A Film Review By The Mike
|Rating:RATED R for MUCH GORE, violence and brief nudity
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Every time I start to think that “certain films should never be remade or sequeled” (thanks to films like last Fall’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), something like the new version of Dawn of the Dead comes along. This new version manages to be inferior to its original in every aspect, instead focusing on a story that makes character development and logic secondary to gore and action, while failing to be consistent even in its final moments. And yet…it makes me realize that it’s a perfectly worthwhile film that has every right to become a genre classic in its own right.
The feel of George Romero’s 1978 classic is gone, as is the underlying social satire that made that film more than just a gorefest. The zombies themselves have also been changed, from the slow monotonous type to the “high-speed-monkey-on-crack” monotonous type. This is highly illogical, and those who’re fans of the slow-moving zombies will be quick to point out that muscle contractions in the dead body would make running nearly impossible. But the thing about that is – They’re living dead….that itself is illogical, and if you’re going to make the jump in logic that says dead can get up and walk around, you might as well just let them run too.
Of course, our zombie movie wouldn’t work without human prey, and we therefore need characters. We get a larger amount than the original film, which focused only on four characters, but get even less character development despite the quadrupling of characters. They’re still holed up in a mall (which is the one real tie to Romero’s film, along with tasty cameos by stars of the original), but this time they’re more concerned with escaping to freedom than our original heroes, who were simply making their own freedom.
This leads us to our characters, starting with Ana (Sarah Polley), a nurse who functions as the “character in the middle of everything” for most of the film. We’re introduced to her first, through an excellent and action packed opening ten minutes, which makes us quickly understand what we’re in for for the next two hours. Also notable as characters are Ving Rhames as a tough guy and Jake Weber, the real star of the show, as a mild-mannered and mostly cool-headed everyman who ends up as a leader. His performance saves the film, really, as without him there is no one we really identify with outside of our knowledge of who they are off-screen (Rhames and Polley, whose name value is all their characters are given as development).
There are some really great things in this movie that the original didn’t have, including a wonderful relationship between Rhames’ character and a man who’s hiding in his gun shop across the street. The two become close friends without actually meeting, communicating only via dry erase marker boards, in a sly play on our society’s internet friendships. Also worth noting is the character played by Mekhi Phifer of 8 Mile fame, and his wife, whose relationship is one of the more original in the annals of zombie filmdom.
The film ends well, until the end credits where the director decided to throw in some quick shots that look like they were stolen from the abysmal House of the Dead. It’s a shame really, but it doesn’t really matter, just like the jumps in logic, truly confusing character development, and every other flaw this film has. As a genre fan, this new Dawn has risen above expectations, and given me hope that the knowledge of how to make a fun horror film still exists. As its own entity, it’s an all-out fun time.
Now, if they can only learn to make fun horror movies without stealing the ideas of classics, I’ll forever be a happy Mike.