Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Plenty of filmmakers remade or reimagined George Romero’s flicks, but none did it as well as Zack Snyder. Snyder would go on to success with vastly overrated movies, but his one truly fine piece of filmmaking updated Romero’s Night of the Living Dead sequel with the high octane horror. The result may be less cerebral and political than Romero’s original, but it is a thrill ride through hell and it is not to be missed.
The flick begins strong with one of the best “things seem fine but then they don’t” openings in film. And finally! A strong female lead (Sarah Polley) who seems like a real person. Polley’s beleaguered nurse Ana leads us through the aftermath of the dawn of the dead, fleeing her rabid husband and neighbors and winding up with a rag tag team of survivors hunkered down inside a mall.
In Romero’s version, themes of capitalism, greed and mindless consumerism run through the narrative. Snyder, though affectionate to the source material, focuses more on survival, humanity and thrills. (He also has a wickedly clever soundtrack.) It’s more visceral and more fun. His feature is gripping, breathlessly paced, well developed and genuinely terrifying.
Plus, one truly good guy, one effective change-of-heart character, an excellent slimeball, and solid performances all around keep you invested in the characters.
You’ve got to kind of make up your own mind about the zombie-baby, though.
And who hates Nicole? I do. I hate Nicole.