"Nothing will beat the original, but this is still a great zombie flick"
Dawn of the Dead is more of a rework than a remake of George Romero’s cult classic but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The same premise is there as it is a survivalist tale of desperate people bunkered down inside a shopping mall whilst marauding zombies stalk the world outside but other than that the characters and the story are completely different.One major difference with the 2004 version is the speed and strength of the zombies. Taking its cues from the recent 28 Days Later (which, in turn would have been influenced by the original Dawn of the Dead), the filmmakers have injected a significant amount of adrenalin into these zombies. They have the running speed to keep up with cars, the brawn to throw victims across rooms and are also quick thinkers making them much scarier than the staggering brain dead creatures that are usually served up in the zombie genre.
The beginning of the film focuses on Ana, a nurse who at the end of a long shift is too tired to tune in to the news and misses the hints that soon her city of 750000 will be thrown into chaos. Instead she takes a shower with her husband and heads off to bed only to be woken up early the next morning by a little girl from the neighbourhood standing at their bedroom door with a crazed glare in her eyes and blood dripping from her mouth. The little girl then proceeds to bite a chunk out of her husband’s neck and whilst Ana is receiving the busy signal on 911, she watches her husband die. Within half a minute her husband pops up from his death and violently attacks Ana. She manages to escape by car and witnesses that her picture perfect suburban world has gone mad. Buildings are burning and ‘people’ are tearing each other apart.
After crashing her car Ana soon teams up with police officer Kenneth (Ving Rhames), Michael (Jake Weber), Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his very pregnant girlfriend. They quickly decide to take refuge in the local shopping mall in the hope that a rescue party will arrive. Once inside, other than a couple of stray zombies, they also encounter three power tripping security guards who are very reluctant to share their safe haven. From here on in it is a non stop zombie action splatterfest that spends enough time with each character for the audience to decide who they would like to see make it and who they would prefer to see fall victim to the hunger of the undead.
The screenplay by James Gunn (Scooby Doo!?) does pay some attention to what can happen to ethics and morals when a group of people are thrown into extraordinary circumstances but it mainly focuses on tension building, suspense and in your face terror with the odd bit of humour thrown in for good measure. All of the actors are adequate in their roles with Polley, Rhames and Weber being the standouts. The special effects are fantastic and it is an incredibly gory adventure, the likes of which have not been witnessed on the big screen for a long time. Brains are blown out, intestines are eaten, limbs are hacked off and there is one chainsaw scene that cuts far deeper than anything seen in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.The new Dawn of the Dead may not achieve the cult status of the original and it is not as successful as 28 Days Later in creating an overwhelming sense of doom but it is still a highly enjoyable venture into the genre that surpasses many Hollywood horror flicks of recent years.