CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 18
  • Drama, Horror
  • 2004
  • 100 mins

Dawn Of The Dead

Dawn Of The Dead

Synopsis

A new Dawn breathes fresh life into George A Romero's classic zombie apocalypse. Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames star as two survivors holed up in a shopping mall

About

"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth," intoned the posters for George A Romero's 1978 Dawn Of The Dead. To which one is tempted to add "And when there are no more original ideas in Hollywood, lazy filmmakers will remake anything for a quick buck." Fortunately, that's not the case with this glossy update of Romero's landmark zombie apocalypse movie, since it's a reverential, souped-up splatterfest that will have the living (and the living dead) howling for more.

Cautiously described by its producers as "a re-envisioning, not a remake," debut director Zack Snyder pares down the original's languorous plot in favour of a rapid action movie aimed at the thrill-seeking MTV generation.

The opening 20 minutes are a model of how to set up a horror movie, as hospital nurse Ana (Polley, excellent) returns home from the nightshift. Oblivious to news reports of civil unrest throughout the city, she goes to bed only to awake to a dawn of the dead. The city is infected with a mysterious plague that turns the newly dead into homicidal maniacs. Banding together with a group of fellow survivors, Ana takes refuge in a suburban mall with ex-marine cop Kenneth (Rhames), street-thug turned family man Andre (Phifer), practical, proactive Michael (Weber) and a handful of other lost souls.

At its best when dealing with the claustrophobic reality of being surrounded by cannibal ghouls, Snyder's film delivers plenty of tense action set-pieces while upgrading the lumbering blue-skinned zombies of the original into living dead, Olympic-standard sprinters who'll stop at nothing to get their hands on human flesh (28 Days Later was clearly an influence).

Refusing to skimp on the gross-out, this Dawn delivers a series of memorable scenes that may have audiences retching, the yuckiest of which is a sequence involving a zombie baby. Definitely not for the squeamish, it's proof that screenwriter James Gunn has yet to throw off the influence of his apprenticeship with schlock merchants Troma Studios - where he penned Tromeo And Juliet before going Hollywood and scripting the two Scooby-Doo movies.

While a string of comedy moments provide some welcome light relief amidst the horror - for instance, the sniper who picks out living dead targets according to their resemblance to celebrities like Jay Leno and Burt Reynolds - one longs for the carefully balanced mix of splatter humour and grim political allegory that Romero perfected. Uninterested in making its zombies into metaphors for American materialism or the mall setting into a comment on consumer culture, this re-envisioning is disappointingly lightweight. "America always sorts its shit out," one character provocatively remarks as the TV shows scenes of army grunts indiscriminately shooting civilians. It's a tantalisingly throwaway line that's never developed by this exciting but ultimately equally throwaway movie.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jake Weber, Inna Korobkina, Mekhi Phifer, Ving Rhames, Ty Burrell, Bruce Bohne, Sarah Polley, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Matt Frewer
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Screen Writer: James Gunn
  • Writer: George A Romero
  • Producer: Eric Newman, Richard P Rubinstein, Marc Abraham
  • Photographer: Matthew F Leonetti
  • Composer: Tyler Bates

In a nutshell

Nicely respectful of the original film, this remake amps up the adrenalin-charged action while skimping on the depth to deliver a gripping but empty-headed thrill-ride.

by Jamie Russell

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Wish I Was Here

    Wish I Was Here

    Zach Braff writes, directs and stars in his belated second feature about a man who begins to re-examine the relationships in his life after his father falls ill

  • Film4 A Walk Among The Tombstones

    A Walk Among the Tombstones

    Ex-New York cop turned unlicensed private detective Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) hunts down two ruthless kidnappers, who target the wives of mid-level drug dealers with ready cash

  • Film4 Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Wheels In Motion Season On Film4

    It's a parade of motorcycles, trains and automobiles on Film4 as the Wheels In Motion Season gets rolling

  • Film4 The Moo Man

    The Moo Man On Film4

    Director Andy Heathcote tells the story of a farmer (Stephen Hook) and his cows on an organic dairy farm in the acclaimed Sundance documentary on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4 Productions at TIFF 2014

    We round up the enthusiastic reception of the six Film4-backed films which played at Toronto 2014, including the world premieres of The Riot Club, The Duke Of Burgundy and Second Coming. The Riot Clu

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2014: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader stays up past his bedtime to sample the delights of TIFF¿s Midnight Madness strand¿ Let me set the scene. It¿s 11.15pm, I¿m glugging full-fat Pepsi and my pockets ar

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share