A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall.
When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth
The 2004 remake release of “Dawn of the Dead“, stands as one of the most successful to come out of the remake pool in the rush to remarket old franchises. Heading the pack on this one, director Zack Snyder has made quite a name for himself with other directorial projects such as “Watchmen“, “SuckerPunch” and the highly regarded “300”.
It was a bold reboot of the Romero legacy and one with a completely different take on zombies. They were of course hungry, blood thirsty and full of rage, though Synder chose to take the modern zombie approach of zombies who can run their asses off in pursuit of food. In fact, this idea is constantly revisited as we see full running zombies chasing after cars, stray bodies and anything still living. The style and approach would quickly be associated with Danny Boyle’s highly kinetic zombies that changed the tradition in 2002 with the release of “28 days Later“.
I won’t get into the philosophy of fast vs slow zombies that has been “much discussed” over the years. Rather, I’ll make a stand that this is one of the best zombie films I’ve seen (fast or slow) period. The zombies, like in other films, eat flesh, and are created thru the living who have just been bit. The cause is quickly acknowledged as being a complete mystery to the government and officials (shown thru broadcast news stations). We only know that it’s not the dead just rising…. but zombies being created out of bites transferring some sort of viral into the living. To clarify, the living die shortly after of which they are reanimated as the undead. The zombies are also presented as highly vicious savages that while somewhat clumsy, are still very capable of breaking thru doors, swarming victims and clawing their way into closed facilities. Not too smart, but highly determined.
Director Synder takes the right course of action. He builds upon the “characters within” of whom we develop emotional relationships with as a viewer. As Anna (Sarah Polley), a nurse making her way to safety comes upon a small group of survivors, they in addition to policeman Keneth (Ving Rhames) head for a local mall to find refuge. They narrowly escape the threat outside only to be greeted with a ego driven small batch of security cops who think they own the place. Leading these 3 is CJ played by actor Michael Kelly. He quickly becomes the resident “d*ck” with a gun who later starts warming up the bunch by making due contributions to all of their survival. Of course, not until he is humbled a bit.
The group makes due within the mall environment as the swarm increases outside always posing a potential threat. They are also later joined by a new batch of survivors who introduce an even bigger pretentious d*ck by the name of Steve. As they battle circumstances within, the group does its best to get along and plan a course of action. This is announced by Kenneth, who decides that waiting to die is far worse than dying. They begin to assemble a security vehicle using the mall transport buses.
As in the original, this film follows suite by centering much of its drama within the confines of a shopping mall. The original mall of course is still active in Pittsburgh. The set used here is reported to be the Thornhill Square Mall, located in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. It is also reported that the mall was shutdown and destroyed shortly after.
“Dawn of the Dead” does a rather unique thing in its closing. It ends on a somewhat successful note as the survivors getaway per boat. This is in fact a false ending which reveals the “real ending” over the course of the credits. For those who missed that part, the boat heads to an island only to be instantly swarmed again by zombies. This is revealed thru a camcorder recording that one of the survivors was holding.
If Zombies are your thing, then this should be in you collection without second thought. I was amazed at the ability to take a 1978 classic and really give it a shot in the ass. It’s not entirely meant as a replacement for Romeo’s version, but rather an inclusion into the zombie genre itself.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)