Dawn of the Dead review – remake has bite

Dawn of the Dead is a remake with brains

As far as zombie movies go, it doesn’t get much better than the remake of Dawn of the Dead — one of the genre’s best pure zombie-fest films featuring regular folks against an army of the undead.

Fans of the 1978 original shouldn’t have any complaints, as this is one remake that doesn’t ruin the good name of its predecessor.

Dawn-of-the-dead-2004-zombies moving

Remaining faithful to the original plot, James Gunn’s script has the residents of a small suburb finding refuge from a zombie outbreak in a mega shopping mall.

Director Zack Snyder’s opening zombie rampage scene is jarring in its carnage. Snyder’s zombies aren’t the rabid sprinters seen in 28 Days Later and are the more traditional lurching and moaning variety that clutch, claw and bite at anything in close proximity. Still, he’s able to work in some seat-jumping thrills by keeping the camera tight on the uninfected until the last possible moment.

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The initial band of survivors is the kind of hodgepodge collection ideal for a video game. Ana (a very likable Sarah Polley) the nurse; Kenneth (Ving Rhames at his no-nonsense best) the police officer; Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and Luda (Inna Korobkina) the couple days away from the birth of their first child, and Michael (Jake Weber), a salesman who becomes the de facto leader.

dawn-of-the-dead- 2004 remake main cast

They quickly learn the undead isn’t all they have to be worried about as the mall’s security force, led by the overbearing CJ (an excellent Michael Kelly, Man of Steel) aren’t thrilled with having to share their sanctuary.

The situation gets tenser with the arrival of a new group of refugees, including an arrogant businessman (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell playing the sarcastic tool perfectly) and a young girl (Lindy Booth, Kick-Ass 2) struggling to cope with the loss of her family.

dawn-of-the-dead-2004-ty-burrell

While movement is the key to survival in most zombie films, the opposite is the case here and it leads to a very different experience.

The film is packed with some unexpected funny moments like the celebrity shoot-out, the food court buffet and all the random things you could get into with free run of a shopping mall — until the supplies start running out and they once again have to contend with the zombie swarms gathering outside.

Dawn of the Dead 2004 Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames and zombies

DOD marks Snyder’s directorial debut, but he confidentially handles every aspect of the film — from the tense standoffs, the lighter comedic moments and the frantic action scenes — as if he’d been doing this for years.

Gunn has a lot of fun keeping the film unpredictable with a few “don’t go in there!” moments and lowering the body count just enough to let you know anyone is fair game. The characters are well-developed, the action’s fantastic, the zombies a menacing threat and the movie overall is just so much fun that I can’t think of something to gripe about.

Dawn of the Dead 2004 Jake Weber, Sarah Polley, Mekhi Pfifer

If you want to a see a basic man against zombie movie that doesn’t have a super-powered protagonist or makes some witty commentary on society, you won’t do better than this take on Dawn of the Dead.

Rating: 10 out of 10

 

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  • Barry Murray

    I was watching this last week. It never loses it’s appeal. And the line “You want to hold on, for every last second” by Matt Frewer is as true about real life as it is in a zombie movie.
    Great review.
    And Zack did go on to greater things…

  • LOL. That he did.

    I’m a HUGE Matt Frewer fan! Did you see “The Stand?”

  • Barry Murray

    Of course! Trash-can man… I love The Stand. It’s a great adaptation of an incredible novel.
    On the subject of novels, have you ever read Dan Simmon’s Hyperion novels?

  • I really wish they’d put that on Blu-Ray already!
    No, but I’m looking for some summer reading so I’ll add that to the list.

  • Barry Murray

    Yeah. Blu Ray that sucker! I wish there were making-ofs and a cast commentary. It must have taken forever to film all that, and i would love to hear about the good times they had during production.
    About the Hyperion novels(Must be read in order: Hyperion, Fall Of Hyperion, Endymion, Rise Of Endymion), they are space opera. An incredible saga, each book in a different style(But adding to the original story). The first mirrors the Canterbury tales, but each weaves a rich tapestry of a galaxy inhabited by humans a thousand years in the future and all the incredible achievements they have built over a millennia of space travel. No spoilers, but there is a device called a farcaster(Think stargate. An instantaneous portal anywhere). And some characters have farcaster portals all over their houses. Kitchen on one planet, overlooking a plain, then walk through a farcaster doorway(That you can look through and see what is on the other side), to a living room on a totally different planet, looking down from the tip of a mountain, bathroom floating on a sea-world with no walls. It’s a rivetting read and builds the story of a mankind at the peak of invention. I can really recommend it. And i would love to hear your thoughts on it if you get around to reading it.

  • Great film and one of the best ever zombie films alongside “28 Days Later”, “Night Of The Living Dead” & “Shawn Of The Dead” to name a few standouts.

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