PictureFramed at 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen the picture is somewhat of a mixed bag. High contrast levels produce an image that is punchy and bold with vivid primary colours, particularly red which, given the amount of violence and gore, produces shockingly realistic deaths and vivid zombie make-up. Highlight detail is excellent with the pock marked skin of Ving Rhames a perfect example of this. What we lose with such high contrast levels is a degree of shadow detail. Shadows are dark enough to have the viewer straining to see into them. This may be good for those sudden reveals, but can frustrate the home cinema fan who has a perfectly balanced PJ and screen who, thinking something must be wrong with his equipment, keeps putting on AVIA to check his settings (yours truly) Don't worry, it's the disc, just sit back and enjoy. Finally edge enhancement is frequently apparent along the left border of dark objects, such as Ving Rhames cop uniform.
SoundSound is a little better than picture quality but it too has some faults. The disc carries two DD 5.1 tracks in English and Thai, and a director's commentary track. As such the English DD 5.1 track is encoded only at 384kbps. What we get is very good front channel action with clear dialogue and a wide and atmospheric soundstage. Gunshots have a particular resonance and are hyper realistic. What we don't get is the same levels of detail in the split surrounds. We do have a little action in the rear but not enough to give that sitting in the middle of the action feel, more an occasional head turning moment. The bass kick in with those gunshots, and the one or two explosions present but is otherwise lacking. Again the really best tracks have that sub underpinning all five channels most of the time, not just there for the spot effects.
ExtrasThe first thing to say is that although this is a R3 Korean disc all the menus and all the extras are in English, so your enjoyment of the content is not impeded by a language barrier. Secondly the extras are superficially extensive but scratch the surface and what you get are many small featurettes on the make up. Now don't get me wrong, when you are doing a monster movie the make up is probably one of the most important parts of the process, but “Raising The Dead”, “Splitting Headaches” and “Attack Of The Living Dead” all deal with the subject of make up. Superb though it all is you do feel a little cheated when looking at a seemingly extensive list of extras only to find three of the featurettes are essentially the same.
Of more interest is an excellent “Lost Tape” that has been produced from Andy's POV (Andy being the owner of the gun store across the road from the Mall). Bruce Bohne as Andy gives us a home movie presentation from the onset of the zombie plague to the...well you know what. The tape is presented along the lines of The Blair Witch Project and is a very effective insight into the mounting insanity that social isolation, sleep deprivation, starvation and abject terror can bring. A similar ploy is tried in the “Special Report” featurette. This shows us the “live” 24 hour news channel output as it reports on the increasing insanity of the end of the world. This is an interesting premise but is far less effective that Andy's tape as the actors are completely wooden and stilted, making it feel like some cheap school play.
Director Zack Snyder gets involved with the introduction of the main feature and a brief mention of the changes he made to this directors cut. Snyder also introduces the scenes that were cut with the reasons for his editing decisions, and provides even more insight in an interesting feature commentary with producer Eric Newman that is enthusiastic and informative and well worth a listen. Rounding things off is a trailer for Shaun Of The Dead.
VerdictI really enjoyed this version of Dawn Of The Dead and director Snyder should be commended for taking on a difficult project and producing the goods. The movie is improved from the cinematic release proving to be more horrific (surely the point of a horror movie) and giving us more emotional connection to the characters before they are picked off. The overall presentation of the disc could be improved. Better picture and sound track would help. I believe a Hong Kong version is in the pipeline with a DTS track, now that would be interesting.
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