DAWN OF THE DEADREMAKE SCHMEMAKE| MAR 17, 2004
In theatres MAR 19
I’m usually against horror film remakes, but sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. I was adamantly opposed to the Texas Chainsaw remake, yet it ended up being one of my favourite horror movies of the year. But even though Chainsaw was a re-imagining as risky as Burton’s Planet of the Apes, and dropped all sociopolitical criticisms found within the original, it still managed to honor its source material. In fact, the film even garnered the financial backing of the original Chain Saw scribes, Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel. However, with the Dawn of the Dead remake, George Romero has made sure to distance himself as much as possible from the project. Hoping against hope I would be surprised again, I dragged the lovely Kris to the film. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way, when a respected horror director says “I had nothing to do with that shit!” it’s best to heed their warning.
The funny thing is this new Dawn has almost nothing to do with the original. Aside from the mall setting, a few lines of dialogue lifted from the original film, and cameos by the original castmembers, what you have is essentially an amalgamation of quite a few cult zombie films. You’ve got running, slightly comedic zombies a la Return of the Living Dead crossed with the infected athletes of the contagion thriller 28 Days Later, a nutcase militant security guard reminiscent of Day of the Dead’s Captain Rhodes, island zombies straight out of Fulci’s fake Night of the Living Dead sequel, Zombie (aka: Zombi 2), and a Zombie birth and baby inspired by Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. While in theory it makes for an exciting movie packed with clever zombie homages, in execution it's about as jarring as a cold finger in your stinky place. In fact, drawing from so many zombie films causes major contradictions in this film’s hybrid Zombie horror rulebook. For example, these zombies have the requisite insatiable hunger for living flesh, but have enough of their frontal lobes intact to discern between human and animal meat. Said zombies can only be created if they were bitten prior to their physical expiration. In addition, these zombies are rather polite undead monsters, as they place their pursuit of the living on hold just long enough for the main characters to say their tender goodbyes.
Which brings me to my list of lapses in logic throughout the film. Not once, but twice do we encounter characters trying to open doors and windows without unlocking them, only to give up in frustration. In another sequence one of the main characters, armed with a steel crowbar, actually trades in his weapon for a wooden croquet mallet. (It’s as if you can see the rusty gears turning backwards in these dimwitted characters’ heads.) The initial party of survivors manages to break into the mall, but as to how they manage this feat is never shown. Sure, they smash a window from the inside of the mall's Metropolis home furnishings store, but later the glass doors on the outside of the mall are shown to be shatterproof, and incidentally, locked. Finally, from the top of the mall the camera shows the zombies at street level amassed almost shoulder to shoulder, but when the characters try a daring mission through the sewers and pop up from a manhole cover on the same street seen from above only a handful of seemingly deaf and blind zombies patrolling the streets are there to greet them(I’m guessing the army of zombies must have taken their fifteen minute work break.). These are not the only logical inconsistencies, but rather the tip of the iceberg.
While the original Dawn allowed you quite a bit of time to get to know and truly care about the four main characters, this film gives you none. Opting for zombie fodder rather than quality characters, This mall is jam packed with almost a dozen human characters, none of which you actually spend more than 5 minutes getting to know. While the gore effects were excellent, I couldn’t care less who was off’d in the next scene. Each character was about as charismatic and endearing as a drunk Pauly Shore, with the performances by all actors, Sarah Polly and Ving Rames included, equally uninspired. Yeah they managed to spouted cool catchphrases and make clever uses of the word “fuck,” but that doesn’t constitute a good performance in anything other than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Not helping the matter were the dp's choice of the most obnoxious filters known to man, making every living character seem as if they had a nasty case of jaundice and severe subcutaneous bruising. The zombie makeup effects were truly groundbreaking, with more headshots than you’d see in a day of your average United States peacekeeping mission, but with so many damn MTV style flash cuts you’d need your finger on the pause button to really appreciate the time and effort that went into the creation and execution of the zombie special effects. Sadly, if I knew absolutely nothing about the production, I’d assume the film was crafted by an inbred adolescent Appalachian retard suffering from attention deficit disorder. That, or an NYU film school graduate.
When standing in line to see the film last night, there were many people talking about the film they were about to see. Most hadn’t seen the original, but a few had viewed the DVD within the past week. The consensus they reached: “The old one was slow and it had too much damn talking.” These same people cheered the film as the credits rolled. I, myself, couldn’t wait to get home and wash this waste of celluloid from my memory. If you’re an honest to God zombie fan watch the original Dead Trilogy. Hell, watch the Evil Dead, Re-Animator, or Return of the Living Dead trilogies. Even break out a copy of the sublime cult classic Cemetery Man. Just don’t be the sap that pays money to see Dawn 2004. Just because it's better than House of the Dead doesn't make it good. I'd have to say the Dawn of the Dead remake is zombie equivalent of Bad Boys II.
All I can say is that it was entertaining and fun with nice splashes of gore and humour, and that this movie shouldn’t have even been called a “remake”. The poster is awesome. Oh, and some of the soundtrack sounded remarkably like Resident Evil. I highly recommend the original Dawn of the Dead.