J.D. Lafrance
Dawn of the Dead: Director’s Cut DVD Review

Dawn of the Dead: Director’s Cut

May 29, 2005

Director: Zack Snyder,
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth, Jayne Eastwood, Boyd Banks, Inna Korobkina, R.D. Reid, Kim Poirier, Matt Frewer, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

There are two ends of the scale when it comes to Hollywood remakes. There’s the nonsensical and pointless (Psycho 1998,) and there’s the smart re-imaging for a modern audience (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003). Nearly twenty-five years after George Romero’s original, ‘Dawn of the Dead’ comes to our screens again, and it’s dead good.

‘Dawn of the Dead 2004’ is completely its own film, with its own story and it achieves this without losing any core recognisable elements from the original movie. Initially a sequel to the 1968 seminal masterpiece ‘Night of the Living Dead’; ‘Dawn of the Dead’ wowed horror and gore fans with its amazing make-up effects and scare tactics. Yet by today’s standards the original ‘Dawn’ looks dated and in desperate need of a sprucing up, and the 2004 remake does just the job. You don’t even have to have seen or have appreciated any of the previous ‘Dead Trilogy’ to fully cherish the breakneck, music video, post-modern zombie glamfest on offer here.

Ana Clark, a nurse, is planning a relaxing weekend with her husband, when overnight a surreal nightmare of apocalyptic nature occurs. The corpses of the recently dead are returning to life with an uncontrollable urge to feast upon human flesh. After fleeing from her suburb, Ana meets other survivors, Kenneth, a cop, Michael, a salesman and a young couple, Andre and Luda; who are expecting their first child. Together they secure themselves in an abandon mall and await rescue, as the plague of walking dead try to penetrate the fortress. With phones down and television broadcasts cancelled, the chances of staying alive, and human, look dimmer by the day. That is until they find out how to stop these aberrations, you must destroy the brain.

Sarah Polley puts on a performance of a lifetime as Ana and is well supported by the mountain of muscle known as Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Con Air) as Kenneth, who seems to be permanently attached to his shotgun. Also look out for Make-Up and Special Effects legend Tom Savini in a cameo role as the County Sheriff, which is a nod to scene taken from ‘Night of the Living Dead’, which he also directed the re-make of in 1990.

Loaded with this youthful hip cast and crew and a ‘rock’ soundtrack, visual arts student Zack Snyder is the first time director, who wisely turned down the opportunity to direct ‘S.W.A.T’ and used his obvious talents on ‘Dawn of the Dead 2004’. The visual style is everything you could ask for in it’s over the top MTV glamorisation and comically gruesome annihilation of both ‘zombie’ and main protagonist roles. It would seem as if Snyder has created the perfect spawn of a ‘Scooby Doo’ movie and a ‘Troma’ film. Therefore getting the guy who has experience in writing both was a notable concept. Up steps James Gunn, who proves his worth, even if the dialogue is only a shade better than the shoddy spouting we heard in the 1978 original.

The subtle themes of the ‘spread of AIDS and diseases’ and the ‘religious following of consumerism’ may get slightly lost within the lashings of blood and brain fragments on display. If you ever need proof of the tagline ‘When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth’ – then look no further than ‘Dawn of the Dead 2004’. And they never use the word ‘Zombie’ once.

Special Features

The special introduction by director takes us through what will be achieved through the director’s cut version of the film. We are promised more carnage (there’s a little more) and character development, that doesn’t entirely come through, unless you take the 11 deleted scenes into account as well. The director’s cut holds approximately 5 minutes extra footage which had no cause to be taken out in the first place but doesn’t really add anything of worth to the overall movie.

The two lengthy features ‘The lost tapes’ and ‘We Interrupt this Program’ are both dull and lack any of the visual style from the movie and seem to be afterthoughts hacked together to fill up DVD space. It’s the shorter features that detail the special effects of exploding heads and the zombie make up features that prove to be the most entertaining and educational. The commentary is from the director and one of the eight producers and tends to swing from retelling the story as it happens to informative chatter. But they have a good rapport and provide some laughs for us to enjoy.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 83%



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