When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth, and when there are no more ideas in Hollywood, producers will remake old movies. Although never a great fan of the original Dawn Of The Dead by George Romero (look up the review on the site if you're interested) I still have an issue with producers and directors who take on much loved and vaunted classic movies. I mean, what do they possibly think they can do with the remake? Well I'll tell you what Zack Snyder, a commercials director who has been given his first big gig with this movie, did. They took an excellent premise from a movie that has aged badly and was made for peanuts, and added all of the things that were missing from the original, good production values, zombies that scare the poop out of you, and a degree of character development and story progression that was never in the original (No it wasn't, go and look again with an unbiased eye).
The original Dawn was part of a trilogy of course, and was perhaps best viewed as such. The 2004 remake can be comfortably viewed as a standalone piece with a storyline that has a beginning, middle and end, with characters that are well developed and believable. For those of you unfamiliar with the plot I will elaborate on the simple premise. An unnamed virus has swept the planet almost overnight turning people who are bitten into zombies, the undead. The only force driving these creatures is the desire to feed on warm flesh and they seek it out with a vengeance. How do you like your zombies? Slow and lumbering... or fast and relentless. If you like the former then seek out Romero's film, if you like the latter then you have come to the right place as Snyder's zombies seek out the living with a single-minded passion. Before long they lay siege to the local shopping mall where a group of uninfected survivors have managed to find refuge. The film soon focuses on this small selection of random human beings, their interactions and relationships, and ultimately how they cope with Armageddon, and the fight for life.
Dawn Of The Dead is released here as a director's unrated cut, with the important word here being unrated. This has allowed Snyder to do two things that have elevated this movie beyond its theatrical release. First it has allowed us to enjoy a more leisurely character and plot development. Don't worry, the pace of the movie is still brisk, and is never allowed to wallow, but the extra time gives characters more evolved motives and the viewer a better grasp of everyone's perspective. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for most, it enables the director to show more gore. If you don't have the MPAA breathing down your neck you don't have to cut away from the most visceral death scenes. So if seeing spikes driven through eyes or heads being impaled in full and glorious colour and close-up is your idea of a good night in (I don't myself) then Dawn: Directors Cut will provide all you need and then some.
A brief mention should go to the actors who, without exception, all provide excellent and convincing performances. They play it straight when the chance to ham it up must have been irresistible. Particular mention should go to Ving Rhames as Ken the cop, Sarah Polley as Ana the nurse, and Michael Kelly as CJ the mall security guy. Also vital in horror movie making is the make-up and cinematography. David LeRoy provides convincingly gruesome make-up even going so far as to hire extras that were genuine amputees! Cinematographer Matthew Leonetti has a long list of excellent movies to his name including Star Trek First Contact, Along Came A Spider and The Butterfly Effect, and he applies his skills here with aplomb.
I am cringing as I type this because I can feel the outrage as I write, but I think this Directors Cut of Dawn tramps all over the original in every way that is important to the enjoyment of a horror movie and I would thoroughly recommend it.
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