Dawn Of The Dead

9 out of 10


Horror Of The Year

Don’t be deceived by the genre, the title or a summary of the plot, this is truly a display case of creativity and ingenuity that could put any Spielberg flick to shame. The production team of unknowns from nowhere have created a movie that could be used as a reference manual by any future director, for on every level, plot, character development, cinematography ...this has clearly been a labour of love.

In a sense, it is curious that a studio, even called “Universal” should be trying so hard to pursuade everyone to buy merchandising and a ticket to see a remake of a 1979 B Movie, written as a seering indictment of American consumerism, globalisation and the inherent mindless blandness it brings with it, particularly as Director Zack Snyder made his name doing TV commercials. It was no small coincidence that his predecessor in the 70’s, George A Rameros had last handful of human survivors holed up in a shopping mall, besieged by an army of all-consuming zombies, yet the remakers have taken it to levels well beyond this...and even the title music, “The Man Comes Around”, played by a man who is dead, Johnny Cash, who died days shortly before production work began on the film.

No other film I have ever seen has even come close in its attention to detail to the collapse of civilisation at ground level. At the start, in the evening we see the first hints with occasional people arriving at the hospital with bite marks and odd reports on the news late at night of civil disorder that are ignored, just as most people would. By morning, the utter hell is total with people dying on every street corner less so, not so much from the zombies but mainly as the panicking citizens of Everett, Wisconsin fighting amongst each other for survival. Indeed, the truly awesome helicopter shots of the city in mayhem with panicking citizens racing around in their cars, colliding at high speeds at intersetions on the grid pattern roads amongst the plumes of sporadic burning buildings reaching out to the horizon, is like a live action version of the video game Sim City with every possible disaster set loose...(and certainly brings home the issue of road safety.

This is no simple slasher picture despite relentless exploding head, canabalism and gorre, though, as scriptwriters James Gunn (Scoody-Doo) and Frank Scott (Minority Report) have given extra punch with the drama, the terror and the shock interspliced with moments of humour, or heart. Indeed, I cannot think of another time when I have actually seen an audience often brought to their feet to clap, jeer or cheer. Having five, let alone 15 central characters would be a daunting challenge even to Spielburg, yet you, the audience, are pulled into the film so well, you end up caring or hating each one, it’s just as if they were your neighbours. Leaving way behind the classic disaster-movie American stereotypes, the survivors are clearly a practical and hardy bunch. Respising her role in “GO”, Sarah Polley is once again the ordinary girl out her depth but who keeps her head in a crisis as Ana, a nurse. Ving Rhames as the last Police Officer, dazzles again and shows clearly that he is the most underrated actor in Hollywood, yet despite being told that there were two stars in the film at the start of the preview, I am unable to separate them from a superb supporting cast with a script that never goes exactly where it is expected, with numerous story lines running through it. For instance, the contemporary interest in betterment of character is given a new edge here with CJ (Michael Kelly), the cowardly redneck head of Mall Security, who finds redemption in the midst of Hell, becoming the bravest of selfless heros. The bizarrest of all is Frank (Matt Frewer), a key role without a single line to say in the whole movie. Stranded in his similarly besieged gun shop on the opposite side of the street, he can only communicate with those in the shopping mall by way of handheld display boards and markers. It’s just like the days of silent comedy as he and the Police Office bide their time under seige by pleasantly playing chess on the roof top with the rest of civilisation long gone in the streets below, leaving you not knowing whether to laugh or cry and is a fascinating parallel of their own actual, hopeless positions, checkmated by the zombies.

That this is an entirely fake mall is the hardest thing to believe about his movie. Starting with a derelict steel frame work, the entire complex is totally fake, created by set designers who not only had to develop the basic layout, but even developed phoney brand name shops such as “Bookmark” and “Gaylene Ross Fashions”, complete with original trade marks. It is so extrensive that it almost puts to shame the mere recreation of the “SS Titanic” by James Cameron’s team.

This is the movie that “28 Days Later” should have been, had they had the cash to do it and the production team have gone to great lengths to make this as frighteningly plausible as possible. Firstly, the word “ZOMBIE” is NEVER USED throughout the movie, with the suggestion that it is an infection instead that spread only amongst live humans, hence, those who die in shootings and those in the cemetary stay dead and buried. Similar to a mass outbreak of Rabies amongst the human population, one is left with the disturbing question as to the safety of our own water supply from the hands of Al Qaeda.

With the sort of copious gore and blood that could make Tarantino wince, this is certainly not for those easily shocked, yet it is certainly more than just a teen slasher flick and is well recommended to those seeking plot, action and horror.

Not for those easily shocked, recommended to those seeking plot, action and horror

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett