DAWN OF THE DEAD

(2004)
With Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jack Weber, Mekhi Phifer
Directed by Zack Snyder
Reviewed by JB

Sarah, o-ooh, Sarah...      Jettisoning most of the satirical aspects of the original, Zack Snyder's remake of George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD begins with the greatest, most intense pre-credit sequence of any zombie film, showing a world that has gone crazy: undead killers running wild through suburban streets, ambulances plowing down civilians, fires breaking out all over. The credits follow, with Johnny Cash's apocalyptic death rattle "When The Man Comes Around" blasting away on the soundtrack.  After such a promising opening, it would be a shame if the rest of this film was just another in a long line of bad remakes of good films.

     Thankfully, DAWN OF THE DEAD lives up to its first ten minutes and then some. In the Orwellian doublespeak of Hollywood these days, this DAWN OF THE DEAD would be classified as a "rethinking" rather than a remake, as it uses the same premise as Romero's - in a zombie-filled world, a group of people seek refuge in a mall - but goes off in its own direction with distinctive characters and set-pieces.  With its frequent use of digital camera effects and a cast of zombies who are lightning-fast on their feet, DAWN OF THE DEAD has much in common with 28 DAYS LATER, including a forgoing of the more gory effects of the George Romero films. Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley are the nominal stars, and they are both excellent, but this is an ensemble film, with each cast member having at least one moment to shine.  The "Bloated Woman", played by a man, is easily the most memorable zombie character to come along since DAY OF THE DEAD's Bub, even if "she" only lasts five seconds before being blown away.

    Most poignant thread throughout the film: the guy on the roof across from the mall, unable to join his fellow survivors due to a parking lot chock full of flesh-eating ghouls. If you want to know how things turn out for our little group of castaways, stay tuned through the end credits.

     Oh, and I love Sarah Polley.  I hear she's a radical leftist, but we could avoid political talk, doncha think? 4 - JB

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