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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Michael
Gibson, ©2004 Universal Studios, all rights reserved.)

photo caption:
BATTLING TO DEFEAT THE UN-DEAD: Michael (Jake Weber, left), Ana (Sarah Polley), Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and Luda (Inna Korobkina) are on their way to head off a zombie break-in which threatens their lives.
end caption.


"Dawn of the Dead": The Zombies Return for Upgraded Remake of Cult Horror Film

Review by Kam Williams

In 1968, George Romero made Night of the Living Dead on a budget of $114,000. That gloomy, apocalyptic film involved a plague which was slowly turning humanity into a race of flesh-eating zombies. The picture became an instant cult classic, because the thought provoking production delivered several subtle social statements.

Ten years later, with $1,500,000 at his disposal, writer/director Romero shot a sequel, in color. This was the disappointing Dawn of the Dead, a partially-dubbed, awfully acted, unintentionally comical, B-movie. However, because that film grossed $40 million, its creator was able to complete the trilogy seven years later with the Day of the Dead, the least impressive in the horror series.

Although a 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead flopped miserably at the box office, that didn't discourage newcomer Zack Snyder from attempting another version of Dawn of the Dead. He had become known because of his memorable television commercials for companies such as Audi, Jeep, Nike, Budweiser, Subaru, and Reebok. All the commercials were noted for a clever combination of compact storytelling with panoramic cinematography.

Now Snyder is making a successful transition from TV ads to full-length features. His inspired directorial debut not only eclipses the Romero original but also measures up well against the very best of the genre. The remake follows the first movie's plotline, and employs A-list actors, state-of-the-arts special effects, and an updated script.

Although the core cast of characters has been expanded, the story is still essentially the desperate struggle for survival of a bunch of frightened strangers forced by dire circumstances to either cooperate or perish. As before, they take refuge inside of a mall, although this one is located in Wisconsin instead of Pennsylvania.

The principal players are represented by recognizable archetypes. There's Ana (Sarah Polley), the cool, calm, collected nurse; Kenneth (Ving Rhames), the beefy, brave and burly cop; Andre (Mekhi Phifer), the street-wise ghetto gangsta'; Luda (Inna Korobkina) the expectant young wife; Michael (Jake Weber), the loser with a last chance to prove himself a hero; CJ (Michael Kelly); the itchy-fingered, mistrusting, mall security guard; Steve (Ty Burrell), the sarcastic wisecracker; Nicole (Lindy Booth), the altruistic animal lover; Andy (Bruce Bohne), the isolated loner; and so forth.

Their adversaries are cadavers who crave human flesh. Anybody these zombies attack comes back to life as a member of their army of the undead. Hope for the planet rests on a pseudo-scientific discovery, since it seems that the only way to permanently eliminate these creatures are either cremation or a shot to the brain.

Aside from a few humorous breaks which momentarily relieve the tension, Dawn of the Dead is relentlessly harrowing. Don't arrive late because the camera follows nurse Annie for a terror filled ride through her hometown, which has been transformed into a hellhole full of slaughtered townspeople, before the opening credits begin.

Director Snyder's forté for breathtaking shots comes into play here as they frame the unfolding chaos chillingly and convincingly. Kudos to a superb cast.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for violence, very disturbing images, profanity, brief nudity, and some sexuality.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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