Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dawn of the Dead

(2004) *****

After 28 Days Later planted the seeds for the Great Zombie Renaissance (2004-2005), the Dawn of the Dead remake took the genre a great leap forward, unexpectedly justifying its very right to exist. I know I'm not the only one who walked into the theater snickering - "Why would they feel the need to drag a masterpiece through the mud? I'm sick of remakes, why can't anyone come up with a new idea anymore?" etc. O'well, I was just happy to be watching a new zombie movie. Two hours later I remember, in an overexcited frenzy, putting forth the notion that Dawn of the Dead '04 surpassed the original. (Only recently have I calmed down enough to retract that claim.)

[I'm going to come clean now. My friend Chopper had an extra ticket through HJY to the sneak preview and I went with him without batting an eye, knowing full well that I agreed to see it with JPX a couple of days later. It was an extremely painful experience pretending I hadn't yet seen it, particularly because every sentence I wanted to say to JPX during those days started with "Omigod, there's this one part when..." I'm not sorry I went to the preview but I do regret not telling JPX and have been carrying the burden of guilt for over 2 years now. This seems like a good time to clear my conscience.]

The biggest achievement Dawn '04 made was in capturing the time period between when the zombies first arrived on the scene (in Night of the Living Dead) and when they had already taken over the world (in the original Dawn). After a narrow escape from her zombified husband, Sarah Polley drives directly through the emerging chaos without yet comprehending the full extent of what was happening. Nobody can be trusted and she makes the impossible choice of abandoning neighbors pleading for help for the sake of her own safety. As she speeds off into the unknown, the overhead camera drops back to reveal mass hysteria, explosions and the suggestion of the apocalypse. Incredibly powerful stuff that fuels the rest of this ultra-intense movie.

George Romero admitted to liking the remake but brushed it off as an action movie instead of a proper zombie flick. Sour grapes could have contributed to his assessment, though this stance has some merit. But while the movie does move at a breakneck pace and carnage lurks behind every corner, it still faithfully delves into the satirical and philosophical aspects of Romero's films.

As Dawn '04 has already been discussed at length, I thought I'd give some attention to the 15 minute DVD bonus feature documenting Andy the gun store owner's last days alive... or.. you know. In the movie, Andy was a scene-stealing survivor holed up in the building across from the mall. Though little attention was spent with his particular situation, he served well to remind Ving Rhames and co. that although things were dire, they at least had the luxury of human contact, something they had taken for granted.

The opening blurb of the feature is interesting because it alludes to a glimmer of hope for humanity: "In the aftermath of the undead epidemic, survivors traveling through Everett, WI found a videotape at a store called Andy's Gun Works." The videotape begins with Andy relaying the details of his escape. He begins with pure optimism as he still has food, Jack Daniels and a helluva lotta guns at his disposal. As the days pass and the streets become completely swarmed with zombies, he begins to lose his hope and sanity. Split seconds of his ex-wife and daughter are thrown in as he is presumably recording over old home movie footage. It culminates with the failed rescue mission from his point of view.

Cool bonus feature and much appreciated, but overall nothing to vomit too much blood over.

[Previous reviews by I'mNotMarc and Octopunk.]

Dawn of the Dead - Intro


Jordan said...

I should be watching this on Tuesday, so I'll read the review then. I've watched the original at least twice now.

Netflix is choking me! I thought we'd settled all that and had a good relationship now...I guess I was wrong, but victims-of-abuse-by-online-dvd-rental-vendors always make this mistake. Were they not choking me, I would right now be watching Saw II and Day of the Dead because Netflix's promises that those movies would arrive "Saturday" wouldn't have been just so many empty lies.

BTW it looks like Casio Royale is blowing everyone away. I'm not remotely surprised: the moment they cast him, I was like, "ROCK!" But then, unlike almost everybody else (including, I'll bet, all you guys), I had seen Munich.

Jordan said...

Here's a good review of the 1978 version I just found.

You guys will bear with me: I've only just discovered Dawn of the Dead. I just had no idea it was so good. I remember when it came out! I was twelve and the crummy television ads would come on when I was watching TV late at night and scare the hell out of me.

Summerisle said...

You're lucky, you only get to see Dawn of the Dead for the first time once! I'll be curious to see what you have to say about Day of the Dead.

Jordan said...

Hey, Summerisle, I just sent you some email.

Yeah, sometimes it's good to come to things "too late." I didn't get around to reading Catch-22 until long after college and I'm glad I waited, because the culture around that book tends to make young readers miss the point a bit. I have a friend who didn't discover original Star Trek until the last year of college, and he totally, completely loved it immediately (after making fun of it for years).

JPX said...

"I'm not sorry I went to the preview but I do regret not telling JPX and have been carrying the burden of guilt for over 2 years now."

Well you should feel sorry you sonofabitch! Of course, rather than watching it twice you could've INVITED ME to the sneak preview.


Jordan I too envy you for getting into some of this horror stuff late in the game. It must be how you felt knowing that I was watching all the LOST episodes for the first time. I would encourage you to use the blog for horror recommendations. We've all watched so many horror films that I think we're pretty good at sifting through the dirt to find the gold.

Love the avatar, by the way.

JPX said...

Jordan, I hear you on the Netflix headaches. One thing I learned early on was to never respond to their email questions about when I received or returned movies. As soon as they know that you're getting stuff quickly they slow things down. Since I stopped responding to them they haven't been throttling me as much.

Octopunk is going to chime in to say, "I've never had any problems, I looooooove Netflix..." Well that's because you only watch one film per month, punk.

Jordan said...

Yeah, thanks for the advice. I think my problem is that I've made it a habit to "max out" netflix completely; that is, I have a quota of four movies, and, when four movies arrive on a particular day, I mail all four back the next morning. You can't do Netflix any faster than that. So I'm at the far end of the curve and I'm eating into their profit margins. So, they choke me. Someone planned a class action lawsuit but it can't be done because we all signed something that explicitly gives them the right to do exactly this.

Hopefully they'll get back into groove. Wait a minute...they're reading this! Who's that at the door? No wait...don't come in.. *ACK*

JPX said...

I turn all my Netflix DVDs within 24 hours as well.

Octopunk said...

Lies, regrets, families coming together through adversity -- this is what Horrorthon's all about. I'm referring, of course, to Summerisle's coming clean to JPX. That's the kind of drama people want. I have a confession too:

When you and I were in 8th grade, JPX, and we were playing Trac Ball in the street in front of my house anticipating our viewing of Return of the Jedi that was coming later that night...well, I'd already seen it. Yeah, contest or something. Boy, it's been tough holding in that secret for these past 23 years. Glad I fessed up.*

Also, it was me who stole the giant Dick Tracy sign that night.**

* This is a lie.
** This is also a lie.***
*** This is a lie, as my second statement is actually true.

Octopunk said...

Your friend "Chopper?" What is that, like one of the tough muppets?

Love the avatar, Jordan.

Octopunk said...

Oh yeah, I also meant to say that I've never had any problems, I looooooove Netflix...

It's true, I haven't, but you could count the number of movies I've returned the same day on one hand.

I also live in an urban area and the distribution center is in nearby San Jose; if I put a flick in the mail on day one I get its replacement on day three. I'm sure that's a big advantage over those of you living in the sticks, like Jordan.

Summerisle said...

I was getting shafted in Massachusetts but since I moved to CA, the service has been impeccable. I think JPX is right about the surveys. It's almost funny how the surveys under the guise of better customer service is designed to screw you.

How long before Netflix is completely obsolete, replaced by IPOD that can store hundreds of movies? I'd wager 2 years.

Jordan said...

"It's almost funny how the surveys under the guise of better customer service is designed to screw you."

Nobody will ever beat this immortal prose (near-verbatim):

"For your convenience, we have installed these hot-air hand dryers instead of conventional paper towels.

• Prevents chapping

• Eliminates unsanitary towel litter"

Remember those labels on the fucking public-restroom hot-air blowers? And every single time I would rant, "It's not for 'my convenience! It's for their convenience!"

Jordan said...


Two years seems a bit optimistic. My dvd library (which perhaps owes something to Netflix in some vague way) is roughly a terabyte of data, so to move all the films onto a hard drive, I'd need a rackmounted Xserve at the very least. I've got about a dozen movies on my iPod but they're, of course, nowhere near DVD quality (although I can pipe them out to a television and they're certainly watchable if a bit choppy. It would take seventeen of my iPod to provide a terabyte (and it wouldn't leave any room for my music or my photos).

JPX said...

Jordan, I think I have you beat thanks to my friend's viedeostore (now closed) and Netflix. I lost count of my DVDs after about 1200.

Nice collection, by the way. How do you inventory them? I used to used Guzzlefish but I ran into problems - any recommendations?

Jordan said...

jpx, that's just some web programming of my own, coded in coldfusion mx and feeding off a small database on my webserver.

You will note my links to IMDB, and the fact that I made something that can sort titles while ignoring "The" at the beginning and putting numerals in the correct place (so that 8 Mile isn't at the top of the list), unlike every single Microsoft product. I can't believe it when I see actual published books whose indexes begin with a "numbers" category! Thanks a lot, Microsoft Word.

Octo and I have been corresponding about how to set up a website about horror movies...

Jordan said...


Day of the Dead and Saw II just arrived. Thank you, Netflix! (I just can't stay mad at you.)

JPX said...

"Octo and I have been corresponding about how to set up a website about horror movies..."

That's terrific news! I think we'd allpony up some dough to get this rolling.


I'm still laughing at your avatar.

JPX said...

I'm looking forward to your comments on Day of the Dead and Saw II. By the way, there's a remake of Day of the Dead being filmed right now so your timing is pretty good.

Jordan said...


Here's a cartoon strip from last year about myself and my cat.

JPX said...

Here's what Romero is working on:

JPX said...

That's funny, Jordan, do you draw other cartoons?

Jordan said...

I do. I wanted to show that the avatar is my frequent portrayal of myself. I've done some animation, too, but it's not complete...

JPX said...

Ooh, link me to the animation!

Damn, I wish I was talented.

Jordan said...

"For Tuesday: Dawn of the Dead (2004)"

Well, we'll just see about that, won't we, Netflix? "Fool me once" and all that...