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Dawn of the Dead /

Rated: R

Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Produced by: Richard P. Rubinstein, Marc Abraham, Eric Newman
Written by: James Gunn, Scott Frank
Distributor: Universal Pictures


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Movie Image
Movie Image

     I donít remember much about George A. Romeroís Dawn of the Dead, other than it was a brilliant piece of social commentary, with some shockingly horrific elements blended into it. This new version, directed by rookie Zach Snyder, is oozing in that fan-boy style, which usually leads to the downfall of even the most promising motion pictures. Dawn of the Dead represents the rare occasion when this very thing leads to unexplainable success. While the contemporary edition may be lacking in the smarts that the original had, and doesnít exactly have the same type of jolty flair, itís still quite a trip. The film itself is an ironically beautiful slice of cheese, hooking us in with what are usually dismissed as being stupid and goofy traits. 

     The film is set in Everett, Wisconsin, and follows Ana (Sarah Polley). A virus has suddenly broken out in the United States, killing everyone who makes contact with it, and turning them into zombies. If a regular person is bitten by one of these blood-thirsty creatures, they turn into one. The cycle, of course, repeats itself, taking over the entire countryís population. Ana is one of five survivors in the city, in the mess of chaos, seeking refuge at the local mall, locked in from the outer world. Inside, the group meets three security guards, and eventually rescues several other people. There is also a man who is still well, and has locked himself inside of his gun/artillery store across the street, communicating with the bunch from his rooftop. The zombies can be re-killed by shooting them in the head, but they outnumber Anaís newfound posse by a landslide. Being the type of movie that it is, Dawn of the Dead canít go without the survivors creating a hopeful escape plan from the mall. Typically, Iíd call something so farfetched a conventional smack in the face, but here, it works beyond belief. This is because I came to accept that the psychological state of the survivors promoted their partaking in irrational plotting.

     The visual scheme of Dawn of the Dead is much like that of Romeroís film, practically identical in color choice, lighting, and depth. This, however, besides the central idea, is about the only similarity between the two pictures. Much like the 2003 Marcus Nispel rendition of Tobe Hooberís The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Snyderís product is more of a ďre-imaginingĒ than a remake. Even though I saw the original far too long ago to point out contrasts in intricate details, the personalities of all of the characters here are completely different from what they were. Nonetheless, this is almost for the better, considering that most all remakes that attempt to copy their predecessors (Solaris) turn out to be sour, at best.

     The performances in this movie range from being terrible to excellent. Ving Rhames especially stands out, as the only trained cop in the bunch of survivors. He is always a treat to watch, bringing a certain likeability to emotionally sterile characters, even if their intentions arenít the best ones. On the other hand, Mekhi Phifer, who Iíve always been a fan of, is downright awful. I understood what the intentions and longings of his character were, but he couldnít quite bring them out. The only explanation I can provide as to why this was the case is that the character was out of his range. Heís a lot better at being Eminemís buddy next to the eight mile, than he is at playing a deprived soon-to-be-father, wanting only to be able to make a quality life for his coming child. Dawn of the Dead couldíve actually had some depth to it, but its failure, in this regard, isnít a particularly damaging one.

     This flick isnít the masterpiece that the original has come to be hailed as, but itís a worthy diversion to add to such a class. I was at the edge of my seat throughout its entire duration, despite the corny execution. And this, my friends, is, really, all that matters, at the end of the day.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews

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