of the Dead
are those of you out there who will ding me for not having
seen George Romero's original Dawn of the Dead, and
then trying to review this remake. Perhaps once the willies
have worn off from seeing it, I'll be able to pick it up on
Netflix. But until then I'll just have to take the current
incarnation on it's own merits - which are considerable.
I understand Dawn of the Dead follows the basic plot
of its predecessor. The dead rise from the grave, kill people
and make them zombies. The population of the world is very
quickly overcome, and civilization collapses. Our protagonists
are a motley band holed up in a shopping mall, trying not
to get eaten or go crazy.
Ana, is a nurse who at the beginning of the movie heads home
from work for a romantic evening with her husband, and misses
all the signs of the coming apocalypse. The short intro does
enough to set up her character, and set a tone of blissful
suburbia: clean, ordered, and sterile. Ana wakes to find a
neighbor girl, zombified, in her hallway, and hungry. The
little girl kills her husband, who then turns on Ana. Fleeing,
she finds herself in pajamas on her driveway, looking out
upon the end of the world. Cars haphazardly weave down the
streets; agile zombies chase and devour panicking citizens,
and those who are still human shoot at everything that moves.
Ana joins forces with several other survivors and takes refuge
in a shopping mall. After some distrust and confrontation
with the surviving mall security guards, and a further swelling
of their ranks from a people filled truck, life in the mall
settles into a sort of routine. Romances, friendships and
alliances develop among the refugees, and they become an unlikely
community. Soon waiting around to get eaten isn't enough,
and they formulate a plan to escape.
learn exactly why the dead have risen. There is the possibility
that it is a virus, but really all we know is what the characters
know. The dead are rising, shoot the head to kill them, and
don't get bitten. Why is no longer an important question and
our characters have no time for it. All that matters is what's
happening now, and how to live through it.
cast is well chosen. Ving Rhames as Kenneth, and Jake Weber
as Michael, provide a grounding force for cast that tends
towards shrillness in their hysteria. Sarah Polley's Ana has
a subtle complexity rarely seen in horror movie heroines,
and though I kept expecting Michael Kelly, as security guard
control freak CJ, to break into panicked screams of "Game
over, Man! Game over!" he managed to turn the "you
can't wait till he dies horribly guy" into someone interesting
really moves, too. The intro is brief, and they get right
to the grue. Blood, guts and unidentifiable zombie fluids
fly about with abandon, and there was many a moment when my
hands leapt over my face as I cringed at a particularly graphic
bit. However, director Zack "One Entry in IMDB"
Snyder had the good sense to refuse to wallow in the gore
and move the story. Thankfully he also resisted following
the path of so many action directors today by structuring
his movie like a movie, rather than a videogame. I tell you
folks, I'm sick to death of watching a flick and saying to
myself, "Oh hey, the hero just killed the level two boss!
Whoopee!" Hopefully Mr. Snyder will produce a few more
plot and character driven horror movies, and revive what's
become a boring and predictable genre.
of the Dead does is bring back the notion that the horror
of a horror movie comes not from the gross-out, but from the
situation the characters find themselves in. One of the scariest
moments for me came right at the beginning, when Ana fled
her home to find the world had come to an end right at her
doorstep. Her street was a model of suburbia, and I'm sure
many in the audience were mentally pasting their neighborhood
and neighbors over the chaos before her. This move made a
zombie uprising seem real, and that made it very, very scary.
found most fascinating about Dawn of the Dead was the
bewildered, desperate hope that drove the characters to go
on. Trapped in the mall, an icon of our consumerist culture,
a group of modern people find themselves reduced to fighting
for the basic needs that drove humanity to develop culture
in the first place: food, shelter, and survival. Surrounded
by Gucci shoes and Prada purses, (okay it wasn't that nice
of a mall, but you get the idea) we see people struggling
to live another day, and maintain their humanity, in a world
that no longer makes any sense. It's good stuff. Go see it
with someone whose arm you can clutch.
interview with Dawn of the Dead screenwriter James