Director – Zack Snyder
Cast – Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth, Jayne Eastwood, Boyd Banks, Inna Korobkina
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Before he brought us the blockbuster film 300 and the excellent superhero flick The Watchmen, director Zach Snyder brought us a modern day remake of the greatest zombie film of all time…George Romero’s 1978 epic, “Dawn of the Dead.
This remake follows most of the plot from the original with a few other elements added in. Our leads Ana(Sarah Polley), Kenneth(Ving Rhames), Michael(Jake Weber), Ander(Mekhi Phifer) and his pregnant wife Luda(Inna Korobkina) all escape zombie carnage one way or another and somehow meet up together at the local mall. They manage to enter the mall and although it provides a good amount of security and supplies, it is only a matter of time before more and more zombies arrive, forcing the crew to make a very desperate escape to find a safer place to reside.
First off, I remember scoffing at the idea that the greatest zombie film of all time, which is also one of the best horror films of all time, was going to be remade , and by a first time director with no feature film experience. After viewing some trailers for the film it seemed this remake was actually going to be quite good, and in all reality…it was! This film pales in comparison to the original film, and failed to provide the amazing social commentary and statements that George A. Romero’s version gave us, however this remake did get the job done for the most part, and gives us some of the best zombie carnage in recent history.
I really enjoyed the opening scene in the film and it really set the tone for the viewer to expect some serious apocalyptic zombie carnage, and yes…Zack Snyder delivered! He really excelled with the use of news broadcasts and news reports that provided that “hopeless” feeling that the original did so very well. I also really enjoyed how he gave cameos to Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, and Tom Savini; all whom were stars and prominent characters in the original film.
Now does this film follow the original? Yes…for the most part. This remake kept the use of the shopping mall being a haven to the survivors as they find some relief and supplies thanks to the mall. And of course we get to see them indulge a bit thanks to all of the goodies that the mall still had in stock. I also loved how Zack Snyder added his own touch to the film and adapted some of the main elements from the original to pan out a bit differently, yet effectively. This is crucial to a remake given that you really don’t want to see the same exact film all over again, because where is the fun in that?!? I don’t want to give out too many spoilers but Zach Snyder managed to successfully redo the use of the gun store in the film. The store isn’t located in the mall like it was in the original but is actually across the mall parking lot several hundred yards away with the gun store‘s owner (Andy) on the roof sniping zombies just for the fun of it. I liked that because the weapons were not easily accessible and the characters had to come up with a pretty intense plan to get to the gun store and stock up on the weapons Andy had available. Director Zach Snyder also added his own elements to the “zombie children “in the first film as well as some of the characters mimicking the characters in the original film(Ving Rhames’ character is very similar to Ken Foree’s original character).
So what in this film is changed from the original? Well…the biggest change compared to the original would have to be the ending. In the original our characters plan to leave the mall by means of a helicopter on the roof. In this remake, the characters plan to leave the US on one a yacht that belongs to one of the characters, however in order for them to get to the yacht they are going to have to modify a giant delivery truck to be defensible to the hoards of zombies they will have to battle through to get to the marina. Pretty sweet huh?!?
Overall, this is an excellent remake and an excellent zombie film in it’s own right. Highly recommended to zombie fans and of course to fans of the epic original, George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
– I ranked this film #33 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(31-40) post.