Dawn of the Dead


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"It's darn good.  It's brain splattering, seat-wetting, laugh-out-loud-at-your-own-insensitivity-to-the-suffering-of-others good.  If you like that kind of thing."




Dawn of the Dead
The Masked Reviewer

If you want to see a movie filled with gore and ultra-violence, the choices are clear: Dawn of the Dead or Passion of the Christ

Dawn of the Dead has more realistic characters and situations.  Come to think of it, these movies have a lot in common.  Blood.  Gore.  Creatures dying and rising from the grave.  Spooky.  There's no mall in Passion, but then again there aren't any evil Jews dancing with Satan in Dawn. 

The beloved sequel to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead has been re-made by first time filmmaker Zack Snyder.  You may remember him from such other projects as...NOTHING.  The Masked Reviewer has never heard of him.

 So, you've got a re-make of a classic and deeply beloved horror movie (which is now available on DVD, but another better version will be available at the end of the year).  It's a first time director that hasn't done anything noteworthy.  The big stars are Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer.  It also stars Jake Weber (who?), Ty Burrell (huh?), Michael Kelly (who was that again?), Michael Barry (didn't you just mention him?) and Sarah Polley.  She's one of the few people you might recognize, if you're a big fan of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen -- she played the little girl, Sally Salt.

Dawn of the Dead has all of the ingredients to be a truly horrible horror film...but it fails miserably at being horrible. 

That is to say, it's good.  It's darn good.  It's brain splattering, seat-wetting, laugh-out-loud-at-your-own-insensitivity-to-the-suffering-of-others good.  If you like that kind of thing.

As a horror movie, it does many things right.  There's gore.  Lots of gore.  Impressive gore.  If you watch the original Dawn of the Dead today, it seems a bit dated and goofy in terms of special effects.  The new one looks more realistic and has many more disturbing images.  It also makes good use of the horror film favorite, the cat scare.  The pacing, the editing, the cinematography...they all contribute to create a slick and stylish seat-jumper. 

For those of you who don't know, Dawn of the Dead is a remake of the 1978 film of the same title.  George Romero made three Dead films; this is the one set in a mall.  They've kept the setting and (don't read the next few words if you don't want to have anything spoiled for you) they've kept the zombies, but that's about it.  The characters are different, the events are different, and the effects are different. 

That's good and bad, however.  George Romero's original trilogy was a supremely clever social commentary and it had a lot of depth and metaphor.  Most of that is lost in the re-make.  It's not as deep, but it is quite possibly more fun.  It's more of a slick, big-budget Hollywood blockbuster than the original, and the dialogue and characters are better developed in this re-make.   It shouldn't be offensive to hard-core fans of the original trilogy, however, because it feels very much like an homage to the (bloody) genre, and it's just a feel-good splatter flick (you feel good because you're not getting splattered).

One main difference that is immediately obvious from the trailers and very early on in the film (so it isn't a significant spoiler) is that the creatures aren't slow and plodding as in the original.  These zombies run at you.  Fast.  It seems like that idea was lifted from Danny Boyle's excellent 28 Days Later, but in any event it creates a different kind of scariness.  Monsters that you can easily out run but that never stop coming for you invoke a different kind of fright from the kind that charge at you full speed.

Everything from the stores in the mall to the banter between the survivors to the Muzak in the elevator contributes to a rich (scary) world.  There's even an "A-Team"esque montage!  They also have three or four great moments of tension where you just know something bad is going to happen and you want to warn the idiot on screen to be careful.  In fact, many people did just that.  Dawn of the Dead generated more nervous laughter, screaming, and rowdiness than the Masked Reviewer has heard in a long time at a screening.  That can make for a fun (or annoying) environment in which to see a movie, depending on your preferences...it'll probably be a rowdy crowd on opening night at the late shows.

The music is good, but the highlight has to be Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine's rendition of "Down with the Sickness".  Richard does lounge versions of everything from Cypress Hill to Britney Spears, and it's a perfect fit for this film.  Check out his albums at www.iloverichardcheese.com

All in all, if you love horror movies, this is right up there with 28 Days Later.  While it's not as smart as the original George Romero in many ways, it's a lot of fun.  The scary parts are occasionally predictable, but there are a few nice surprises, good tension, and great gory effects that make it a must-see for horror fans.  The most significant oversight is a lack of abundant gratuitous nudity.

If you aren't a fan of the genre, you might just find it sick and silly.  George Romero purists will whine that it's sacrilege to re-make his masterpieces, but if you enjoyed Tom Savini's 1990 re-make of Night of the Living Dead, you'll find a lot to love in this re-make, too. 


Expectation from the Title: The long awaited film about Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, and Jerry Garcia's favorite dishwashing soap.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  It's nice to see a group of strangers pull together to kick butt.

The Pros: Great effects, good tension, nice scary bits, some really funny moments and dialogue, good character development.

The Cons: Light on nudity.  Not as much content as the original film. 


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