It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born. For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), and 2013. This year, we’re going old school and present to you the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon 2014: Classic Edition! Holy Shit Saturday (part two) Dawn of the Dead (2004) Written by: James Gunn Directed by: Zack Snyder When it was announced that George Romero’s classic horror-satire Dawn of the Dead was going to be remade by a first-time feature film director who had cut his teeth on music videos and commercials, working from a script by a writer whose biggest success up until then had been scripting the live-action Scooby-Doo movie, needless to say, fans went nuts. In a scene that rivals the announcement of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, writer James Gunn said he received death threats and the producers had to go to extra lengths to point out that not every re-envisioning of classic horror films are soulless cash-grabs, citing Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and The Fly in a UK press release. The trailer for the film was actually booed at Fangoria‘s 2004 horror convention. Gunn dropped out of the project after writing the initial script (to concentrate on writing Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed) and Michael Tolkin and Scott Frank were brought on-board to do a rewrite, with Tolkin adding character development and Frank bulking up the action sequences. How much of Gunn’s original script made it to the screen is anybody’s guess, but a lot of the things he says he was trying to accomplish with it are pretty much gone from the finished product, leaving a roller-coaster thrill-ride of a film that fails to give any of the characters enough time and attention to become fully-fleshed out. Most, if not all, of the original film’s satire was missing also, replaced with more obvious jokes lacking a lot of bite. And while fast-moving zombies were perfectly acceptable in films like Return of the Living Dead, when fans saw Dawn‘s zombies sprinting after victims, especially so soon after 2002’s 28 Days Later, they were declared a derivative travesty. And none of that matters in the end, because Zack Snyder ended up getting the film right. Dawn of the Dead 2004 may not have any pie fights or biker gangs, but it does have a relentless pace and some quite brutal set piece scenes. Even Romero praised the opening fifteen or twenty minutes of the film, and with good reason. The film opens with nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) completing a long shift, going home, and spending time with her husband Luis (Louis Ferreira). It’s short but sweet, and the two actors work very well together, giving us a glimpse into a happy, healthy marriage. When they wake up the next morning, however, it’s all over. The little girl from next door, with whom Ana had promised to go roller skating later, bursts into their bedroom and leaps on Luis, biting his throat out. It’s a startlingly quick and violent moment that immediately sets the tone for the rest of the film. Within minutes Luis has bled out and before you know it he’s up and tearing after Ana like a rabid animal. When she gets outside to her car, the camera pans out and we see that her idyllic suburban neighborhood is in chaos; fires rage, cars crash, and the dead lope after the living, snarling and biting like savages. By the time the story ends up at the mall (because why not go to the mall?), our cast has grown to include Ving Rhames as police officer Kenneth, Jake Weber as Michael, Mekhi Phifer as Andre and Inna Korobkina as his pregnant wife Luda. Then there are three security guards at the mall, and before too long another group of survivors (including Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell as Steve, the man you can’t wait to see die, and Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, as the loveable but doomed Frank). There really are too many characters and the story only takes place over a month or so, allowing for very little time to get to know anyone. In fact, we almost know Andy (Bruce Bohne), the gun shop owner across the street better than some of these characters, and he only communicates through hand-written notes on a message-board for most of the film. None of the characters really seem to react to the fact that the dead are walking the earth, either. There’s none of the screaming fits that we welcomed in Return of the Living Dead — at least not until someone is actively being chased or attacked. And yet, despite this, there seems to be just enough work done to form connections with the viewers. Even if the work is done in very broad strokes. For example, we know something horrible is going on with Andre and Luda. She was bitten — more of a scratch, really — but nobody else knows this. And when the inevitable day comes when she gives birth to their baby, it is about as nightmarish as you might imagine and the reactions of everyone involved feel real and earned, even when they’re not. In amongst all the carnage, we also get three guest-appearances by actors from the original Dawn. Ken Foree appears as a televangelist declaring us all damned, Scott H. Reiniger appears as an army general, and Tom Savini appears as the Monroeville Sheriff. All three were welcome additions and helped to establish a sense of respect for the source material, despite Romero not having any hand in or approving of the remake. The ending of the film owes as much to action films or the A-Team as any zombie film that had come before, with large scale violence and explosions as our survivors race to the marina where Steve has a boat docked. It’s chaotic and exciting, grabbing you by your adrenaline gland and never letting go. Snyder also goes farther than Romero did with Dawn when it comes to the ending. Instead of the vague hopefulness of flying off into the sunset to the swell of an orchestra, Snyder’s survivors are shown, through snatches of video footage (Steve had a camera on the boat), not faring very well at all. These scenes, however, weren’t in the final cut of the film originally. Test audiences felt the ending was too abrupt and quite frankly, unbelievable. The lack of closure that Romero originally intended to provide a glimmer of hope was rejected by the advance audience and instead all hopes are dashed. It’s a brutal closing to a brutal film. And it’s part of what makes Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead very nearly as successful a zombie film as any of the others discussed in this year’s Easter Zombie Movie Marathon so far. See larger image Dawn of the Dead (Unrated Director’s Cut) [Blu-ray] New From: $4.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.