Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leftovers of the Dead: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Please don't drag me into the debate!  Should zombies run?  Should they shamble?  I really don't care.  Either one is scary in its own way.  This debate comes to us due to 28 Days Later and today's film- the 2004 remake of Romero's 1978 classic.  This is the film that put Zack Snyder on the map, a feat continued by 300 and Watchmen.  What stands out about this film- other than the running zombies- is that a lot of things are changed.  This is no carbon copy remake, just with CG blood and better make-up.  The core of the film remains intact, but a lot of changes were made to freshen it up.  Since you all know the plot and because I don't want to spoil the film too much, I'll give you a basic overview, show you some sights and point out the changes.  Get out your zombie bike as we attempt to get some cardio on the...
* Instead of the cops, our lead hero is a nurse, who has to flee when her husband is turned.  She joins a cop (Ving Rhames) and others, heading to the Mall for safety.
* Our heroes get inside, but conflict arises between them and the Mall Cops.  They are less Paul Blart and more Observe & Report.  In other words, they don't play around!
* Director Cameo!  Snyder is the second guy from the left, protecting the President from zombies in front of a green screen...I mean, the White House.
* We get a trio of Dawn of the Dead (1978) cast members.  First, Tom Savini is the local Sheriff, which is a big change from being a biker!
* Scott Reinger shows up as a General.  Fun fact: he's the Prince of Ghor by blood.  Look it up.
* Finally, Ken Foree shows up as a Preacher who says that the 'End is Nigh.'  Considering that this was the last good remake of a Romero film, he was right!
* Things don't go well for our heroes.  I thought that playing Richard Cheese's cover of 'Down With the Sickness' would solve everything!
* The zombies are running and they are quite angry.  Rawr.
* The film also includes a Post-Credit ending that feels tacked on...because it was.  As a bonus, watch a precursor to Romero himself went to 'shot on handheld.'  The End.
Purists be damned- this is good!  The plot- as I said earlier- remains largely-intact.  The key changes make the movie feel a bit different, while still allowing you to think of it as a remake.  I like that too much CG blood wasn't tossed out there for silly effect.  While I'm still a purist, I like the angry infected.  I kind of like how there is no real explanation for the zombie uprising, save for the whole 'when there is no room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth' bit.  As a Writer, I would appreciate an actual explanation.  That said, most films make up stupid reason for zombies- see Zombi 4, Night of the Living Dead 3-D- so I can respect them not bothering.  The tone of this movie is interesting, as it tries to balance the somber moments, the tragic moments and the 'oh shit- zombies' moments.  The balance is a bit off at times, however, especially with characters like Matt Frewer- who would later be in Snyder's Watchmen- who is just there to die tragically.  Immediately following this, the film cuts to the people playing around in the mall to the aforementioned Richard Cheese song.  That wasn't jarring at all, thank you.  If you like action and zombies, check this movie out.  If you hate remakes, still give this one a shot.  By the way, the only way for zombies to travel is on horseback.  Take us away, barely-explained zombie baby...
Next up, the final Romero remake (for now).  This 2008 film botches pretty much everything and just slaps you in the face.  Stay tuned...

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