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DAWN OF THE DEAD

2004, dir. Zack Snyder
108 min. Rated R.
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer.

Review by Brodie James

Hollywood loves a trend. Lately, the hot trend has been to remake classic horror films. After offering up certified clunkers like HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and THE HAUNTING, they've managed to yank a quality flick out of their ass a time or two. Most specifically the surprisingly well-made THIRTEEN GHOSTS, and last year's superior retelling of Tobe Hooper's 1974 slasher classic, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

The latest horror classic to get the big budget makeover is George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. Originally released in 1978, DAWN featured an eclectic cast of survivors, who are forced to flee the lives they knew for the unknown, in hopes of living a few more days before eventually being ravaged by the living dead. Eventually winding up at a mall, the small group cleans house, barricades the doors, and proceed to make themselves at home amidst the supernatural goings on outside.

The original flick was layered with not only horror and special effects, but also with satire and biting social commentary. Romero wasn't just trying to create a simple zombie movie for scare purposes only; he was trying to convey his own philosophies and sociological ideals. Commenting on consumerism and our growing materialistic needs, DAWN not only reflected the mindset of the times, but it also showed that no matter how superficial we might become, you can never count human beings out. The human spirit will always prevail in the end.

Zack Snyder's remake has none of that. Instead of being loaded with messages and ideals, this remake is more of a straight up roller coaster horror flick. In fact, aside from the title and the setting, it's almost unfair to consider this '04 film a remake, because it's essentially a completely different movie.

The film starts off with a bang. Sarah Polley plays Ana, a young nurse and wife whose sole concern in life is what she's going to eat for diner. Thanks to breakneck pacing, we barely get to know this woman before her whole life is turned upside down. Forced to flee from her home, she jumps in her car and drives, shocked at the utter destruction that surrounds her.destruction that seemingly sprang overnight.

Ana eventually meets up with Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a shotgun toting USMC tatted, no nonsense cop, who then inadvertently leads her to Michael (Jake Weber), Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and Luda (Inna Korobkina) Andre's pregnant wife. As the characters meet and settle, they all make the decision to head to the local mall.

It is the scenes in which these characters meet that act as the calm before the storm. Having already started out with a bang, this transition period from the outside world to the mall, act as something of a temporary respite from the hurricane of chaos that was inevitable.

Once inside, the group meets CJ (Michael Kelly) the mall's head of security, and two of his lackeys. The group is, at first, treated as prisoners, but as time passes, they all begin to realize that they are in the same boat.

The direction in this film is very good. Hell, it's damn near perfect. As I think about it, I'd be hard pressed to find anything about this film that I didn't think was perfect. The cast meshed well together, and were believable in their roles. The zombies were horrible looking, and a definite improvement over those slow moving corpses that littered the original. And, the editing displayed in this film is some of the best I've ever seen. For a film to move as fast as this one does, and still maintain a cohesive storyline is incredible!

For those of you out there who are hesitant to see this film, because of an overwhelming passion for the original, don't be! As a George Romero mark myself, I can honestly say that this film does nothing but justice to the original concept of the film. Sure, while it does lack the Romero touch, there are still a handful of treats that long time lovers of the original will find most enjoyable. Namely, cameos by Ken Foree and Tom Savini! Besides, as I said before, this is essentially a completely different movie.

A film that is definitely worth the price of admission and some popcorn, I highly suggest you make an attempt to see this one early while large groups of people are still heading out in droves. There is nothing like seeing a zombie take a bullet in the head, and then hearing a hundred plus people hoot and holler like a bunch of retards, as you laugh your way through the fear.


The work of Brodie James can also be found on his very own website, Living Corpse.

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