About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Home
March 2004

Dawn of the Dead
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Produced by: Richard P. Rubenstein, Marc Abraham, & Eric Newman
Screenplay: James Gunn, based on a screenplay by George A. Romero
Director of Photography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Music Composer: Tyler Bates
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Webber, Mekhi Phifer

It's official. Horror remakes are the new flavor in the film industry. If the remake of "The Ring" can be successful, then so could another; and such was the case last year with the remake of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". In some cases, the setting is timeless, which is useful in adapting a screenplay and not having to update it to modern times. In 1978, George A. Romero created "Dawn of the Dead", the sequel to the film that put him on the map and became an instant cult classic, "Night of the Living". While the social commentary and themes are lacking in the remake to "Dawn of the Dead", the thrills and suspense are still in effect to make this update worth watching.

Imagine being in a town where you have no where to go when you encounter dead bodies suddenly "reawakening" minutes after their death including your own boyfriend. That's what happened to nurse Ana (Polley). When a neighborhood girl enters their house and bites a chunk of her boyfriend's neck, Sara can't save him and flees for her life only to discover that getting out of the house isn't the safest route. Seems that residents around her running and chasing after each other. Even her boyfriend is "alive" and after her. Chaos has erupted as these zombies are all over the place. Fleeing in a car and onto the highway, she collides into a tree and runs into a cop named Ken (Rhames), who hasn't been infected. Together they find other normal beings such as Andre (Phifer) and his pregnant wife and Michael, an ex-Marine. With each person coming from a different section in town, the safest place they agree to go is the mall. Once inside, the small group of survivors encounter more problems as the security guards of the mall offer no help and locks them inside caged areas until the tables are turned on them. It takes them some time to figure out that being inside and safe won't last forever. Apocalypse has come and the end is near. How long will their survival last?

While the opening sequence to the film is certainly frightening, the one factor that is blatantly missing is an origin to how this all began. In "28 Days Later", which came out last year, there was an attempt to explain how the virus infected humans and animals. Horror and Sci-fi films come with two motives, to scare and fascinate your minds with unbelievable stories. Nothing needs to be explained with logic. You just have to go with the flow of it and watch the film with some suspension of disbelief and excitement. If it's a horror film, then you come inside with your heart tucked in deeply for the purpose is to have it pop out. This remake is raising the level of terror. The difference between these films and some of the horror films as of late is that there is that Director Snyder has added character development. If one man goes down, you genuinely feel for that character. At times, the film drags its heels by having the zombies take a back seat for some time while the characters are enjoying their time staying alive. But once they are at the forefront, the suspense begins again and the guessing game as to who will die next begins. In most films, the first to die is usually an African American, but with two of them (Rhames and Mekhi) in the film, it throws out that theory. Kudos to the casting director for that decision! Rhames, Polley, and Webber bring some reality to their characters whereas Phifer's sudden change in character is questionable and unbelievable considering the circumstances. Snyder's remake is not an outstanding piece of work, but more of a faithful one as he keeps the gore and chill effect as close to the original.