Movie Matchup – Dawn of the Dead vs. Dawn of the Dead

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In 1978 it’d been close to ten years since Night of the Living Dead had come out, and audiences were starving for a new George A. Romero zombie flick. With the landmark release of Romero’s original zombie film a floodgate had been opened and the public was hungry for more. It’s not that no other undead zombie film had been released in the time between 1968 and 1978, in fact there were a few great ones released during that time, but people were eager to see what Romero was going to come up with next as far as the living dead were concerned. The director had released a few movies himself in the decades between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, but nothing dealing with ravenous hordes of the undead, and that’s what people really wanted to see from the man. Finally, zombie lovers were treated to what they’d been waiting for and Dawn of the Dead hit theatres. Not only was it immensely gorier than its predecessor, much more violent, and a whole lot darker, but it’s message was clearer as well, a message of the dangers of consumerism run amok set amidst the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. Audiences were thrilled with what they saw, and the film was a success despite its unrated status making it a little harder to distribute. To this day Romero claims Dawn of the Dead is his favorite among all the zombie movies he directed. Many fans would agree since many an argument has been fought over whether this or Day of the Dead is the better Romero film (personally it’s Day of the Dead for me). Fast forward to 2004 and a new argument was available for Dawn of the Dead fans, which version of their favorite film was better. Zach Snyder took George Romero’s classic film and made an all-new version of it, a version that was very similar but in no way the same. It’s hard to decide which version is really better, so let’s take a look and see if we can’t choose a winner.

Dawn of the Dead (1978): The dead are overrunning the world and four people decide that their best plan of action is to find a nice place to hole up and wait out the apocalypse. Helicopter pilot Stephen grabs his girlfriend Fran and SWAT members Peter and Rodger, and the four of them escape the zombie infested cities, heading out further into the countryside where the find an abandoned but still fully stocked mall. The group settle in for mankind’s last days as the world they know crumbles around them.

Dawn of the Dead (2004): What Ana thought to be just a bad day turns out to be the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse. The terrified woman flees and is found by former police officer Kenneth who is trying to get to a shelter where his brother might be staying. Fortunately the pair are warned that the path ahead has been overrun by the dead when they run into a few people that have just come from that way. The group, now numbering five, head to the only place they can think of that might be safe, the local mall. The mall isn’t as welcoming as they thought. Three security guards have gone on a power trip and lock all five of them up. A deal is soon brokered and they all agree to work together, the group expanding even further when a truck full of desperate survivors arrives at the mall and swells their ranks. They’re going to have to all work together if they expect to survive the end of the world, but that won’t be as easy as it seems for a mall full of divisive personalities.

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{Original Survivors}

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{Remake Survivors}

As you can see they both have a very similar structure, survivors of a zombie apocalypse try to live through the end of the world by barricading themselves inside of a mall. That’s about where the similarities end though. It almost feels like sitting down and watching two incredibly different movies. That’s not a complaint by a longshot, in fact I rather enjoyed how different the movies were while still being cut from the same stone. They both share the same ideas of consumerism run amok, but it’s handled quite a bit better in the original than the remake, with a higher focus on making sure that message comes across to the audience. The remake didn’t really make that message much of a high point, but it did add a lot about morality and group dynamics among such a disparate group of people, so it’s not like the remake doesn’t have its own strong points over the original. There’s also a much different number in the amount of survivors. There’s only four in the original while well over a dozen in the remake. Even the endings are vastly different.

So which one do I think is better? That’s a hard choice considering that each has their advantages over the other. As mentioned above, the remake lacks the inherent message of the original, but it does add quite a bit in other story elements. There’s also the number of survivors that work differently in each film. Having only four survivors in the original allowed you to focus more on each one, making it easier to connect with them and care about their characters, but the high number of survivors in the remake gives that version a better opportunity to explore how a group with so many different personalities would function in a catastrophic situation. Then there’s the zombies themselves. The original has your standard slow moving undead, and the remake has the faster, savage versions. Personally, I have always found the slow moving zombies to be much more terrifying in their presentation of humanity lost, a creature that reminds us of ourselves stripped of everything that makes us human. Fast moving zombies on the other hand seem more like standard movie monsters easily replaceable by anything else. However the remake put a lot of effort into the evolution of their undead, showing their slow decomposition as the film goes on and giving them a vicious level of savagery that can at times be frightening. How does one make a decision as to which one is better when they both have so much going for them? It actually comes down to the effects. They are much better in the remake than the original, and I’m not just talking about the standard evolution you would see in a film made decades after its predecessor. The zombies in the original look a little silly. Effects supervisor Tom Savini used a grey skin tone that came out looking blue in the original. Savini himself regrets how they looked. The zombies in the remake look so much better. With that last little piece of the puzzle it looks like Dawn of the Dead the remake comes out as the winner. It might only be a slight win, but a win is a win.

Now let’s look at which group of zombies would win in a fight.

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{Original Zombies}

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{Remake Zombies}

Dawn of the Dead (1978): These zombies are your standard slow shamblers. They aren’t very strong, but their numbers grow very quickly and with a large number they are capable of inflicting mass amounts of damage, busting their way through doors and overwhelming any living defenders. They are ravenous in their hunger, never stopping to find the one meal they still want, namely us. Their major weakness is their inability to go very fast. In small numbers it is possible for a living human to simply run around them instead of confronting them.

Dawn of the Dead (2004): These zombies are anything but slow. They will chase down their living human meals with as much speed as they can muster, and there is nothing short of true death that will stop them. Dealing with even just a few is going to be hard enough, but they grow in numbers very quickly, and a horde would be impossible to get around. You’re one and only choice is going to be to hide and pray to whatever deity you believe in that they won’t find you.

Stats:

Dawn of the Dead (1978):

  • Slow moving
  • Ravenous hunger
  • Numbers can grow quickly
  • In high numbers they can easily overwhelm most defenses
  • Can be avoided in small numbers
  • Will never stop in their quest for human flesh
  • Extremely dim witted
  • One bite will turn a living human into a member of the living dead

 

Dawn of the Dead (2004):

  • Extremely fast moving
  • Ravenous hunger
  • Numbers can grow quickly
  • In high numbers they can easily overwhelm most defenses
  • Hard to avoid even in small numbers
  • Will never stop in their quest for human flesh
  • Dim witted but extraordinarily savage
  • One bite or even a scratch will turn a living human into a member of the living dead

 

I think this is going to be an easy victory this time around. Just checking the stats against each other will show how much of an advantage the remake’s zombies have over their original counterparts. The speed alone would be enough to overwhelm the original zombies. The slower ones would never be able to stand up against the faster ones. There’s also the savagery the remake zombies show. The original zombies aren’t really that vicious, and I think they would be torn apart by the remake zombies. Lastly, the remake zombies are able to turn the living much easier meaning their numbers would grow much quicker. I fully believe that even a small number of remake zombies could overwhelm a much larger force of original zombies, but when the remake’s horde gets bigger quicker than the original’s zombies they would utterly obliterate them. In the end the win has to go to the remake zombies.

 

The Undead Review

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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