Remake of Romero classic filled with
“Dawn of the Dead,” the updated version of George A. Romero’s 1978 sequel to “Night of the Living Dead,” is a fast paced, taunt film with a fair amount of actionand suspense.
This is the second recent remake of a 70’s horror movie following “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” It’s interesting that the genre does not have as much longevity as other works of the same year. For instance Van Halen’s debut album could not be improved on, nor could “Animal House.” But the special effects and advances in computer animation make action/horror films a viable commodity for reinterpretation.
This is definitely a case where if you found the preview appealing, then you will like the film. Myself, I’m a fan of the genre: “28 Days” and “Cabin Fever” were among last year’s best. Even “Freddy vs. Jason” and “Jeepers Creepers 2” were better than average.
“Dawn” deals with the aftermath of a sudden and unexplained disease spread by human bites or cuts, that kills its victims and resurrects them as zombies. The creatures then run completely berserk, attacking any uninfected humans they can find. The only way to stop them is to shoot them in the head.
The memorable characters who end up in the mall include a caring nurse, Ana (Sarah Polley of “Go”), Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a tough, hard-edged policeman, Michael (Jake Weber), the ex-salesman who’s trying to make the right decisions, and Andre (Mekhi Phifer of “8 Mile”), whose wife is pregnant.
They become involved in a power struggle with a group of security officers led by the authoritative chief security guard (Michael Kelly) who resembles an evil Johnny Knoxville on human growth hormone.
The cast does a competent job of expressing the terror, confusion and even humor of the incredible situation (especially Rhames, who after a humiliating run opposite Vanessa Williams in a series of Radio Shack commercials, gets to give a vintage manly performance again). Together, they explore the dilemma of having to kill your loved ones after they are infected, saving yourself instead of others and the dynamic of leadership and rules in a lawless society.
The film will have inevitable comparisons to “28 Days” and the original “Dawn.” While it’s not quite as powerful or inventive, it’s still a very entertaining movie.
“28 Days” had a more relevant and realistic reason why the zombies took over the earth. It was scary because it seemed like it could really happen. The individual characters were also stronger.
In the original “Dawn,” the zombies could not run, they could barely stagger around. This made them less menacing, but it also made the film more fun as the characters could run around and knock them down like cattle. But they would often grow careless and the zombies would gradually overwhelm them.
Romero was also able to make relevant criticisms of consumer culture and ‘70s nihilism. The new “Dawn” is not concerned with satire as much as it is for more straight ahead action and blood.
There are also several inventive touches that make the film better than average. There’s the ongoing rooftop conversation using dry-erase boards between Kenneth and a gun-store owner stranded across the mall parking lot.
Then there are extremely gory battles with zombies followed immediately with awkward quiet moments, as the mall’s sound system inappropriately plays Muzak versions of cheesy pop songs such as “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “You Light Up My Life.”
In the end, the film doesn’t leave you with much to think about. But while the audience is in the theater, it’s undeniably taunt and gripping. Even though the characters and premise might be lacking, the action and suspense is top notch.