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Dawn of the Dead

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Dawn of the Dead

Starring: Ving Rhames, Sarah Polley
Director: Zack Snyder
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: March 2004
Genres: Horror, Action

*Also starring: Mekhi Phifer, Jake Weber, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Lindy Booth, Matt Austin, Boyd Banks, Jayne Eastwood, Ken Foree, Matt Frewer

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

If you're a horror fan, then you've already seen one of the masterpieces of the genre, the original "Dawn of the Dead," directed in 1978 by George A. Romero whose script is employed once again for its remake. You're aware, then, that the film is about a growing horde of zombies coming of age in a middle-American mall, their presence causing a diverse group of people to hide and hang out in the shopping center while thinking of a way to escape. There's only one way to kill these zombs you must shoot them in the head. Happily, when the human beings fire upon the undead, they never miss: one shot is one hit, even when the person firing is Ana (Sarah Polly), a registered nurse who's chilling with a group of oafish security guards, a police officer with several stripes on his arm, a cool dude with a British accent, and a pregnant woman with her husband.

To the credit of the gang, the gunshots always find their mark, but I though of a better way to escape from these bite-happy ghouls. Since the group have already seen that a mongrel dog, carrying food to a beleaguered fellow in a building across the street, does not get harmed since the undead are after only those who are still alive, and what's more we see that the undead do not attack each other, why not splash on some red paint or, if necessary find some blood from the ample supply on the mall, and play undead? When the situation is fortuitous, make a break for it. For plot purposes, however, the living souls give the audience what they're in the theater for, and that would be crashing vehicles, gunplay, and a couple of big, propane gas explosions.

Despite the sort of climax that we've come to expect in any fireworks display, the best scene in the film comes in the very beginning, because that's about the only one that shows us human beings acting before the virus begins to spread. Outside of that exposition, there is little or no character development.

The show begins innocently enough as a young girl skates about the neighborhood, then suddenly appears in the bedroom where Ana is smooching with her boyfriend. The girl doesn't look too great any more. She's covered with blood and insists on joining the first couple she sees to her club. In no time at all, zombies are walking the streets actually at a half- run determined to bite as many people as they can. As their number increases. there is only a small bunch with the wherewithal to foil their plans, including Police Officer Kenneth (Ving Rhames), Michael (Jake Weber), the pregnant Luda (Inna Korobkina) and her husband Andre (Mekhi Phifer). A tough- talking security guard casts a regular note of dissension, appearing to believe that the other human beings with him are as much a threat as the zombies.

Much of the film plays like a video game, the humans firing shots from weaponry found from raiding the gun shop across the Milwaukee street. When they're not firing, they're talking about an escape plan. At no time is there evidence that the U.S. Army is headed to their city to help them out, nor is there much on the TV or radio about the extent of the virus.

Sarah Polley, who has chosen far more interesting scripts in the past, functions here as The Strong Woman, offering aid to at least one person who is bitten and who cannot be helped by her. But the script short-changes both her and her cohorts by providing no depth of character, nor does this version directed by Zack Snyder offer the kind of mall satire that punctuates the 1978 original.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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