Dawn of the Dead
by Gary Schultz
This incredible remake is well worth viewing.
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Understand this - I am an avid fan of all three of George Romero’s zombie films. The original Dawn of the Dead is an iconic horror film that defines its decade and people should see it. It’s the epic America zombie film and it always will be. That film was the seventies this apparently is 2004. With a really strong marketing plan, about thirty million dollars in production budget and what seems to be about 1000 gallons of blood the Dawn of the Dead remake DELIVERED. This is quite possibly the best horror remake I’ve ever seen and it’s one hell of a badass film by it’s own standards.
Realize this - I’m against remakes. I’m sick of them. Get some original ideas, blah, blah, blah… The Psycho remake was a dumb idea. The Texas Chainsaw remake even with Jessica Biel and the extreme graphic violence just had to many shortcomings and lost a level of something deeper in the story that the original characters had. So it was only decent. Even Tom Savini’s Night of the Living Dead had shortcomings that bothered the filmmaker thanks to censorship and pushy producers.
Now let’s analyze why this film works and other remakes really haven’t. Well first it is based on a George Romero film. Second, it was written by James Gunn who is a part of Troma Films and the genius behind Tromeo & Juliet and Terror Firmer. This was before he wrote the Scooby Doo movies. Third, a cool cast of characters, especially Ving Rhames, who could kick your ass on any day. Fourth and final reason this film worked is the studio took a chance on a newcomer with a vision for carnage director Zack Snyder. Nicely played hand.
Referring to the Dawn of the Dead remake from this point on, man did this movie kick some ass. The opening sequence takes place in clean boring middle class suburbia and man does the destruction hit. It’s shot beautifully in a documentary style that focuses on the main character and takes us into the environment with her. When I was in the theater the sound was juiced up and the sound track was blasting loud with every kill. It was really energizing and the audience was screaming and laughing as much as I’ve seen. This film delivers on the gore, on the laughs and the dark humor. It doesn’t have the level of social commentary as the original and loses the comic book humor and feel of the original but the modern horror film is of a modern breed. Lots of fast cuts, heavy sound design, some of the cooler characters I’ve seen recently combined with big graphic kills and ultra violent zombies.
This film keeps the same sense of dramatic and often horrific character struggle that the original is known for, just at a quicker pace and thanks to modern technology there’s a lot of awesome kills in this film. Ideas I’ve dreamed about were displayed before me. Director Zack Snyder took a wicked Romero vision and made it his own. He understands suspense and the art of making carnage on the screen. I want to spoil so much but I won’t. Hardcore fans will be pissed that one classic zombie lore was changed. In the Romero film, when someone dies they become a zombie. When someone is bit they become a zombie. The wounds’ damage determines how quickly they change into a zombie. In the remake you have to be infected to become a zombie. If you die not infected you don’t come back to life. And you are basically lunch for zombies. That, and the remake zombies are fast moving like the ones in 28 Days Later. Romero zombies are rotten and slow moving but they are an endless lot.
So here’s what we’ve learned so far - zombie films are a specific genre within the horror genre just like vampires or werewolves. Zombie movies in general are entertaining but few reach the level of greatness that the Romero films have. We’ve been gifted to see two in the last two years. Both the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later are great zombie films in a modern tradition. More zombie films are on the way. Zombies rock and there are still movements in the genre that can be made. Studios should take chances on new directors. Everything cool can some how be linked back to Troma. And lastly pay up and give Romero his forth zombie film.
Gary Schultz is an independent filmmaker in Chicago. He makes zombie films too. Spatter. Slice. Dice. Roar.
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