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Dawn of the Dead Redux: Hell Overflows

Mar 24, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Scary, well acted, nice FX, nice use of music

Cons:Not as intelligent as the original

The Bottom Line: This film isn't the sort of smart satire that the original was. None the less, it is an entertaining horror film, and a nice addition to the zombie genre

In 1978 George A. Romero wrote and directed Dawn of the Dead. That film used the outer edifice of the zombie genre to satirize American society, and specifically consumerism. Romero’s zombies were fascinating mirror images of us. Zack Snyder’s new version of that film jettisons the satire in favor of good old fashioned horror.

Zombie films have come in many shapes, and forms. From the films of Dario Argento, to the weirdness of Lucio Fulci, to the outrageous (and often funny) films of Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness). Zombie films can be smart (Night of the Living Dead), or stupid (The Dead Hate the Living), but they are nearly always effective. The new Dawn of the Dead isn’t all that smart, but it is a lot of fun.

The bare bones plot is simple enough. For some reason (which is wisely never explained) the dead begin coming back to life and attacking the living. Those they kill quickly become zombies themselves, and set to work making even more zombies. A small band of survivors hides out in a shopping mall, and attempts to wait out the nightmare. Along the way there are obligatory zombie attacks, and internecine strife. Of course they will decide to flee the mall, and that’s when the action will really pick up. The story moves out into the streets, and involves armored buses, and a boat.

The action also involves a cute dog. Normally it is a bad sign when the adorable pet shows up, but this dog at least serves a purpose within the plot.

This cast handles the material beautifully. Sarah Polley stars as Ana, a nurse who saw her husband killed by a zombie early on. Ving Rhames (of Pulp Fiction fame) plays a tough cop, and Jake Webber is the sort of hyper-intelligent loser movie goers have come to expect. There are great cameos by Tom Savini, and Ken Foree, who were featured in the original film. Foree’s dialogue contains the single best in-joke in recent film history.

Ms Polley shows real promise here. Audiences should watch her in the future. She manages to embue what could be a stock character with some real depth.

Ving Rhames plays his role mostly in silence, yet comes across well. He is able to elicit more with a gesture or a look than most actors can with a monologue. Rhames is becoming a powerful actor, and will be with us for a long time.

Jake Webber (who in my mind will always be the guy who isn't Tim Roth (don't ask)) is a gifted actor, and carries his role well.

The crew fights zombies, boredom, and each other. To kill time they communicate via signs with Andy, the fellow trapped on the roof of a gun store across the street. It is interesting that Andy becomes a compelling character, despite the fact that we never really see him close up, or hear him speak.

The film is short on "cat scares" (this is a good thing). It earns the jumps it gets from the audience. There is some real tension, and quite a bit of suspense as we hope against hope that some of these people will be able to survive.

The film's FX are great. Due to advances in technology, this movie has a more realistic look than Romero's. There are no blue zombies here. The state of the art FX help to create a realism that lends to the horror.

Dawn of the dead also has a great use of music. I was quite pleased to hear the song choices the film makers made.

There seems to be something of resurgence in zombie movies these days. What with 28 Days Later doing so well. One wonders if we will soon see a remake of Day of the Dead. I suppose Lucio Fulci would be proud.

Although it is no match for Romero’s original masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead (redux) is a great pop culture movie. In the vein of pure entertainment it works as well as one would hope.

The film is genuinely frightening. It plays by its own rules, and does not disappoint the audience. While it lacks the intelligence of its progenitor, it functions marvelously as a fright film. This isn’t great art, but judged against other recent films in the genre, it is actually very good. Dawn of the Dead is one of the best American horror films to come along in years.

Be sure to sit through the end credits, as more footage is intercut with them. Anyone who loves before the last of the credits flash on screen will miss important information about the denoument.

Highly recommended.

As a side note, I find it interesting that this zombie flick has knocked The Passion of the christ from the top spot at the box office.

Nathan Tyree

Recommend this product? Yes

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