(Fair warning, this review might have a spoiler or two!)
"DAWN OF THE DEAD" (2004)
TAGLINE: See the original's.
ENTIRE STORY IN AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE:
Same as the original, but with less subtext and more action.
OH, GOODY. ANOTHER REMAKE?
Yeah, I know. But in a welcome example of bucking the trend of mediocre remakes, director Zack Snyder's '04 "Dawn of the Dead" is pretty damn good. It takes the basic premise of the original, but eschews any kind of social commentary in favor of giving horror fans a straightforward thrill ride. Gone is any angst, just a fatalistic kill-or-get-eaten attitude appropriate for the apocalyptic setting.
SO IT *IS* GOOD?
I know it's strange to say for a remake, but again, yes. It actually even tries to reinvent zombies some for more modern audiences who might suffer from ADD. The most glaring difference between George A Romero's zombies and the creatures of this remake is speed. These are undead creatures, not the postmodern Infected "28 Days Later" introduced us to, but they're no longer slow and shuffling...the Snyder brand of zombie is fast, furious and relentless. Speed is also increased for the story's pacing, as opposed to the thoughtful and methodical progress of the original.
It's almost unaminous among those who see the remake that the pre-credits opening is one of the best parts of the new "Dawn". We're given a ringside seat to the day the undead began to take over the world, as seen from the perspective of a young nurse (Sarah Polley) trying to find safety in the midst of total chaos. The perspective widens when she meets other living survivors (among them Ving Rhames, Jake Weber and Mekhi Phifer), and their need for sanctuary makes them drift to a big shopping mall. As they do their best to shelter themselves from the zombie hordes, they know this adopted refuge can't last...in many ways, the mall threatens to become as much a prison as a shelter. But do they dare make a great escape? And even if they do, will they find a truly 'safe' place, considering the world is coming to an end?
OKAY, BUT WAS THERE PLENTY OF BLOOD AND GORE?
To be a worthy remake of the original "Dawn", it would have been enormously stupid to NOT bring the blood and guts. Thankfully, Snyder and those responsible for the makeup effects more than accomodate the bloodthirsty! We're also given some moments that are disturbing in their own, never-seen-before light. Chief among them, in two words: zombie baby. The very concept should have been so nasty as to be unthinkable, but the new "Dawn" does indeed go there. Even with plenty of setup, watching an unfortunate pregnant survivor go through her stages of infection to die and then become a snarling zombie, and to see her yet-to-be-born baby kick and shift in her belly ominously...ick! :P Outside of that, there's blood and dismemberment and more galore...see the Unrated version on DVD to get all the gore you could possibly want!
BOTTOM LINE, DID ANYBODY GET OUT ALIVE?
A mere handful of survivors get through the zombie hordes...however...!
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY:
Malls are nice places to visit, but you wouldn't want to live in one during a zombie apocalypse. Living humans are reeeeeally strange creatures when we make our own fun. Don't discount the jerk among those you know, he might just sacrifice himself to save your booty one day.