|With the potential to reach much further than the limits of an audience containing only the fans of horror movies, Dawn of the Dead is a welcome surprise in the horror genre, which has suffered greatly in the past decade from hurried productions and a lack of creative storytelling. And what is an even bigger surprise is that this film is a remake that ranks on its own as a genuinely entertaining piece of filmmaking.|
It's not often one can place a film of this genre on such a high pedestal as repetition and mindless gore have anesthetized audiences so deeply in recent years. Director Zack Snyder's production can boast a high level of creativity on nearly every front, from the artistic to the technical. Existing as a very well put-together film, the movie seems more well-rounded and creatively plump than many films of genres beyond that of horror.
Although the basis for the success of a film resides with its screenplay, the cast of this film deserves the first accolades as they were under a lot of pressure to "live up" to the standards of the cult-classic 1978 original. A re-make is inevitably compared to the original film, but this 2004 film is more of a different "version" than a strict remake. It displays sufficient success on its own that comparing it to a decades-old film really isn't relevant.
It's a welcome angle for a horror film to cast a female in the lead role (whose sole purpose isn't showing the audience her ample bosom) and actress Sarah Polley, already known for her strong performance skills in multiple genres will earn easy praise for taking a strong hold on the reins. Co-star Ving Rhames, likewise a strong choice of casting, will doubtless become an audience favorite as he balances the force required for his character with the well-formed comedy present in much of the film.
Though the element of horror is strong, as are the graphic sequences of violence throughout, a welcome and subtle thread of humor serves the cast and viewers well in the face of so many potential downers. With the many incredible and bombastic sequences of terror the cast must endure, the levity keeps the film on a realistic level (well, as realistic as zombie monsters can become). Even in the most difficult times, humans have a predilection for finding humor in the situation and the creators of this film have embraced that natural human tendency.
Another outstanding element of the film is the make-up and choreography of the hoards of undead. Deliciously graphic and as full of blood splatter as any horror fan could hope for, the necessary and important gore-factor is a complete visual success. Adding the large numbers of undead extras to the mix makes the hoard of undead that the human protagonists have to deal with a visually and emotionally terrifying ordeal. But this film isn't one long mindless bloodbath, despite the brain-dead zombies storming the streets.
Viewers benefit from a cast with whom empathy is easy to form, combined with a superbly paced story and highly effective editing. The 100 minute running time is tidy enough to make viewers wanting more by the final credits, so it's probable fans of this film will find themselves enthralled again by the story when it comes to video.
And as exciting and well-formed as this movie appears on all fronts, multiple viewings might not seem a bad idea, especially in the face of such great zombie-effects and make-up. Though it can count its successes in every area of filmmaking, from performance to script to pacing, the true success of this film can be measured in its potential appeal to a wide and varied audience. A well-made film can find wide favor regardless of its genre and Dawn of the Dead is exciting and tightly wound filmmaking.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.