Saturday, October 24, 2009

30 Days of Fright - 23: Dawn of the Dead

Once upon a time Zombies movies were a staple of low budget horror. The same is still true and zombie movies do get trotted out every now and then, thanks in no small part to films like 28 Days Later reinventing the way zombies are portrayed on screen, making them fast for example, or not really creatures of the undead but victims of terrible disease. Whatever the style of the film the theme of a zombie flick is usually the same, dealing with matters of social collapse and how people in extreme situations will do anything to survive.

In recent years there have been only a few zombie films that weren't low budget productions, 28 Weeks Later
being one of them, but last nights film really set the standard for big budget Hollywood zombie films.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) is based on a 1978 movie by Gearge A. Romero, the zombie master himself. Sarah Polley plays a nurse who heads home after a long shift to her suburban palace in middle America, in a nice neighbourhood where kids play on the street and all is well. She wakes up the next morning and the place has gone to hell, zombies everywhere, rioting in the streets, ambulances knocking down people, children turned cannibal, all sorts of bad stuff. She makes a break for it but ends up crashing her car.

Escaping on foot she runs into a cop and a group of other survivors who decide to hide in a local shopping mall. In the relative safety of the mall, the survivors set themsleves up with food and entertainment, occassionally taking in additional survivors as they turn up and fighting off the zombie hoards who swarm around the mall.

Deciding after a while that they can't stay in the mall forever and that all the potentially safe places nearby are now infested with the undead, the group decide to reinforce some buses in the the mall car park and make a break for the marina, from where they intend to escape on a boat.

Across from the mall is a gun store where the owner is holed up. He's not doing so well, starving in fact, so a rescue mission is launched, but the rescuers forgot to factor in the raw determination and iron grit creatures of the undead exhibit while in the pursuit of brains...

The Guinness marketing team hard at work

Dawn of the Dead is easily the best of the remakes of those seventies zombie movies. It's a good film in it's own right, made with all the gloss and special effects that a pile of money can afford. The acting is OK too, though some casting decisions seem to have been based on name recognition as opposed to ability, not that I'm going to name anyone (Ving Rhames), and it would have been nice to see more of Matt Frewer.

Dawn of the Dead features a great soundtrack featuring twists on contemporary rock tracks as well as some older country tunes - the use of Johnny Cash on the soundtrack was inspired - and the music used in the film ties in with the humour in the script very well, for a real laugh watch the scene in Dawn of the Dead where the lads are shooting celebrity look-a-like zombies.

Two Thumbs Up for Dawn of the Dead


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