Movie Review: Dawn of the Dead
REVIEW SUMMARY: Zombies will never shamble again.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While the original Romero film was comedic and filled with social commentary, the Zack Snyder remake pulls out the stops and delivers the most tense zombie experience yet.
PROS: Zombies scramble, not shamble; Excellent opening scenes showing how the zombie virus catches society unaware; extremely tense action scenes; character development.
CONS: A bit laggy in the middle of the film; unnecessary baby zombie scene was not tense, frightening or gross.
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a fan of zombie horror, don’t miss this film. Also good if you like tense action films.
I’ll go out on a limb here (though not a very long limb) by saying that I think we’ve seen the last film where zombies shamble across the screen. With 28 Days Later (see my sfsignal review at http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/000013.html), director Danny Boyle stepped up the pace by having the zombies race at their victims, hell-bent on tearing up live human flesh. That film wasn’t perfect, but I found these new zombies far more frightening than any I’d seen before.
With the remake of Dawn of the Dead, the fright-factor is stepped up several notches to the point where I’d call this the scariest zombie film I’ve ever seen.
I really like zombie movies for several reasons, the biggest of which is they’re usually apocalyptic, and I like decay-of-society movies. Second, they usually put characters in situations that require them to use their heads to get out alive, and I like wondering throughout the film what I would do in the characters’ shoes. This is opposed to most slasher films, in which stupid characters do inane things, and there’s absolutely no mental challenge for the viewer at all.
In the first half-hour of DotD, we see a society (specifically Milwaukee) completely unprepared for the zombie infestation, and not understanding until too late what was happening. The opening scenes where one of the lead characters, a nurse, wakes up in her suburban Milwaukee neighborhood to witness the beginning of the attacks was truly inspired horror film-making.
The film keeps giving 500′ views over the action so that the audience can see things go from bad to worse to completely insane. At the beginning, the arial shows a calm, normal suburban neighborhood. The same shot the next morning shows some houses on fire, cars careening out of control and smashing into each other and pedestrians, and people being chased through yards by their dead neighbors.
As in the original movie, a handful of survivors make their way to a shopping mall stocked with everything they need to survive, at least for the short term (and assuming you don’t mind drinking anything but half-caf double decaf lattes and eating biscotti.) While the original Romero version took place almost completely in the mall, the remake has a good chunk at the beginning where the nurse struggles to get to the mall, and a very tense section at the end where all of the survivors ‘make a break’ for safety.
In many ways this movie reminded me of the movie Aliens. Like that film, DotD has a small number of people, secluded and in confined space battling hoardes of enemies hell-bent on their destruction. The hold-your-breath intensity of Aliens is recaptured here, and that’s not done well very often. And like Aliens, there’s one obligatory idiot who only looks out for himself (though it’s not who you might initially THINK it is!)
I really, really liked this film. Overall I think it is must-see for zombie horror fanboys, and a should-see for those looking for good, tense action.
Oh, and don’t leave the theatre before the credits are through rolling. Hmm, or maybe you should…
Filed under: Movies
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