original version of Dawn.
The other improvement the UDC version makes is to restore some really excellent gore shots. If you're into that thing, of course. And if you're not - well of course you're into it - that's why you're checking out this film!
I went into this movie completely excited. And I wasn't even really
disappointed either. The acting was very good, and I actually loved how
they didn't follow the exact storyline. They took the basics of the
original Dawn of the Dead and made it more contemporary. I knew they
wouldn't be filming the movie at Monroeville Mall (the mall just 15
minutes outside of Pittsburgh where they filmed the original) but it
was still awesome none the less.
The script worked rather well, and the movie flowed nicely also. Granted I wasn't a huge fan of the fast moving zombies, but I suppose I can let that go because truthfully, maybe before rigor mortis sets in, you'd be able to move quickly, who knows? But I do know that I was on the edge of my seat through many parts of the movie, and you start to really care about the characters in the movie. I am anxiously waiting for 1 week to pass so that I can get my copy of Dawn. I already have it pre purchased.
The movie missed a perfect 10 for the simple fact that zombies SHOULD NOT run that fast.
Shortly after a number of strange cases begin to appear at the hospital
where Ana (Sarah Polley) works, a bizarre zombie "epidemic" hits the
Milwaukee, Wisconsin area full force. Sarah escapes her immediate
threats and meets a number of other humans who decide to seek shelter
inside a large shopping mall. As they learn that the zombie outbreak is
much more widespread than anyone could have imagined, their chances of
survival grow increasingly dim.
I know an awful lot of genre fans rail against remakes, but like the update of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), this version of Dawn of the Dead is so good that we should instead be clamoring for more.
Writer James Gunn and director Zack Snyder knew that they had to come into the remake with both barrels blasting. Hardly five minutes into the film we're already into hardcore, high tension, gore-filled horror material. In lesser films, our introduction to full-fledged zombie activity would have been dream material as a kind of teaser. Gunn and Snyder dispense with such weak-willed tactics and immediately launch into Armageddon. We quickly move to a wide shot of explosions, brutal car crashes and other mayhem.
We do finally get a breather while we're learning our cast of characters at the mall in nicely written scenes that bring out personality and depth to the relatively large cast, but horror fanatics need not fret that the film will evolve into a drama--tension and gore are never far removed from the film.
Gunn and Snyder earn credit for both paying homage to their source material and taking off into other interesting directions. This remake is just as intense and titillating as Romeo's original, but with a different spin.
The cast is excellent, the cinematography and editing exciting and innovative, and the makeup and "creature" effects are top notch.
Even though I've seen greater quantities, the DVD for Dawn of the Dead also has some of the best extras I've seen on a disc in terms of quality. You get two excellent short films that effectively extend the feature. In one, a new character from the remake, Andy (Bruce Bohne), who runs a gun shop across the street from the mall, gives us a 15-minute video diary of his last 15 days. It's similar in some ways to the feel of The Blair Witch Project (1999), but for my money, it's much better than that film. In the other, we get a 30-minute condensation of the news broadcasts following the outbreak of the zombie "epidemic". This also easily beats any mock horror documentary (such as The Last Broadcast (1998)) with its hands tied behind its back. Make sure you at least rent the DVD to check out these extras.
As a HUGE fan of the original Dawn of the Dead I was very skeptical of
remake. I wasn't expecting an Academy Award winning blockbuster or
anything, but I did want to see the remake do the original justice. I was
impressed with the filming more than anything. This is an action movie
rather than horror. The outdoor scenes are filmed with a grainy,
camera which gave the audience the feeling of being disoriented much the
same way the characters would have felt. The movie was not made in the
MTV-generation style that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was. Dawn of
the Dead stuck to the same mythology of the first without giving it a
complete reimagining. I could imagine the two movies co-existing, but in
different parts of the world.
One of the key differences that I did like was the idea of the zombies running. This made them come across as more menacing rather than being the slow clunkers that are seen in the original trilogy. The idea of being able to walk right past them was abandoned. I also feel that the movie did a good job of showing how quickly people would turn on one another and watch out for themselves only.
One of my favorite "realisms" of the movie is how the characters are too attached to their loved ones to shot them when they become zombies. I'm certain that many of us would react in the same manner if something like this were to actually happen (yes, I know it's impossible). Also, it was interesting to have so many people make it to the mall instead of only four as in the original. Of course some of these characters fit the generic stereotype of a movie such as this, but I'm not surprised considering modern audiences would need such characters to maintain their interest. This was a movie made for film viewers, not film makers. We have the strong and silent male hero, the quick-thinking blond heroine, the official dumb jerk, the official slut, the young and naive girl who loses everything and needs the group's protection, the angry challenger for group leadership who has a change of heart and becomes heroic, the young trainee who disagrees with the angry challenger yet follows due to a sense of duty, and the stupid follower who gets his comeuppence.
One aspect that was missing from this remake was the original movie's social commentary on the commercialism of people. Ken Foree's character of Peter mentioned this in the original whereas Ving Rhames' Kenneth was more of a silent action hero never having much to say. This was another reason that I saw this as a simple action movie -- though I will say that Rhames has more acting ability than Governor Schwarzenegger, Sly, Seagal and Van Damme combined. Rhames also LOOKS like an action hero rather than today's prettyboy "action heroes" such as Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves -- who all look like they couldn't fight their way out of a cooking class for senior citizens.
All in all this movie was not better than the original and won't be nominated for any Academy Awards, but if you're looking for entertainment and can stomach the blood it's worth checking out. I can't wait to buy it on DVD someday.
How will mankind behave in the end times? Will we turn into raving
and attack one another? Will we try to slavishly hold onto some fabric of
our society? Will we kick back and accept what is happening?
`Dawn of the Dead' in some ways tries to answer that question. The movie, a remake of George Romero's classic 1978 sequel to `Night of the Living Dead,' throws a group of people together while society crumbles around them and allows the viewer to watch as humans seek to survive an onslaught of the undead.
The movie opens with the unimaginable happening. Hordes of zombies have overtaken Milwaukee and numerous survivors are both fighting off the monsters and trying to escape the city. One such group includes Ana (Sarah Polley), a nurse who is running scared after losing her husband, Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a tough-as-nails cop, Michael (Jake Weber), who tries to be two-steps ahead of any dangerous situation, and Andre (Mekhi Phifer), whose trying to care of his pregnant wife.
Seeking shelter from the waves of zombie attacks, the group decides to head toward a local mall and hole up there until help arrives. Once inside they join with security guards and use the shopping center as a refuge from the undead while trying to piece together what's left of their lives.
The plot is pretty straightforward, and relies mostly on cliché themes to move the story along. So as a rule, most films such as this tend to be predictable and quite tepid. Luckily, `Dawn of the Dead' has strong personalities to fall back on, making it thankfully every bit a character-driven drama as it is a horror-action piece.
As Ana, Polley convincingly plays a waif turned survivor with just the right amount of emoting. She is strong and vulnerable at the same moment, trying to remain reasonable in unreasonable times. Weber also fits this bill as Michael, a man with a shady past full of regret who tries to fill others with hope while remaining a stark realistic.
Rhames' performance clearly commands the most attention. As Kenneth, he becomes the group's de facto leader and top man of action. He keeps the clearest head when trouble is afoot and leads the group out of one scrape after another. Rhames gives the character a silent strength that provides the film with a much needed human edge.
First time director Zack Snyder moves the film along briskly and effectively, keeping the action scenes tight and the dramatic scenes quiet. There is no heavy-handed sermonizing here that tends to infiltrate most big-budget horror movies -- Snyder wisely lets the images speak for themselves.
The horror itself is shocking and grabs your attention, which is a plus considering most of the recent crop of thrillers. The fact that it is happening to sympathetic characters that we care about is another feather in the movie's cap.
All to often most horror movies are just excuses for numerous poorly developed characters to be killed in awful ways for the enjoyment of the audience. As far as recent zombie movies go, `Dawn of the Dead' thankfully remains closer to `28 Days Later' than `House of the Dead.'
However, despite all the movie's strengths, it still pales in comparison to the original. Romero's `Dawn of the Dead' took the premise of people trapped in mall and used it to make some pointed social commentary about consumerism. The first '`Dawn' had human characters selfishly hoarding material goods for themselves, using the mall not only as a refuge from zombies but also as their own personal palace that provides them with more items than they could ever need.
It's to the detriment of the new film that it never takes the concept to this level. Here, the story seems to take place in a mall because it's a cool place for a horror movie, not because it can draw out anything interesting in the characters themselves. Also, in the original the zombies wanted inside not only to eat the humans but also because they are drawn to the shopping center since is was an important place to them when they were alive.
It's a shame that this time around viewers won't get the chance to see zombies wandering around JC Penney or stumbling up and down escalators, the joke being humans amble about aimlessly themselves like the undead at the mall.
`Dawn of the Dead' is a very bloody and terrifying film but it lacks the superior gory effects from the 1978 movie. That should not stop the squeamish from twitching in their seats due to the horrific content onscreen.
Good acting and smart thinking elevates the proceedings among most other horror offerings, but compared to Romero's original it lacks the observations necessary to make it a classic. The first film remains an intelligent critique on human actions during the apocalypse, while this is just a suspense drama that is dressed to kill.
8 out of 10 stars. Not as good as Romero's original, but still one heck of a shot in the arm to cure the memory from most modern horror misfires.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Returning from a busy day in the hospital, Ana spends time with her
when a neighbours daughter comes into the house and attacks her husband.
dies before returning to life and attacking Ana. She runs and escapes in
car, driving through a neighbourhood rife with violence and fires. After
crashing her car, she hooks up with a group of armed survivors who take
refuge in a mall. The group settle in and fortify their position as an
of the undead gather outside.
Before I start my review, let me just say that this will be biased as I am always easily won over by zombie movies. The fact that they just keep coming (fast or slow), lack character and only want to kill really just freaks me out. So I tend to get easily scared by the genre (even if `enjoy' is perhaps not the right word) and be easily more negligent towards their faults. Despite telling myself that I wouldn't bother with this film as it would scare me, I went for it anyway in a fit of `confront your fears' type of stupidity! The film starts with a creepy opening and pretty much manages to keep the pace up for the whole film. It, like the zombies, moves fast and brutally throughout and is very, very tense.
Others have complained about the lack of gore - however I found the graphic exploding heads to do that more than enough for my tastes! Better than gore is the atmosphere. The use of news footage is not original but it succeeds (along with the aerial view of the town) in creating the impression of a world turning to sh*t. I don't know about you but this scares me and the film did it well. The speed of the zombie attacks makes for a thrilling ride and it did make me very tense - Snyder managed to make the whole film a threat (especially for a first time director) and I honestly have a very stiff neck a day after seeing this simply because my body was tensed up for the whole film!
The pace of the film also serves to cover the real problems in content and plot. Unlike the original there is no satirical swipe on consumerism - the fact that the zombies are just wandering aimlessly around the mall like they used to in life is pretty much ignored here - but times are very different now I guess. The plot itself also has quite a few stupid moments where the characters act in a way you know they wouldn't in real life. For example people go on suicide missions for little real reasons and you can tell that the script is just doing it to create more action. However, when you are into it, these things don't really seem to matter. The film may be a little silly when you think about it but it does have a good ending - downbeat and realistic (or at least as realistic as it can be!) and left me with no hope of a happy ending - in this regard it is everything that `28 Days Later..' is not.
The cast is good even if the script places their characters secondary to the action. Polley is used to slightly more substantial roles but still does well here. Rhames is lumbered with a religious background that is never explained, but he is a great presence throughout. Weber is the standout role however. His character is a slightly less cartoon version of Evil Dead's Ash. He is the unwilling hero but yet he seems to accept all the obstacles he comes across. He also manages to be one of the group that the audience cares about - most of them are fodder and we know it! Phifer is a good actor but seemed too `gangster' to really be driven to this degree by his family. The rest of the support cast are mostly just there to get eaten but they do OK.
Overall this is not a great film - but it is an effective one. As a film it lacks subtext, comment and plot logic. However as a thriller it is fast paced, gripping and tense with a satisfyingly bleak conclusion. Snyder does a good job as a first timer and creates an atmosphere that is gripping even if it lacks originality. Like I said, I don't deal with zombie movies very well and am easily scared but I reckon that this should satisfy many a Saturday night thrill-seeking crowd even if it does nothing for your brain apart from it's risk getting eaten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I LOVE horror films. And zombie films have a place in my heart,
especially George Romero's zombie films. And when I heard of a remake
of Dawn of Dead with Romero having a hand in it, I was excited. Finally
a decent budget and modern day effects along with Romero's touch.
Unfortinately I felt betrayed and very unsatisfied after the first 10
minutes of the movie. And sadly the rest of the movie followed suit.
The only good thing if any in this film was thankfully the gore wasn't
restrained, But that's the only decent thing about this film.
What makes this film so bad? Well it follows the trend of movie 'remakes' which in reality are a totally different movie and using an existing title to get fans to watch. And unfortunately this was no different. The director simply had no respect for the original masterpiece of it's older namesake. It lacked everything that made the original so memorable and replaced them with cheap thrills, action sequences and annoying characters. I understand that it was Mr.Snyder's first time, But jeez he already had a base to go on and plenty of reference material. The Mall seemed to be there in name only, and the zombies where laughable rather scary.
There's not enough space and time for me to explain every reason why this film was beyond disappointing. So I'll just summarize instead.
First 'And foremost' the zombies. They ran, they climbed, they hissed and they made threatening faces at you. Wrong, very wrong and shouldn't even be called zombies. Romero understood what made the zombies so scary in the original 'Dead' movies. They were believable, and that's what made them scary. Because he realistically portrayed what a reanimated dead corpse would do. Their muscles where too rotted and stiff to move fast or do complicated movement, if at any. They were too stupid to speak or make facial threats at you. And they were relentless and numerous. They simply wouldn't stop and they were simply so many it was overwhelming. These aspects are what made Romero's zombies so scary, the 'remake' is completely devoid of all of that.
Secondly was the overwhelming stupidity of all the characters, It's expect that a few of the characters in films such as these are supposed to be stupid. But in this case they all are and none of them give you a sense of loss, (infact quite the opposite) when they are finally dispatched. The only character I felt sorry for was the lone gun-shop owner, But his demise was all but predictable and on the whole, irrelevant. The rest of cast, you feel rather gratified when they meet their doom. In this film, The characters and the zombies have something in common, their IQ.
Films like 28 days later and Return of the Living Dead I enjoyed, even though they feature what I described as (the first part at least) as Dawn 'remake''s failings. But neither of these films boasts or pretends to be on the same level of Romero's work. 28 Days Later is not a Zombie film per se, as the people weren't undead but diseased, so them running and screaming wasn't as far fetched. And 'Return' was more comedic and satirical in nature as well as it took a totally different path from Romero's 'Dead' movies, Dan O'Bannon made it abundantly clear that his movie had nothing to do with Romero's work or story lines. The 'Remake' however boasts about remaking a classic that carries the same name, this is where it becomes inexcusable.
If at all possible, watch Romero's 1979 version of Dawn of the Dead. It's a classic, And avoid the 'remake' travesty of a film.
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