Dawn of the Dead (2004)


When those who’ve recently died reanimate and begin attacking the living, causing those attacked to rise again, a small group take shelter in a local mall hoping to avoid the fate themselves. A remake of 70’s Romero classic.

It’s a well-known fact that I highly dislike fast moving zombies. In fact, I’ll go on record and say I absolutely despise fast moving zombies. I have my reasons for disliking them as cinematic representations of us such as them coming across as little more than yet another movie monster instead of the sad, slow moving reminder of humanity lost that the “Romero” zombies retain, or how fast moving zombies seem nearly impossible considering the effects of rigor mortis and all, or even that fast moving zombies don’t seem at all like the humans they once were, which comes back to them seeming just like every other movie monster. No, the real reason I despise fast zombies is simple, jealousy. I only wish I could move that fast myself. Do you know how much easier my unlife would be if I could move fast? Prey would be so much easier to hunt. I wouldn’t have to rely on surprise, I’d just chase assholes down and consume them. Not that I eat just assholes or anything, I eat the whole body. I’m just saying, you know what, never mind, let’s just move on.

Our remake of the Romero mall romp classic begins in a hospital where the early effects of the coming zombie apocalypse can be seen. Ambulances are busy, a bitten man with only a small wound has had to be transferred to the ICU, and another bite victim is coming in with a torn out throat. Here nurse Ana is just ending her shift and getting ready to head home after a very long day. She gets home to have a little bit of sexy time with her husband before falling fast asleep. The next morning she wakes to a living hell as a neighborhood girl attacks her husband whom she must watch die and reanimate before the man attacks her and sends her scurrying out a window toward her car. She flees as chaos erupts around her before crashing her car and passing out. Luckily for her it’s not a zombie that finds her unconscious body but a police officer searching for shelter. As the two of them head towards their destination they encounter three other survivors who warn them that the path ahead is too dangerous to tread. Instead they all decide to go to the local mall where they find the building nearly abandoned save a few zombies and three security guards on a power trip that lock the small group up. As things outside continue to deteriorate and more survivors show up, the disparate groups must come together to defend the mall in the hopes of at least enjoying the end of the world in safety.


{This would be a good plan if there was still anyone alive to help}

Remakes always bring up heated debate no matter what the movie. It could be the remake of an absolutely terrible film, and you’ll still have people arguing to the death about which film was better. It’s an understandable thing, some people are going to be fans of the original version of a film while others are going to be fans of its remake. Many times it can be because of sentimentality, maybe someone grew up watching the original while someone else saw the film’s remake before the original, and it’s hard for someone to see a remake for being a good film when they’ve been a huge fan of the original for so long. Other times it’s just because someone honestly believes one version is better. A lot of times it’s hard to decide which film is truly better as most opinions of film are just that, opinions. I get a lot of flak myself for thinking the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is better than the original, but that’s my opinion. I enjoyed the remake so much more. You can tell me I’m wrong all you want, but you’re not going to change my mind. I’ve never really enjoyed the original film, but I’ve been called all kinds of things for saying I think the remake is better. You can list all kinds of reasons, but in the end it all just comes down to opinion. On the flip side you have the Halloween remake which I absolutely despise and think ruined the character of Michael Myers by taking him from a savage killer with no reason behind doing what he’s doing to an emotionally broken child who killed because of a horrible upbringing. I can go on and on about why I hate the remake, but if you’re a fan of the remake I’m not going change your mind. That’s just the way it is. If I review a remake or an original, I’m always going to speak my mind about it, but I don’t intend to win anyone over, at least not easily. Dawn of the Dead though, more than most remakes, seems to be one of the more divisive movies out there. I have seen screaming matches brought up over this film before. Personally, I think that it’s good, fast moving zombies aside. In some aspects it’s actually better than the original. I’ll still always like the original better, mainly due to sentimentality and the lessons present in George A. Romero’s story, but I can’t say the remake isn’t a great film either.


{This is always how these arguments end}

Zach Snyder even gave a lot of nods to the films that came before this one. I thought it was a great idea on his part. A lot of remakes give a hint or two about the original film, but Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead had a lot of them, so many I’m willing to bet that as many as I caught I still missed more than a few. It showed a humility on the director’s part if you ask me, having faith in his film but realizing that he was remaking something great. He gives nods to not only the original Dawn of the Dead but Night of the Living Dead as well. I’ll go down the list on some of the things I caught, and a few I found while making sure what I was catching was right. Some are obvious, some not so much.

  • Ken Foree is an end times preacher while Tom Savini is a sheriff. Ken Foree was of course Peter in the original film, while Tom Savini helped both with the effects on the original as well as having a cameo as one of the biker scavengers that attacks the mall. Also, there is a speech Savini’s character gives during an interview about how to take down the zombies. This speech mirrors almost exactly the speech the sheriff from the original Night of the Living Dead gave about taking down zombies. Not only that but when Foree is talking about the end of the world, he gives the iconic line “When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”
  • Some of the trucks outside the mall are from B.P. Trucking. This is the same trucking company that loaned trucks for the original Dawn of the Dead.
  • A WGON traffic copter is shown in the beginning of the remake. That’s the same copter use to transport the survivors in the original.
  • An aerial scene is shown as Anna is driving down the road trying to escape the zombies behind her. She just narrowly avoids a truck that smashes into a diner/gas station, setting the place ablaze. This mirrors Ben’s experience from Night of the Living Dead before he finds the abandoned farm house.
  • The names of various stores in the mall are name drops from the original film. For instance stores Gaylen Ross (the actress who played Fran in the original) and Wooly’s Diner (Wooly was SWAT team lead in the original).
  • The music playing in the music store as the group are stocking up is the exact same music that played in the gun store in the original.

Like I said, I might have missed some considering all the ones I did notice, so there still could be others. I’m glad Snyder added these in as it made it more fun to watch. It was almost like a game trying to catch them all.


{Ken Foree makes for a terrifying preacher too}

How the story was handled was great as well. It has the same basic structure as the original, group of people flee the zombie apocalypse, wind up in a mall together, and must survive a world where the living are a minority. They even kept the same transition from hopeless panic in the beginning as the dead overrun the world, to a more fun loving attitude in the middle with the survivors using the mall as their own private playground, and going back to the hopeless desperation by the end, making the movie go full circle. A smart decision though was to make sure this isn’t an exact replica of the original. While the structure is still the same, this is not the exact same movie. In fact it’s really a lot different as you can see from the plot I described above. Even the ending is much different, but I won’t give you that as I don’t want to ruin it for you. There isn’t much of an anti-consumerism message as there was in Romero’s version, but there is a good play on group dynamics, and how a catastrophic situation like this one would change people and how they fit into a group. You have people from all walks of life in our group of survivors, all trying to figure out where they fit in. Some people decide to fuck the situation away, others drink themselves into oblivion, and still others calmly do the best they can to deal with what’s going on around them. Many of the group use the mall as a playground, almost refusing to face the climatic end of the world until the direness of their situation hits them square in the face. A few simply go insane, losing their minds the same way they’ve lost everything else. All of them face the end of the world very differently, and I thought it was well shown and very detailed. There’s also some very good issues of morality brought up, some of them sad, some of them making you wonder what you would do. Things like having to shoot someone you care about who is about to turn into a zombie, how far a man will go to have the family he’s always wanted in a world where few of the living remain, and the price one will pay for survival. They were all great story elements.


{Faced against these kind of odds it’s kind of hard to think about anything other than surviving the next day}

The characters are very interesting too with my favorite being gun store owner Andy. Andy is the owner of a gun store across from the mall with whom some of the mall residents communicate with by writing messages on a whiteboard and using binoculars to read them. He wasn’t even a huge part of the film but I cared more for his wellbeing than I did about anyone else’s. He was just such an intriguing character. It’s not that every other character is bad, in fact it’s quite the opposite, they are all very well written and a whole range of personalities are presented throughout the film, Andy just easily became my favorite among them all. I liked how varied they made the characters, with just about every type of person playing a part in the group of survivors. I’m not saying you’ll like them all as some of them are complete and total assholes, but that’s what they’re supposed to be. Not only was I impressed with how well done they did the characters, but they picked some very good actors to play them as well.



{Even a lot of the zombie actors do a very good job}

Lastly they did an amazing job with the effects. You can expect to see quite a bit of blood and gore for the remake of Dawn of the Dead, in fact there was so much blood that the crew sometimes had to wear plastic and drape it over equipment since it was getting everywhere. They even had a blood cart on set during every take as they kept running out of blood all the time. All of the effects were modeled on real forensic photos of dead bodies and medical injuries so that they could make the gore look as realistic as possible, and I have to say it worked very well because the effects look absolutely terrific. The zombies look amazing too, and they did something very different with them. If you pay attention to the zombies, you can actually watch them deteriorate as the film goes on. Most of them don’t look too bad at the beginning but by the end they are really starting to rot with some looking more rotten than others. They even changed the color of the blood based on the freshness of the zombie, red for fresh, brown for dead a few weeks, and black for old dead. It was immensely creative if you ask me. I’m usually not a fan of fast moving zombies, but with how well they were done I can’t help but like these ones.


{See, great looking makeup, though that zombie’s stomach does look surprisingly well compared to the rest of him}

In the end this is an extremely great zombie flick. Even George A. Romero, while not a huge fan of the film, said that it was pretty good. I would most definitely check it out when you get the chance.


The Undead Review


Directed By: Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300)

Starring: Sarah Polley (Go, Splice), Ving Rhames (Piranha 3D, Pulp Fiction), Jake Weber (The Cell, U-571), and Michael Kelly (Defendor, Law Abiding Citizen)

Released By: Universal Studios, Strike Entertainment, New Amsterdam Entertainment, Metropolitan Filmexport, and Toho-Towa

Release Year: 2004

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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