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