Film Reviews

DAWN OF THE DEAD (Victoria)

By • Mar 19th, 2004 •

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Universal Pictures presents a Strike Entertainment/New Amsterdam Entertainment production
Running time: 100 minutes / MPAA rating: R

The real fun of horror movies is putting yourself in the picture. What would you do? Or, will you learn how to cleverly survive from one of the characters?

The Black Death took one-third to one-half of Europe’s population. This phenomenal depopulation actually influenced dramatic positive changes which, according to “The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe” by Robert S. Gottfried, “profoundly influenced the course of western history.”

Survival of the Fittest? You decide whether any of these characters deserve to make it out of the Mall alive and then procreate. Perhaps a fleshing-eating zombie is Nature’s scheme for culling the herd.

The remake of George Romero’s 1979 film does not want to annoy us with philosophical trappings. There is no sociological subtext.

It does not matter why people have turned into flesh-eating zombies. Nobody knows anything except you must shoot the zombies in the head. Apparently, and suddenly, all over the U.S., people are being bitten, die, then are reanimated as flesh-eating zombies. If there is no one to eat, do they turn on each other? Can you just wait them out?

Ana (Sarah Polley), a Wisconsin nurse, wakes up to find her boyfriend has been bitten by a neighbor’s young girl. He then attacks Ana. She kills him. Ana is covered in his blood. Ana jumps in her car and promptly crashes. She meets up with a group of survivors: Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a police officer, Michael (Jake Weber), a salesman, and a young couple, Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and his pregnant Russian wife (Inna Korobkina).

Somehow, and I do not know how, they get inside a mall before it opens. However, the zombies do not know how to get inside after them. Three security guards are inside. Tough leader CJ (Michael Kelly) does not want to let them in. He reluctantly agrees. They have food and everything they need to survive but the zombies are fast-moving. This mismatched group allows some other uninfected passive people to join them: an older couple, a young couple, and an arrogant guy. Except for the arrogant guy (Ty Burrell), these people have no opinions about what to do. We know they are background victims.

CJ is the only one making sense. Ana, of course, doesn’t mind being coated in blood. She wants to help the others. CJ is promptly relieved of his leadership duties until his “mall expertise” is needed. I was unhappy when CJ turned into a dutiful team player.

If I were in the Mall, I would have geared up with metal-spiked leather bands around my neck – a favored target of the zombies – and worn a lot of clothes. I’d have a high-powered gun cocked and ready. I would not wander around. I’d camp close to the food court.

I liked the way the screenplay by James Gunn (based on George Romero’s original screenplay) explores the situation’s more mundane aspects: after being confined for a period of time, the group engages in playing board games, killing zombies from the rooftop and communicating with a guy across the way holed up above a gun store.

Once again, someone falls in love with a stray dog though this animal is used in an imaginative way. The team decides to leave the Mall. They have a rather good plan for getting away that works. The denouement is witty and delivers the to-the-mat punch.

Directed by Zack Snyder, this new DAWN is the zombie movie for today’s bored young audiences who do spend a lot of time wandering in malls. Unfortunately, I was not thrilled with the way this assembled group of ordinary men and women handled the crisis. I would expect more hysterical, high-volumn tension. Snyder directs with a robust hand and the soundtrack is smart. It is the character with the best angle for survival.


Credits:
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriter: James Gunn
Based on a screenplay by: George Romero
Producers: Richard Rubinstein, Marc Abraham, Eric Newman
Executive producers: Thomas Bliss, Dennis Jones, Armyan Bernstein
Director of photography: Matthew Leonetti
Production designer: Andrew Neskoromny
Editor: Niven Howie
Costume designer: Denise Cronenberg
Special makeup effects: David Leroy Anderson
Music: Tyler Bates

Cast:
Ana: Sarah Polley
Kenneth: Ving Rhames
Michael: Jake Weber
Andre: Mekhi Phifer
Steve: Ty Burrell
CJ: Michael Kelly
Terry: Kevin Zegers
Nicole: Lindy Booth
Luda: Inna Korobkina

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