George Romero’s 1978 original, Dawn of the Dead has been reborn through the eyes of director Zack Snyder.
Snyder recounts the horrifying tale of a group of survivors, lead by Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible) and Sarah Polley (Road to Avonlea), who attempt to escape the clutches of an accumulating zombie horde.
Until this point in zombie movie history, a strict protocol has been followed in making such a film: there must be at least one scene of gratuitous nudity, a character must die at least once every 15 minutes and zombies must travel no faster than a light stumble.
Snyder has remained true to the first two unwritten rules of the zombie code, but kicked the zombies themselves into high gear. He depicts the “dead-ish” creatures running at full speed to devour their victims, to the sounds of Johnny Cash, no less.
Not only is their speed impressive considering their various stages of decomposition, but they also appear to retain all the agility that they may have procured during their lives as living humans.
Some would call it a mistake, others a sacrilegious crime, but to a hardcore fan of zombie-horror such as myself, I call it revolutionary and refreshing.
Long before Romero’s original zombie epic, Night of the Living Dead, movie lovers have been held captive by the doctrine of slow-moving zombies. The nuance of a faster, more agile, zombie began making its way into the genre in such flicks as House of the Dead.
Unfortunately, the film’s horrible casting and visually dreadful “special effects” could not support the innovative idea.
Dawn of the Dead 2004, however, scored on such accounts, as the film’s non-stop tension and gore could satisfy even the most critical of connoisseurs.
I could tell the audience was tense before the movie even began as a young boy, sitting behind me, was startled by the simple sound of a ticking clock in the opening sequence.
Noteworthy secondary character, Steve (played by actor Ty Burell), picks up the prize for funniest and most cynical survivor, as well as the “Bruce Campbell Look-Alike” trophy for all you Evil Dead fans.
On the other hand, the main character, Ana (played by Polley) does very little to improve this contemporary version of the film.
Her performance further supports the well-known assumption that female actors in this genre of film are easily replaceable.
She encapsulated the typical melodramatic and over empathetic personality that her horror-film predecessors, such as Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love-Hewitt, made famous.
Her only saving grace is found in the striking resemblance she bares to the actress who played her character in the original 1978 film.
Despite Polley’s insignificant performance, the supporting cast fills the screen with suspense, laughter and the sufficient blood spills that are required to sustain a movie of this caliber.
To my delight, this film was also visually stunning, as the director chose various filters and focal implements with which to film. This gave Snyder’s portrayal of Dawn of the Dead the added touch of class that a horror movie needs to survive in a time when a picture of the sort receives no credit.
The thorn in my side when viewing this picture was the misguided casting of Polley; however, Dawn of the Dead 2004 retains its value as an entertaining addition to the zombie-horror family nonetheless.