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Review: Dawn Of The Dead – The Remake by Jamie

In 1968 a 28 year old filmmaker named George A. Romero made a film that would spawn not only a new genre but an entire pop culture phenomenon. That film was ‘The Night Of The Living Dead’ and it was the birth of zombies as we know them today. It was the first time that zombies were apocalyptic in nature, a world-wide event that meant the possible end of mankind.

Romero followed this up a decade later with a film which many consider to be the greatest zombie movie of all time ‘Dawn Of The Dead’. The film told the story of a group of survivors who barricade themselves inside a mall in an effort to escape the shambling hordes of zombies who have gathered outside. It was a simple story but for some reason its commentary on consumerism and its balls out gory violence struck a chord. It was destined to go down in history as a horror classic.

In 2004 the decision was made that Dawn was to be remade, directed by Zack Snyder who’d go on to direct ‘300’ and ‘Watchmen’. The basic plot, as it turned out, would essentially be the same: A group of survivors would hold up inside a mall and try to continue surviving but this time it would be all flashy and grand because it was the 21st century and ‘28 Days Later’ had been released just two years earlier. It’s what modern audiences would be expecting.

Yes, gone were the slow, shambling zombies that many of us had come to know and love. They were replaced by a new breed, a fast, screeching zombie. The runners who would bolt towards someone at the first sign of human activity. Now, as I said yesterday, I have come to appreciate the runners as long as they are used effectively or for good reason such as in ‘Zombieland’ or ‘Dead Set’. So does the Dawn remake really gain anything from using the runners instead of the shamblers?

Well, no. Not really. The problem is that for most of the film, the survivors are inside the mall and when they do head outside the zombies have gathered into a massive horde, so large in fact that it they don’t have enough room to run. Sure, there are scenes in a sewer and an underground car park which are probably better for having had the runners but what’s the point of having of giving them this super speed if they’d be just effective, more efective in fact, throughout most of the film if they were just the normal shamblers?

Perhaps I should clarify something before going on. I didn’t hate this film. It’s definitely entertaining. The first twenty minutes or so is simply a superb example of film-making and the later scenes between the group in the mall and Andy, another survivor on another rooftop, is a cool idea. Hell, the montage of the people going about their daily business inside the mall accompanied by Richard Cheese’s version of ‘Down With The Sickness’ will probably go down as one of my favourite montages for the choice of music alone. I also really enjoyed the cameos from the cast members of the original, particularly Ken Foree who got to repeat his line “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

No, the problems with the film are derived from two simple things, the running zombies and the character development. The original film focused on a small group of survivors, allowing their characters to develop and allowing you to care about what happens to them. In the remake the group is simply too large. I found I couldn’t really give a fuck whether they died or not. Actually, the only character I really gave two shits about was Andy and you don’t even see him close up until after he’s joined the legions of the undead.

Now to finish this by just rounding out my views on the running zombies in this film. When it comes down to it, they just aren’t scary. They’re no way near as threatening as the slowly advancing hordes. Maybe it’s because you pretty much always hear their bestial screeching long before you see them. There’s nothing that scary about something which has basically just screeched the zombie equivalent of “I’ll be with you in a second if you wouldn’t mind waiting, thank you very much.” You’d think that an individual runner would present more of a threat than a shambler but I’ve seen a number of shamblers lurch suddenly round a corner to catch someone of guard. The reason being, of course, because they didn’t announce their presence.

This lack of fear doesn’t seem to stretch to all runners though. For some reason the runners in Dead Set did seem genuinely threatening and at times I did find myself a little scared by them even though they made similar noises to the ones in this film. Maybe it‘s down to the way it‘s shot. You barely ever see the zombies up close in this film which just sucks. The kills aren‘t really worth talking about either.

So yeah, even though I had some problems with it, it’s still an undeniably entertaining film, probably more so if you don’t think as deeply about zombies as I apparently do. It’s perfect if you just wanna watch something without really having to engage your brain too much. Three pints out of five.

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