Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Dawn of the Dead (USA, 2004) - Color, Director(s): Zack Snyder
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 101 min.

Z-rating: 4 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

Everyone is always so quick to bash remakes these days, not without good reason I might add, but there have been a few examples of good remakes in the past. Night of the Living Dead, Piranha 3D, Maniac, The Fly, etc.

The problem with remakes nowadays is they rarely strive to improve on the original film, instead often just attempting to cash-in on the name of their predecessor. This is why 'remake' has become a dirty word in the eyes of moviegoers. If you're looking for another example of a remake done correctly, look no further. There's no denying the massive popularity and undeniable influence of George Romero's original Dawn of the Dead. In Europe, it spawned a franchise of loosely connected zombie-themed films, known as the Zombi franchise, in addition to a slew of imitators. A remake could have VERY easily been a soulless cash grab, instead turned out to be one of the best zombie movies since 2000.

7 days after you watch that video tape...

Although zombies never really went away, their popularity was beginning to wane following their peak in the 80's. In the late 90's, a survival horror video game franchise helped breathe new life into the zombie subgenre. Biohazard, known as Resident Evil here in the States, reinvigorated interest in shambling undead corpses coming back to life and eating people. Zombie media has typically been populated by slow-moving, stiff zombies until a British film in 2002 depicted a man awakening from a coma to find post-zombie apocalypse world. 28 Days Later featured people infected with the rage virus that caused them to become extremely violent and could not only run but chase people down on foot. While the infected aren't officially called "zombies", 28 Days popularized the idea of fast-moving, running zombies which was further cemented by this remake of Dawn released two years later.

Hey! Is that Burt Reynolds?! Oh...

We follow a nurse (Sarah Polley) and a group of survivors that hole up at local shopping mall during a zombie outbreak. The mall setting comes directly from Romero's version but the characters and events are all original. Ving Rhames is a bad ass cop with a shotgun and Mekhi Phifer is a father-to-be who just wants to protect his wife and child by any means necessary. After arriving at the mall, they were initially going to be turned away by the a group of security guards led by C.J. (Michael Kelly) but were allowed to stay after turning over their weapons. They're eventually joined by a second wave of survivors that includes the beautiful Lindy Booth (Wrong Turn, Cry Wolf), as a fragile teen who loses her father and gets emotionally attached to a dog they find in the underground parking structure, and Ty Burrell who is great as a self-absorbed, snarky douchebag.

Nudity: There's a sex scene between two of the survivors at the mall and you can see the very lovely Kim Poirier's breasts. She was also in Decoys 2: Alien Seduction, which was a direct-to-video knock-off of Species. A girl's breasts are shown as the end credits roll, it's footage from Steve's (Ty Burrell) camera that the survivors are using to document their travels. 

Gore: Tons. People are bitten, heads are impaled with sticks, people and zombies alike are cut apart by chainsaws, and there are headshots aplenty. I like that they didn't hold back on the violence, part of why zombies are so terrifying is because of the amount of death and carnage they bring with them. They're not like Dracula who sneaks into your bedroom at night or demons that possess you, they're your friends and family who have lost their humanity and are just trying to eat you.

Awesome: to the MAX! I loved this movie when it first came out and I still love it whenever I watch it. This was a great update to a Romero classic. The survivors on the roof make a game out of shooting zombies in the head with the owner of gun shop across the parking lot. When they plan to escape to the docks and hop on a boat, they build these bad ass armored shuttles lined with barbed wire. Tom Savini, Ken Foree, and Scott Reiniger from the original all make cameo appearances. This was also the first time I ever heard the lounge cover of Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness" by Richard Cheese. And finally, this was written by James Gunn and directed by Zack Snyder! I actually hear that James Gunn left to work on a different project and other writers were brought in to finish the script but Gunn got solo writing credits. Regardless, this movie brought together two of the biggest names in Hollywood right now. James Gunn directed the unexpected hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, for Marvel and Zack Snyder is helming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice along with the Justice League movie for DC.