Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Dawn of the Dead review!

So, a couple weeks ago, my friend Bryan (a great guy, I might add, since more people should kiss his ass) emailed me and asked me if I was interested in a sneak of the remake of Dawn of the Dead.
What? Like I turn down the chance to see a movie for free?
Keep in mind, that attitude got me in to watch Batman and Robin and Speed 2: Cruise Control in the same week. I've been burned before, but I'm too stupid NOT to go. As screening time approached, I was actually instructed to gather all of the faithful troops I could muster (which ended up being just me, my friend Dave and his son Gio) and meet Brian down at the AMC Lennox for the flick. Then, we're informed that they've sent out too many passes and that no one else will be admitted. Bad sign, right? Nah. My boy Bryan (remember, I'm out to kiss his ass?) takes the theater staff aside and says we're in. Gotta love him.

The movie opens rather innocently with a nurse named Ana (Sarah Polley) getting off her shift at the local hospital somewhere in Wisconsin. Things are weird, and there are people in intensive care from minor bite wounds.
Ana drives home and sees the neighbor girl out in the street. The two exchange suburban pleasantries and the little girl skates off. Ana boffs her boyfriend and misses a crucial special report on the news...BIG MISTAKE.
Of course, as morning arrives, so does the neighbor girl, who makes a meal out of the boyfriend. Boyfriend dies. Boyfriend gets up. BAD NEWS.

Yessir, it's a zombie movie. But, these zombies are a wee bit more active than the old shambling dead. They growl. They run (at first). They take a bit of getting used to, since we're used to things more the Romero way.
Ana manages to get out before her boyfriend tears her a new one, gets in her car and tries desperately to get out of Dodge. No such luck. She gets in a car accident and wakes up to find a cop named Kenneth (Ving Rhames) standing over her. They then run into a few more survivors (Jake Weber, Mekhi Pfifer and Ina Korobkina) and hole up in a shopping mall, where they discover a trio of mallguards.
As soon as they're comfortable, they're joined by a few more survivors who arrive in a delivery truck. This group, however, contains two people who have been bitten by the zombies, and we know what that means...

The survivors also befriend Andy (Bruce Bohne), the owner of the gun store across the way, but can't get over to him because of the sea of undead in the parking lot. Yup, the zombies have come to the mall, perhaps guided by old memories...perhaps by hunger.
The intrepid mallrats come up with a plan to get out and take the slimy rich guy Steve's (Ty Burrell) boat out to some islands in hope of finding safe haven. They decide to rig up the malls parking shuttles all Mad Max like and bust their way out. Of course, the zombies have other ideas...
There are a couple cool cameos, including Tom Savini as a rural sheriff and Ken Foree as a preacher who gets to utter the immortal "When there's no more room in hell..." line. There's also quite a bit of humor in the film -- more than I expected -- but this might be because it's more an action movie than a horror movie. The emphasis on speed changes a lot of things. The zombies attack more fiercely, for one. But, the timetable seems more frenetic as well. Someone needs to get food to Andy, for instance.
There are a few little plot holes and some loose ends, but what's that matter? It's not like this is high art. It's a damn zombie movie. I could, however, have done without Mekhi Phifer's character and his girlfriend entirely. They're both annoying and they're just there to set up a nasty visual gag. The time they spent on screen could have given us a better chance to know some of the characters. There's not a lot of time for that, what with the size of the cast and the breakneck pace of the movie.
The new film isn't as smart as George Romero's classic. It doesn't have the original's satire or social commentary. If you're going expecting that, don't. You won't be happy. If you go just expecting to have fun, you'll do that. The remake isn't bad by a longshot. It's just not a classic.

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