Dawn of the Dead – USA, 2004 – reviews

Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 American zombie horror feature film directed by Zack Snyder (Suicide Squad; Batman vs. Superman; Sucker Punch), making his directorial debut. Scripted by Troma graduate James Gunn (Slither), the movie is a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 film of the same name and stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber and Mekhi Phifer.

The film depicts a handful of human survivors living in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin shopping mall surrounded by a swathe of zombies.

The movie was produced by Strike Entertainment in association with New Amsterdam Entertainment, released by Universal Pictures and includes cameos by original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Tom Savini.

Budgeted at $26 million, the film took $102.4 million theatrically worldwide.

Scream Factory has announced a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray for release on October 24, 2017.

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

The newly-commissioned front-facing artwork comes to us from Nathanael Marsh (Carrie, The John Carpenter steelbooks). The reverse side of the wrap showcases the original theatrical poster art design.

The 2-disc set and sports new extras (including interviews with Ty Burrell, James Gunn, Jake Webber, David Anderson and Heather Langenkamp Anderson), plus the theatrical and unrated versions of the film.

Plot:

After finishing a long shift as a nurse, Ana (Sarah Polley), returns to her suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin neighborhood and to her husband, Luis (Louis Ferreira). Caught up in a scheduled date night the two miss an emergency news bulletin on television.

The next morning, Vivian (Hannah Lochner), their neighbor’s daughter, enters their bedroom and kills Luis, who immediately reanimates as a zombie and attacks Ana. She flees in her car, but eventually crashes and is knocked unconscious after a bus driver attempts to hijack her car. A montage of news footage depicts zombies overwhelming civilization around the world.

Upon waking, Ana joins with Police Sergeant and former Marine Kenneth Hall (Ving Rhames), Michael (Jake Weber), Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his pregnant wife, Luda (Inna Korobkina).

The group break into a nearby mall where a zombified security guard (name later revealed as Ben Cozine) attacks Luda, who apparently escapes unharmed. They are also confronted by three living guards—C.J. (Michael Kelly), Bart (Michael Barry) and Terry (Kevin Zegers)—who make them surrender their weapons in exchange for refuge. The group secures the mall, then heads to the roof where they see another survivor, Andy (Bruce Bohne), who is stranded alone in his gun store, across the zombie-infested parking lot…

Review:

Like most fans of George A. Romero’s 1978 original, when I first heard that this seminal zombie epic was receiving an MTV generation makeover, the news filled me with dread. After all, you only have to look at the mess that was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake for a crash course in Hollywood ‘re-imagining’.

However, Dawn of the Dead Mark Two rocks! It’s right up there with the best of the genre. The phenomenal US box office response to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later has had a definite influence here. Director Zack Snyder must have realised that this is what the kids want and delivers a truly pessimistic, nightmarish vision. He and the producers also appear to harbour respect for the original as there are cameos by special effects expert Tom Savini, ‘hero’ Ken Foree and a boutique named ‘Gaylen Ross’.

As for the gore, this one’s a splatter fans dream. What’s more, UK fans were comforted that the British version contains more nastiness than the ‘R’ rated theatrical US cut. A hybrid of make-up and CGI, the mayhem is thrown at the screen with relentless abandon. And on such a scale. The climactic mall breakout is a real stunner as two armour plated trucks attempt to plough through thousands of the undead. There’s a magnificent long shot of the trucks swamped by a sea of writhing zombies – it’s a truly breathtaking, unsettling image of an urban Hell.

The claustrophobic sense of dread that oozed from 28 Days Later was perfectly transplanted here. After a quiet but unnerving intro, the carnage is launched in a peaceful suburban street. This is a nice touch because the filmmakers could have played it safe and started the atrocities in a familiar setting such as a major city. The fact that the first zombie attack occurs in an environment one associates with safety and a detachment from the ‘real world’ makes it even more chilling as once friendly neighbours start pulling guns on each other in blind panic.

The title sequence is another corker. As frenetic cut up footage of rioting shows society crumbling as the virus takes hold, it would have been so easy and clichéd to set the anarchy against a rowdy metal tune by the likes of Slipknot. What actually kicks in is the tortured country twang blues of ‘The Man Comes Around’ by Johnny Cash. F*cking genius!

Jonathan Casbard, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“The main reason for this minor miracle is that Snyder and company played it smart. Instead of trying to out-Romero Romero (and who could possibly do that?), they opted to bring their own take of what happened on the day of the outbreak. Essentially Snyder gave us more Dawn of the Dead with some skillfully placed homages along the way that offer a wonderful nod to the source material.” Dread Central

” … as in Resident Evil, nothing that occurs here is really all that frightening. Also absent are the hidden consumerist satire of the original Dawn of the Dead and any other source of meaningful subtext. Even the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead had more to say.” Glenn Kay, Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide

zombie movies the ultimate guide glenn kay chicago review press

Buy: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

” …defies everything you know about the often dire horror-remake trend. Credit to the film’s opening sequence, an absolute showstopper of mounting terror as the undead apocalypse takes hold in Sarah Polley’s suburban neighborhood; it’s one of the scariest 10 minute set pieces in the history of the subgenre.” Rolling Stone

Cast and characters:

  • Sarah Polley as Ana Clark
  • Ving Rhames as Kenneth Hall
  • Jake Weber as Michael
  • Mekhi Phifer as Andre
  • Ty Burrell as Steve Marcus
  • Michael Kelly as C.J.
  • Kevin Zegers as Terry
  • Michael Barry as Bart
  • Lindy Booth as Nicole
  • Jayne Eastwood as Norma
  • Boyd Banks as Tucker
  • Inna Korobkina as Luda
  • R. D. Reid as Glen
  • Kim Poirier as Monica
  • Matt Frewer as Frank
  • Bruce Bohne as Andy
  • Louis Ferreira as Luis
  • Hannah Lochner as Vivian
  • Ermes Blarasin as Bloated Woman
  • Ken Foree as TV Evangelist
  • Tom Savini as Sheriff Cahill
  • Scott Reiniger as The General

Offline reading:

Zombie Holocaust: How the Living Dead Devoured Pop Culture by David Flint, Plexus Publishing, UK, 2008

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