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Friday, November 20, 2020

Dawn of the Dead (2004)


I suppose it was about time for me to get around to covering this one. There should be two things apparent to anyone that has been following Crappy Movie Reviews. One is Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie. Not my favorite zombie movie, or my favorite horror movie. It is my favorite movie period. Two is that I’m not a fan of remakes. Some have been okay but for the most part I’m not a fan. So clearly remaking my favorite movie means I’m going to hate it, right? Well not so much.

Sarah Polley plays Ana, a nurse who we are introduced to at the end of a long shift at the hospital. We do get some clues about a strange illness and somethings happening in the background that let the audience know something is up. Then she goes home and spends some quality time with her husband. They wake up the next morning and the cute little girl rips out the husband’s throat, he reanimates and comes after Ana. She makes her escape and drives thru a nightmare of death and destruction as the world has fallen apart overnight. She crashes her car and is knocked unconscious. How is that for an opening?

Eventually she is awoken by Kenneth, a cop trying to make it a nearby military base. The pair run into more survivors who warn them that is a bad idea as the road is filled with zombies. All of them end up in the mall where more survivors are added to the group. Some internal conflict happens, they make friends with a named Andy who is trapped in a nearby gun store, and eventually the zombies get in. Luckily, they had a plan and make a run thru the city towards a boat one of them has waiting in a nearby marina.

The cast is solid
While I really wish they hadn’t tried to cash in on Romero’s classic and it really annoys me that I have to now say “the original Dawn of the Dead” when speaking about my favorite movie I don’t hate this one. I’m a sucker for zombie movies that show us the initial outbreak, and this might be one of the best ever. The shock of everything going to hell overnight and then the brutality of the violence is amazing. The movie basically punches you in the mouth and lets you know that it is going for the throat. I dig that.

The cast is very good in their roles with Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, and Lindy Booth as highlights. But hands down my favorite performance and the one that pulls on the heart strings giving the most emotional impact has to be Matt Frewer as the doomed father. I suppose he is supposed to fill that Roger roll where a character you like is bitten and slowly dies. Though it is over a lot quicker in this movie. Frewer’s performance is excellent and the makeup effects used on him help sell what is happening. We also get cameos from Tom Savini, Scott Reiniger, and Ken Foree. There is also a reference to Galen Ross as well as the helicopter from the original Dawn of the Dead. Damn it I hate having to say that!

The zombies and makeup effects work are a mixed bag. We get a lot of CGI assists which is a bummer. I prefer my zombie movies to be filled with latex practical effects work. Though they do make up for it with some stellar practical effects work bringing the zombies to life. From the little girl with no lips, to the guy with the missing legs the zombies all have a unique look to them with many having the evidence of why/how they died. That is a nice attention to detail, though I wish the death scenes were less digital and more practical. Speaking of kills there is some mayhem. You get a stick thru the head, a poker in the eye, an exploding head, a girl’s torso gets split with a chainsaw, and lots of other mayhem. Oh, and before I forget I need to go back to the zombie design and mention my favorite zombie in the movie. A pregnant lady gets bit and we end up with a baby zombie birth! That was pretty cool.

Zombie baby rules!
A couple more things that I wanted to mention. The movie has an excellent soundtrack that includes some Johnny Cash, Richard Cheese, Jim Carroll Band, Disturbed, and believe it or not Bobby “Don’t Worry be Happy” McFerrin. The music is perfectly placed and adds to the fun of the movie. I was also impressed with how clever the dialogue is written and how upon repeated viewings I pick up more and more jokes that put a smile on my face. Writer James Gunn and director Zack Snyder did a wonderful job making a zombie movie. I really just wished they named it something different.

While it isn’t anywhere near as good as the original, I can still recommend the Dawn of the Dead remake to anyone looking for a good zombie romp. Good zombies, funny dialogue, passable gore, and decent creature design makes for a good time. Though if you haven’t seen the original shame on you and watch that first.


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

 

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