Dawn of the Dead DVD: Review By justincase

  • OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
When there is no more room in hell... the dead will walk the earth...

Messing with a classic can be (and usually is) a one-way ticket to the trash-heaps of Hollywood. Zack Snyder (director) stepped up here, though, and delivered a solid contemporary update to the classic zombie pic with more thrills, action and gore -- to say nothing of a contagious soundtrack.

When Ana (Sarah Polley) returns from her shift as a local nurse, she and her boyfriend wake up to utter chaos. Ana's boyfriend is killed and becomes one of the walking dead, himself...surging after her with a seething blood-lust. Barely escaping with her life and lost among the wreckage of society, she is found by Kenneth (Ving Rhames) and the two eventually run into Michael (Jack Weber), Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and Andre's pregnant wife.

The small band of survivors seek refuge in the local mall where they barricade themselves, alongside the mall's security guards. Thousands upon thousands of hungry zombies gather outside the mall, forcing the survivors to contemplate survival, death and desperate escape. With no contact from other human survivors, save the gun shop owner across the street (who is well armed, but running out of food), the wary group in the mall realize that life in a shopping mecca is no life at all.

As each day, hopelessly, runs into another... the group deal with creating some degree of stability in their little environment and come to the conclusion that they must attempt escape...to reach the marina to seek refuge on an island that may not have been overtaken by zombies.

Taking only the broadest strokes from Romero's original, Dawn of the Dead is not so much a remake as it is a re-envisioning of the circ*mstances. Snyder has deployed a solid cast that does a superb job, especially Jake Weber and, in an eerie culmination of his role, Mekhi Phifer. Ving Rhames is among my favorite actors, especially in the role he gets here.

Many of the updates we get in this film include faster, more aggressive zombies, better weaponry and a McGyver-esque solution to breaking out of the mall.

The use of CG to replicate zombie scenes and to enhance explosions is detectable, but not distracting. The music in this picture is truly powerful and accompanies and enhances the story in the way music, should. More than setting the mood and the pace, you can take elements of the story with just the music and get so much from it that dialogue is almost unnecessary.

While I truly believe that Romero's original is a classic and is worthy of the highest praise for setting the bar that so many, since, have sought to raise... I believe this to be the more enjoyable film (especially for our psuedo-ADD filmgoing culture).

This film provides a solid update to the classic and will keep you riveted.
THE EXTRAS
Deleted Scenes

A decent look at some scenes that didn't make it into the film. You can watch it with or without commentary. Either way, it is reasonably interesting.

Audio Commentary:with Zack Snyder (Director) and Eric Newman (Producer)

Snyder and Newman talk a lot about the film and its development, the cast and crew and more. This is a great commentary and is the reason that these alternative tracks are added to discs. You can sense Snyder's enthusiasm for the medium and the opportunity it affords him to discuss his filmmaking.

The Lost Tape: Andy's Terrifying Last Days Revealed

This is a pretty entertaining little piece that chronicles the last few days of Andy, the gun shop owner and one of the final holdouts after the zombie pandemic. Shot as if it were Andy filming himself on a handycam, he talks to himself (and his fish... that is, until he eats it) and the camera. Not important to enjoyment of the film, but a decent diversion. The one suggestion I'd have is to have ACTUALLY shot it on a mini-DV cam or something and just use the actual product of that. The way its shot makes it a bit campy, but maybe that was Snyder's objective.

Special Report: Zombie Invasion

This is a bit of a long and drawn-out faux news report. It's too long, too fake and not very compelling. Recommendation: SKIP IT!

Surviving the Dawn

A behind the scenes look at the making of the film with the cast and crew. Kind of fun to listen to Snyder, James Gunn (writer) and Eric Newman (producer) talk about making the film and how they were treading on a cult classic (hoping to do it justice). Set to a quick-paced bit of background music, it moves along quick and is very interesting. One of the most amazing illustrations is how the crew re-built a mall that was scheduled for destruction to serve the filmmaker's purposes.
THE VIDEO
In anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), the film played brilliantly on the Philips 23" HD LCD ... taking the visual cue from the DVDR 615 driving progressive scan output. The film is stark, in its visuals, with the "deadened" skin-tones of the zombies and the somber mood of the pallette. Nonetheless, the transfer is brilliant and crisp.
THE AUDIO
In Dolby Digital 5.1, this is a film that begs to be blasted through your system. Threaded with dramatic sounds, off-beat mall muzak and a several biting metal tracks, this thing needs to be blasted outta your system. Straight to hell with the nosy the neighbors...even the ones all the way down the street!
THE FINAL WORD
Just buy it. Let's face it... If you're reading this review, you're interested in the film. My folks and grandparents wouldn't even take the time to read this. They, therefore, would not be a good "blind buyer" for this film. You, though... Just do it.

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