Truthfully, I wasn't intending to watch Dawn04 for this year's Thon, having reviewed it a year ago. I saw it as part of a horror movie party masterminded by my girlfriend. I offered it as an afterthought suggestion when we were deciding what to watch first. I really tried to sell everyone Re-Animator or Of Unknown Origin, but when I got to Dawn, I guess I just couldn't contain my enthusiasm.
I won't bother with a recap; instead, feel free to browse these rave reviews from Johnny Sweatpants, Octopunk, and Jordan, and of course Jordan's kickass Zombie Roundup. I'd also suggest taking the time to read the comments for all of these; there's all kinds of good stuff in there. This is a SPOILER heavy review, so read on at your own risk.
A few things I noticed this time around that I hadn't completely appreciated last time...
--In the opening credits, there are a few shots of human cells being attacked by zombie cells. These cells appear to be of either three different types or in three stages of metamorphosis. If it's the former, it suggests that the cellular transformation is happening all over the body and not in just the brain. Peaceful and stationary before infection, the cells are rocketing across their petri dishes by the time the infection is complete.
--When Michael discovers the zombie in the sporting goods store, both the zombie and the person it's attacking appear to be wearing security guard uniforms. I wonder if the security guards might have held the balance of power longer if they'd had those two and the one who attacks Kenneth by the fountain beefing their ranks.
--Ken Foree, one of the stars of the original, plays a televangelist broadcasting a sermon the night after the zombie crisis begins. The first few times I saw this, I snickered during his monologue, thinking, "Sheesh, these clowns are still on the air?" This time around, it dawned on me that the evangelists may have been right all along -- witness Andre's abashed brooding about the "End of Times" while washing his hands next to Kenneth. Kenneth parries brilliantly by pointing out, essentially, that if this were really a biblical thing and everyone were being judged for their sins, he wouldn't be in the mall with Andre's thug ass.
--I'm so glad this movie didn't turn into a sideshow about CJ trying to get his old superiority back. Other movies have been made less fun by making that exact choice. CJ's conversion into a good guy happens without a single hiccup and I've gotta give this movie props for not getting sidetracked.
--This was really the first time I stopped to consider how it would actually feel to fall to a gradual infection. I began to consider this while watching Frank in his final moments with his daughter. He holds her, gazes straight ahead, and whispers, "Time to go, honey." Obviously he knew he was close. My question is, was the feeling just one of extreme unwellness? Could he have felt the hunger dawning on him even then? Perhaps it was time for his daughter to leave the room because she was starting to look delicious. It'd also cast a different light on Frank's last moments with Kenneth standing guard. Maybe that's a look of hunger on his face and the only reason he's not attacking is because he knows he's too weak to move. Kenneth is in position to shoot him instantly and, as Frank notes, "You want every single second." Why waste any of it on a hopeless attack?
--Jordan pointed out that the survivors, "deal with their differences of opinion rather quickly and efficiently (for a change)." And that's totally true early on in the movie, but as the movie wears on the malcontents of the group seem to get a little bit more cranky with each other. Steve's act wears thin with everyone almost immediately -- He crows, "Why don't we drop by the marina, hop in my boat and take it for a pleasure cruise, you jackasses?" and even Monica, who only 15 minutes of screen time earlier was screwing him in the electronics store, rolls her eyes, appalled. Monica's also clearly irritated by Nicole. Where would that frustration have gone had everyone been there a month later?
--It also looks like they're running low on some key supplies. Whatever "that lemon stuff" is that Steve likes to put in his booze and that Andre's been feeding to Luda is gone. And later in the movie, Steve goes to the coffee thermos and rolls his dark eyes when it sputters empty.
--Much ado has been made about Ana remembering to grab the keys to her car and to the boat. Nobody here remembered to give any credit to Steve who remembered to bring his boat keys with him when he left the house as well.
--When did CJ get appointed propane specialist? Three propane tanks get detonated by gunfire and flare, and every single time it's CJ throwing out the tank and pulling the trigger
--The muzak they hear on the elevator on the way to the armored cars is "All Out of Love."
--That head in the cooler on the fishing boat during the end credits must have been put there by someone. There had to have been two fishermen to begin with. One of them had to have been bitten beforehand. It's doubtful anyone would say, "Hey, let's go fishing," after getting bit by a zombie, so I'm guessing the two wound up on the fishing boat as part of an escape attempt -- either away from Milwaukee like our protagonists, or away from a Lake Michigan island, perhaps hoping for better luck on the mainland. Anyway, one fisherman turns before the other one's been bitten -- otherwise how would the surviving fisherman have had the strength to fight off an attack and cut the zombie's head off? The question is, where'd that guy go? Did he commit suicide? Maybe he turned into a zombie himself and then fell off the boat in his zombie rage.
--That makes me think of another thing: You know how silly your cat looks when it trips? Ordinarily it's a pretty slick creature, but the moment it loses its balance, it looks like a total loser. There are hours of footage sent into America's Funniest Home Videos about this exact thing. I wonder if zombies look as ridiculous when they lose their balance.
--If that head was able to survive without the body, that means that the surviving fisherman took down his buddy the hard way: cutting the zombie's head off while it was still attacking.
I'd like to give a special shout-out to Jordan who provided me with a copy of the disc, complete with director's commentary -- I literally just noticed the DC was on there about 3 minutes ago, after dozens of viewings. It's a burned copy. I'm going to have to get the full version at some point, just to see all the extras. Everyone's been raving about the featurette of Andy's video journal from inside the gun store.
I wish I could see this for the first time all over again.