a critiQal film review Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Plot: A mysterious virus has descended on Milwaukee. It causes the recently dead to rise up and attack the living. As the virus spreads through the world, a few survivors gather together and fight for their very existence.

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  • ...a good remake that beats out a lot of the "original" horror films out there today.

This remake of George A. Romero’s classic film has gotten a lot of hype. Ever since it opened, it’s been on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Dawn of the Dead did well in the theaters, and I wanted to go check it out, but with moving and all, didn’t have a chance to.

When it hit DVD, I wanted to check it out ASAP, but never got around to it – plus, it usually wasn’t in any of the local video rental stores – people were snatching it up faster than Blockbuster® could stock it. When I finally saw my chance, I grabbed the first copy I could.

So, after all the excitement over Dawn of the Dead, would I be disappointed when I finally got my chance to watch it, or would it live up to all the hype?

Ving Rhames has always been a favorite actor of mine. After his great roles in Don King: Only in America, Mission: Impossible (1996) and Pulp Fiction (1994), I always look forward to see what he’s going to do next. Unfortunately he’s a little under-used in Dawn of the Dead, not really getting a chance to create his own character.

The same goes for the other characters as well, for the most part. Sarah Polley and Mekhi Phifer both get a chance to fill out their roles a little, but most of the film is concentrated on the dead, rather than the living.

Despite never knowing much about the characters, Dawn Of The Dead does a decent job of keeping the viewer’s interest. With a surprise around almost every corner, it keeps the viewer on their toes throughout the entire film. The tension between the characters is also very believable. With so much infighting going on between the main characters, it keeps the viewer always guessing who’s going to survive. That’s a necessity in any horror film. If the viewer already knows who’s going to survive, it’s not as interesting to watch.

The lack of character development is a little unfortunate. Since the viewer never really learns a whole lot about any of the characters, it’s not really a shame when any of them are killed. It could have made the movie a lot more gripping if they had done a bit more development on the characters. If we don’t know them, how can we care if they don’t make it?

The special effects really help make Dawn Of The Dead. The dead are a huge part of this film and if the special effects had faltered, the “suspension of disbelief” the film aims for would have been destroyed. Luckily, the dead looked creepier and more realistic than most horror films have showcased. The whole way the film was shot also helped to add to the horror aspect of the film. Most of it looked to be shot with hand-held cameras, adding to the terror, since the close-up shots don’t show as much of the background as normal wide shots do. That way, the viewer doesn’t know what may be just off-camera.

Dawn of the Dead is a great remake of a classic film. It’s definitely not for the queasy, as some of the shots are downright gruesome, but it’s one of the better horror films I’ve seen in awhile.

This one is definitely going on my must-buy list, especially with the well-thought out special features on the DVD – notably the “Special Report” featurette (showing a news station covering the “breaking news” of the undead virus) and “Andy’s Last Days” showcasing a home movie of one of the character’s ordeals.

Rent this one today – just don’t eat while you watch it.

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