Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

A Quick note: I’ll be writing these reviews in the order I originally saw the remakes.

My love affair with zombie movies goes back to the nightmares I got from watching Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Released in December of 1983, I would have first seen this video on the Canadian music video show, Video Hits at about the age of seven. The story within a story concept for the video got me pretty deeply invested with our main character (who is never named), so when suddenly Michael turns into a zombie and dances/attacks her it freaked me out.

The original Night of the Living Dead probably came into my young life around the age of ten or eleven (the end of Elementary School came at about the same time as our first VCR, so suddenly I had access to local video stores and therefore scary films). Night of the Living Dead blew me away the first time I saw it – playing with all the rules I thought horror films had to follow and leading to a young interest in monster films and stories overall.

I would have seen Dawn of the Dead in Junior High school (probably grade seven), and the idea of escaping from zombies by hiding in a mall seemed incredibly smart to me, even though it doesn’t work out that well for most of the people in the film.

Fast forward to 2004, I’m 28 years old, a parent of two and suddenly I am faced with a strange question… Should I bother going to see a remake of a film I saw almost half my lifetime ago? I mean, what possible differences could there be? In the end I saw it as a matinee on a Saturday or Sunday, due to either a lack of options or an interest in seeing how the source material would be adapted.

The biggest difference in this reimagining of the classic, the zombies no longer walk, they run.

At the time, this seemed like such a strange thing for them to do, as I was always most scared of the slow-moving, but ultimately unstoppable zombies from my childhood films. The movie looks pretty slick, has a great cast (stand outs for me include Sarah Polley (of Splice), Mekhi Phifer (of er and Torchwood: Miracle Day), and Ty Burrell (of Modern Family) and the effects (both special and dramatic) are pretty darn effective. Although running zombies are not really my thing, they are pretty freaky antagonists in this film.

Does the movie actually do better than the original? No, the original set the standard for zombie siege films and was making social commentary as well. As far as a first film to be looking at for this month however? It’s a pretty decent horror film with lots of thrills and chills.

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