Thursday, May 28, 2015

1PanelReview Dawn of the Dead (2004)

I'm honestly not a big fan of remakes usually, but this one was pretty good and easily comes as good as they go. 

When there's no more room in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth...

When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

What it is: Dawn of the Dead (2004) or alternatively Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead

Which is: A Horror/Zombie film
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Year: 2004

Released in 2004 under Universal Pictures, the Dawn of the Dead remake was the directional debut of over-the-top action/slowmotion-enthusiast director Zack Snyder (who would go on to make quite a name for himself with his "unique style" with Sucker Punch and the comic book adaptations of 300, Watchmen, Man of Steel and the entire upcoming DC Comics Cinematic Universe starting with Batman V Superman next year). Snyder actually debuted by making music videos, and it still shows in most of his films. This remake was written by long-time horror fan and ex-Troma alumni James Gunn, two years before his own actual directional debut Slither, who his nowadays one of my favorite film directors personally (Super, Guardians of the Galaxy..).

This 2004 Dawn of the Dead follows the original film rather closely. The story follows roughly the same basics, which sees a group of survivors trying to survive the zombie apocalypse inside an abandoned shopping mall in Wisconsin. But once a zombie swarm start amassing outside, all hell breaks lose... and they find they're actually trapped inside a zombie buffet waiting to happen!
What's Good about it: James Gunn wrote the screenplay and received solo writing credit on this film. This was right around the same time he was trying to break into Hollywood (and would write both Scooby-Doo live adaptations). Thanks to Gunn's pretty good grasp of the original story, the film is fun and has the same spirit as the original, plus it kept most of the consumerism aspect.
It's easily one of the best films Zack Snyder ever did, and perhaps his most traditional one compared to his other more stylized productions. In fact since this was his debut film, the film was almost entirely shot in chronocogical order.
The film has pretty decent acting, a pretty good cast. But in my eyes the real stars of the remake are the returning actors from the original Dawn of the Dead! There are cameos of the great Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and even Tom Savini (as a sheriff)!
Where the film really departs from the original his how they upgraded the aesthetics and gave Dawn a slightly more modern tone (although this doesn't mean I have anything against the original, despite the passage of time it still is a classic and holds up pretty well).
The remake shares most details of the plot with the original, from the general outbreak to the characters taking refuge inside a mall. They replaced all the characters, the group is much bigger this time. The other controversial change was making the zombies far more violent they've ever been on film and really, really fast. In fact they seem to act closer to those rage-virus infected (28 Days Later). Like Romero's film most of the story revolves around the cohesion of the group and the breaking point once it starts infighting.
The film is pretty gory, thanks to gorgeous special effects.
It has a slightly more tight and frantic nature.
And a fantastic opener to Johnny Cash’s music "The Man Comes Around".
All in all, it's a fun film. With some cheesy moments, sure, but it's never dull. Modernized and enjoyable, thanks to a bigger budget and a captivating plot.
For all these deviations, it's a great modern zombie flick (even if it's basically a modern reshoot of the original Dawn).

What's Bad about it: The remake is not without its flaws.
One of the real problems of this remake is how it lacks some of the dark humor from the original Romero film, therefore it feels a bit flat compared to the 1979 classic which was definitively smarter and wittier. The film lost some of its satire in the translation.
Also I don't like the lack of bikers, they added an additional outside perspective of the zombie outbreak!
While the original was a much slower film, building up both the drama and the tension, the new film is a lot fast. One of the key points of this Dawn remake was how it introduced fast-paced zombies to the mainstream audience which would invade most of the media, the film had a huge impact on horror films. For a while it seemed all zombie films were Dawn of the Dead clones...
The original allowed its smaller cast more screentime, we got to know each character. But in the remake there's too many characters this time around, we lose a lot of character development as well. 
And that's the main issue of the remake, nothing is allowed to breath. The original took place over several months, while the remake only takes place over a month. The "zombie pregnancy" is not allowed to take place along the film. On the plus side the zombie virus actually feels more like a disease.

Overall: All in all, it's pretty good zombie film. Recommended for any fans of the genre, a well worthy remake of George Romero's classic. Paying homage to the original while working on its own story as well. Unlike most unnecessary remakes this one's actually fun and works as a nice companion to the original film. It's a good zombie film, closer to a reimagining with modern effects.

The same way I see Event Horizon for Paul Anderson, despite a film director I'm not particularly fond of it's a really good film. Well done and intelligent. And most of that goes thanks to very solid and imaginative writing. In my eyes this film is pretty darn good despite Zack Snyder's involvement. The man has a thing for making awfully long and dull-looking monochromatic films, stretching action scenes way over their welcome, and relying too much on overuse of CGi and slow motion to put the emphasis on action. But here, back then, he had none of these issues yet.

Thankfully for Dawn, it was not the case in this film for the most part. For all his shortcomings on most of his later work, the film is fun and colorful here. It's not only a great zombie film but a horror film done right. Gunn wrote sympathetic characters, despite the circumstances. With a great opener that really works. Cameos from the original cast. Fast paced (and fast zombies). And lots of fun one liners.

I personally still prefer the original Dawn of the Dead over this remake, but this 2004 iteration has a few great scenes here and there, a great intro that really sets the apocalyptic atmosphere of this film.

Originally there were plans for a sequel, which Zack Snyder would produce featuring most of the same returning actors. But he kinda lost track of that once he started work on Watchmen. It was going to be titled Army of the Dead (which coincidentally enough is exactly how the film was retitled in most countries in Europe). Instead a completely unrelated Day of the Dead sequel/remake/spinoff was produced....
I give it: 2.5 / 3!

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