Of The Dead, Dir; Zack Snyder, Cert; 18
a huge fan of all things horror, especially splatter and zombie films,
I have long adored George A. Romero’s original ‘Trilogy of
the Dead’. When I heard that first-time director Zack Snyder was
remaking the second installment of Romero’s masterful trilogy, I
was outraged. At the time it seemed that this remake was a cash-in on
the success of the previous ‘zombie’ film, ‘28 Days
Later’. I was expecting the usual Hollywood update but instead I
found an above average action horror that, while not being the be all
and end all, stands out as one of the better pieces of recent genre pictures.
Expect liberal comparisons between the two versions.
What made the original so astounding was the caustic humour and sly social
commentary- comparing shoppers to mindless zombies. Both versions are
predominantly set in a shopping centre but only the original pokes fun
at consumerism. What the remake lacks in satire, it makes up for in well
executed action set pieces. This time around, the zombies are not the
slow, mindless creatures of the original. They are intelligent, fast moving,
numerous and extremely vicious. Much like the update of the monsters in
Aliens from the original, slow moving Alien, the action is tenfold.
James Gunn’s adapted screenplay (based on Romero’s original)
wastes no time in cutting to the chase. The opening sequence is one of
the best I’ve ever seen in any film. We begin with Ana (Sarah Polley)
returning home from her shift at the hospital, speaking to a girl on skates.
As she skates away, the camera stays uncomfortably focused on her as if
to bid her farewell. Something terrible is about to happen. The next morning
she attacks Ana’s boyfriend. From here on, the entire opening sequence
is a montage of amazing ideas. We are thrown headfirst into an apocalyptic
landscape of paranoid, gun toting neighbours, zombies running amok killing
and eating people at will, burning vehicles clogging up the streets, renegade
ambulances driving frantically and buildings exploding randomly. Cue the
dripping blood credits intercut with television footage of the unfolding
zombie apocalypse cheekily played over the top of Johnny Cash’s
‘The Man Comes Around’. This is the best opening sequence
to a horror film I’ve ever seen. This is Fulci meets Fellini, updated
for the go-go new millennium. While not as gripping as the first ten minutes,
the bulk of the film has some very solid moments.
Having found herself thrown into a terrible situation, Ana escapes to
a shopping centre along with a fairly large group of varied characters.
Thanks to this large group we ultimately do not care emotionally about
the minor bit parts. However we do care for the main characters; the tough
cop Kenneth (a gravelly Ving Rhames), the decent, do good Michael (Jake
Weber), the soon-to-be father Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his heavily pregnant
wife Luda (Inna Korobkina) and, of course, Ana. There are some touching
moments between them; Ana breaking down to a whimpering wreck in the bathroom,
Michael’s many addresses about trying to stick together, Andre coming
across his wife looking at children’s clothing in an abandoned shop.
While not as biting as the original, there are plenty of comedic moments,
many of them genuine laugh-out-loud instances involving violence. In particular
the rooftop scene where our heroes take potshots with a sniper rifle at
zombies who look like celebrities. One set-piece of violence which was
shocking, scary and funny at the same time involves a rather obese zombie
running at full pelt towards Ana, the outcome of which is both gruesomely
dismal and hilariously entertaining – just like the majority of
the whole film. This being a zombie film, there is a sufficient amount
of blood and guts to satisfy fans, in particular a scene involving a chainsaw.
In the end, this updated Dawn of the Dead does indeed work. It contains
more shock and scares than the original and it pays respect to it at the
same time. Cameos from original cast members, Tom Savini, Ken Foree and
Scott H. Reiniger will put the die-hard fans of Romero’s film in
awe and the action and comedy will please most horror fans. My only complaint
is the screenplay could have expanded more on the tension between characters
and the shopping centre ends up being merely a useful location for the
story. Romero’s original will always remain the satirical best.